The Maria of India
The Maria are a sub-group of the largest tribal group in India, the Gond. Historically, the Gond were the most important of the original Indian tribes. In the 1500's, several Gond dynasties were established, and the Gond rajas, or kings, ruled like Hindu princes until they were conquered by Muslim armies in 1592. In the 1700's, the Gond lost all power to the Maratha kings, who forced them to flee into the hills.
Today, the Maria live in the forests and hills of central India. They are divided into two groups: the Maria and the Bison Horn Maria. The two groups have very little contact with each other, except during certain annual festivals. They inhabit the densest jungles south of the Indrawati River in Maharashtra state. They also occupy the northern border of Bastar state. In general, the other Gond speakers have a negative attitude toward the Maria, considering them to be culturally backward and of a lower social status than themselves.
What Are Their Lives Like
Traditionally, the Maria were semi-nomadic farmers, who used the "slash and burn" method of agriculture. After farming an area for two or three years they would abandon their houses, move to a different location, and make new land clearings. Today, the government has forced most of the farmers to change their cultivation methods in order to preserve the forests. They continue to survive by farming, hunting, and eating the fruits of the forests. They also hunt with spears and bows and arrows, eating the game that is killed. Local markets provide a place where they can trade for clothing and other goods, as well as communicate with various ethnic groups.
Maria villages are intended to be communal, territorial units. The tribe is headed by a chief, and each village is led by a committee of elders. The chief serves as the judge of all tribal disputes, while the elders have legal authority over their villages. A strong sense of community exists between all members of the tribe. Though individuals are personally free, they are bound to defend each other's freedom. Liberty, equality, and brotherhood are the main principles of the tribe.
The ghotul, or temporary dormitory for unmarried youth, is a significant building within the Maria village. It contains no domestic furnishings and is basically a social club and sleeping place for the young and unmarried. The ghotul is considered a religious institution, a "holy place," and there is no such thing as sin within its walls. Without exception, there is complete sexual liberty until marriage. Teenage boys are divided into two groups, the first of which allows and encourages sexual relations with the unmarried girls. The other group is connected with war, hunting, and magic. In recent years, the Maria in the north have been heavily influenced by the Hindu caste of Bhattra, who are abolishing the ghotul.
The Maria do not make their own clothes or jewelry, but purchase them from neighboring groups. Various festivals and hunting expeditions are held regularly. Their characteristic dance is the "marriage dance," at which time they wear a splendid bison-horn headdress.
What Are Their Belief?
Seventy percent of the Maria are Hindus, worshipping millions of gods and goddesses. The remaining 30% are animists (believe that non-human objects have spirits). They are convinced that the forest is the dwelling place of the gods and ancestral spirits, and they regularly pray to the ancestral spirits for protection and blessings. As Hindus, they believe in reincarnation, or a continual cycle of death and rebirth. Some believe that a person may be reborn as an animal or a human, depending on whether he or she lived a good or evil life.
What Are Their Needs?
The Maria live in poverty, both physically and spiritually. They do not have any Christian resources available in their own language, and there are less than 100 known believers among them. However, two missions agencies are currently targeting them. Sustained intercession, evangelistic tools, and continued missions efforts are essential for seeing them reached with the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to send additional missionaries and humanitarian aid workers to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of the Maria.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to give the missions agencies creative strategies for reaching the Maria.
- Pray that the Jesus film and Christian broadcasts will soon be made available to the Maria.
- Pray that the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Maria who will boldly declare the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Maria bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of India through worship and intercession.
- Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Maria by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Maria
- Country: India
- Their language: Maria
- Largest religion:
- Christian: <1%
- Church members: 65
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 22,000 (17%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 107,300 (83%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 8
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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