Introduction / History
India, the world's second most densely populated nation (after China), is rapidly approaching one billion inhabitants. It is here that more than 33,000,000 Bhojpuri Bihari can be found. They live primarily in the Northeastern region of India, in the state of Bihar. Ironically, the name "Bihar" is derived from a term that means "Buddhist monastery," but the Bhojpuri Bihari are a staunch Hindu, not Buddhist, people. The name "Bhojpuri" is simply a term that indicates which of the sixteen different Indian languages they speak.
Because of the complex nature of Indian society (and the caste system, which is its most distinctive feature), there are many subgroups among the Bhojpuri. Perhaps the best known are the Brahmins, or "priestly" community, who form the religious backbone of Hinduism in that region. They are responsible for propagating religious fervor for the multitude of Hindu gods.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Bhojpuris live in villages. Their houses are made of mud and sticks that have been plastered together with cow dung, then whitewashed. These small huts have thatched roofs, dirt floors, and handmade furniture.
Since nearly three-fourths of the population is concentrated in the cultivated plains of India, almost all of them are involved in agriculture. They have the ability to grow a wide variety of crops due to the wet and dry seasons they have each year. Rice is India's chief crop; but corn, wheat, barley, and oilseed are important as well. A wide range of fruits, nuts, and vegetables is also grown. India grows more than half of the world's mangoes and leads all countries in the production of cashews, peanuts, and tea. The nation also ranks second in production of bananas, apples, onions, and sugar cane. They usually have three harvests each year.
The Indian family structure is very strong. In fact, important decisions are made by the entire family. Marriages are arranged through a "marriage market" when a girl reaches the age of fifteen. Once the dowry has been paid, the bride's father and the bridegroom go to the girl's home, where the marriage ceremony takes place.
Indians observe a wide variety of local religious festivals each year. The arts and crafts of different regions are representative of these.
What are their beliefs?
Most of the Bhojpuri Bihari are strict observers of the Hindu faith. Hinduism is actually more of a philosophy than it is a religion. This widespread faith, which has been around for more than 3000 years, has been shaped by various cultures and belief systems.
Hindus basically worship three main gods: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). Some scholars say that the number of Hindu gods worshipped exceeds 35 million. Most of the deities are both good and evil in nature. Shiva's wife is believed to take a number of seemingly contradictory forms. For example, as Uma she is known as "the beloved goddess of motherhood," but as Kali she is known as "the destroyer."
One important aspect of Hinduism is the belief in "reincarnation," or that the soul never dies, but is reborn over and over again after physical death. The law of "karma" states that if a person leads a good life, his soul will be reborn into a higher state. However, if the person leads a bad life, his soul will be reborn into a lower state, perhaps even into the body of a worm!
Hinduism has no single "holy book," but has many sacred writings. The most important of these are the Vedas and the Bhagavad-Gita.
What are their needs?
Bihar is one of the poorest states in India. Less than half of the people can read and write; medical services are inadequate; and farming procedures are not yet modernized. Ironically, cattle are treated with more respect than are the women. India has perhaps more cattle per capita than any other country; however, their belief in reincarnation prohibits their slaughter. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to break through these religious barriers that have kept the Bhojpuri Bihari bound in both spiritual and physical poverty.
* Pray for the spread of knowledge and the Gospel amongst those not touched by it.
* Pray that the doors of India will soon open to missionaries.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Bhojpuris.
* Pray that God will strengthen and encourage the small number of believers who live in India.
* Ask God to open the hearts of the Bhojpuris towards the Gospel.
* Pray that God will call Christian doctors to work among the Bhojpuris.
* Ask God to raise up a strong church among the Bhojpuris.