Introduction / History
Of all the Hindi speakers living outside India, the majority can be found in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal, and Afghanistan. There are large Hindi communities in other countries as well. As is common among most migratory Indian groups, the Hindi speakers have tended to congregate where there are other Hindi speakers.
The term "Hindi" does not adequately describe the ethnic and social complexity of these people, since it is merely a language distinction. In reality, the Hindi-speaking Indians are a collection of ethnic and social groups widely dispersed around Central Asia. They not only speak a common language, but also have a sense of "group identity" based on cultural and historical factors, including a Hindu-Muslim rivalry in religious traditions.
It is usually the higher castes and educated people who leave India and migrate to other countries. These people now hold a wide variety of occupations. While most have retained various aspects of the Hindi culture, they have also come under western influence in many areas.
What are their lives like?
Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language. Many Hindi words are borrowed from the Sanskrit language, and it is written in the Devanagari script. Formerly, there were tremendous conflicts between the Urdu speakers (mostly Muslims) and the Hindi speakers (mostly Hindus). This led to the separation of Pakistan and India in 1947. Since that time, there have been harsh language and religious tensions between the two groups. Hindi became India's national language and Urdu became the language of Pakistan. Yet, in Pakistan, there are still 85,000 Muslims who speak Hindi and are now called "Indo-Pakistani." Unfortunately, the Indo-Pakistani suffered greatly during the time of Pakistan and India's separation.
The Hindi speakers are divided into a number of social groups. The Hindus, who constitute the largest group, are divided into four main social groups called "castes." These have a hierarchical order based on the principles of "purity and pollution." In order of rank, these hereditary groups are the Brahmans, the priests and scholars; Kshatriyas, the rulers and warriors; Vaisyas, the merchants and professionals; and Sudras, the laborers and servants. These four castes have many sub-castes, which are further divided into circles.
Castes are culture groups, based not only on occupations, but also on customs, manners, and habits. People within the innumerable sub-castes and circles of Hindu society are constantly trying to "climb the social ladder." They do this by adopting the way of life, customs, and even the language of a higher caste; however, they seldom intermarry.
Although the Brahmans are considered the great religious and literary caste, the education and learning which so long gave them power are now available to all races and classes of Hindus.
Hindi is the language of business, education, and journalism. In their new countries, the Hindi speakers have set up Indian spice shops, video stores, and small commercial businesses in every large city. Some who live in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh are farmers. The poorest Hindi live in mud huts, while the most affluent live in cement buildings several stories high.
In their new locations, the Hindi speakers are becoming more and more westernized. Today, many drink wine and eat every kind of meat except beef. Also, Hindu women have the right to divorce and remarry. Some men still wear dhotis (simple white garments wrapped between the legs or worn loosely like a skirt), and the women sometimes wear saris (straight pieces of cloth draped around the body like a dress), especially on formal occasions. However, many now wear western clothes.
The Muslim Hindi-speaking women still follow the tradition of purdah, which is the covering of their entire bodies, especially their eyes, as a sense of seclusion. However, purdah is practiced to varying degrees depending on the extent of westernization and urbanization.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of the Hindi speakers practice Hinduism which is considered more a lifestyle than a religion. Hindus worship a pantheon of gods that are both good and evil. They believe that sacrifices and offerings must be made to the gods regularly to appease them and avoid calamity.
Hinduism teaches that the soul never dies. When the body dies, the soul is reborn or "reincarnated." The soul may be reborn as an animal or as a human. They worship some gods in the form of animals. Cows are considered sacred, but other animals are also revered.
The law of "karma" states that every action influences how the soul will be born in the next reincarnation. If a person lives a good life, the soul will be born into a higher state. If a person leads an evil life, the soul will be born into a lower state.
What are their needs?
The Hindi speakers have both the Bible and the Jesus film available in their language. However, the Hindus must first be set free from bondage to millions of false gods so that they can put their trust in Jesus. Likewise, the Muslims need a revelation of the Trinity and of the truths contained in God's Word.
* Ask the Lord to raise up people who are willing to live among the Hindi and share Christ's love with them.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film and other Christian resources among the Hindi.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up Christian merchants and businessmen to share the Gospel with the Hindi.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Hindi for the glory of His name!