Introduction / History The Nepalese Chhetri are the major ethnic group in Nepal. They speak Nepali, which is the country's official language. The Nepalese have many racial, cultural, and linguistic similarities to the people of northern India. Their domestic and religious practices are also patterned after the higher Hindu castes of India.
Most Nepalese live in small villages in hilly terrain and are accustomed to traveling long distances on foot. They are known for their cheerfulness, good humor, resourcefulness, and self-confidence. Their population consists primarily of three "castes," or social classes: the Brahmans (priests and scholars); the Kshatriyas (rulers and warriors); and the Achut (laborers and servants). The Achut perform the most polluted tasks, such as cleaning bathrooms. Many also beg and scavenge for a living. As "untouchables," they are excluded from and considered ritually unclean by the other classes of Hindus.
Nepal opened its borders in 1951. However, foreign missionaries found it difficult to evangelize because of the strict government laws and scrutiny of foreigners.
What are their lives like? Most of the Nepalese are farmers. They live in small rural settlements that are situated near rivers or springs. The villages consist of loosely grouped homes surrounded by farm land. Only the poorest families do not own land. In middle and southern Nepal, the land has been terraced for generations. Wet rice is grown during the monsoon season; dry rice, maize, millet, and wheat are raised on drier land during the summer and winter months. The Nepalese also cultivate vegetable gardens to feed their families. Most of the farmers raise buffalo and goats for meat and cows for milk.
Nepalese villages consist of loosely grouped homes surrounded by farm land. The villages are generally situated near rivers or springs, and the homes are connected by footpaths. Sometimes the paths meet together near a large tree that is used as a meeting place for the villagers, as well as a resting place for travelers. There are also a number of larger towns where the important temples or monasteries are located.
Houses are usually made of mud-brick with thatch or tin roofs. The bottom portions of the houses are painted with red clay, and the top halves are whitewashed. Most houses have two or more stories. The kitchen and living quarters are often located upstairs to keep them free of pollution by stray animals that might wander into the house. Most houses have porches and courtyards where people socialize and do crafts such as weaving.
Nepalese children, whether born to landowners or to servants, are treated well. Breast-feeding may continue until a child is three years old. There are many rites of passage for children, such as the first rice feeding and the first haircut. Also, girls go through puberty rites and boys go through initiations known as "sacred thread ceremonies." When they are about eight years old, the children begin doing domestic chores. Girls help care for the younger children, carry food for the animals, and haul water. Boys usually tend to the animals.
Nepalese girls were traditionally married before they reached the age of ten. Now, they usually marry later, but still do not begin living with their husbands until they have matured.
What are their beliefs? Although most Nepalese are Hindus, there are still a large number of Buddhists and Muslims. All of these groups have held onto their traditional animistic beliefs (a belief that non-human objects have spirits). They recognize local gods, goblins, and spirits. They also believe in ghosts and demons that haunt the crossroads and rivers. Offerings are made to these spirits in order to appease them.
With Hinduism embracing 330 million gods, Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, has more temples, houses, and idols than people.
What are their needs? Several missions agencies are now working among this people group; however, their progress has been slow. Very few of the Nepalese in Nepal know Jesus. Christianity is looked at as the "foreigners" religion. New believers are considered "untouchables" - the caste you do not mix with. Baptism is considered the ultimate proof of conversion, and the person performing the baptism can face up to a six-year prison term.
Prayer is the key to reaching the Nepalese with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Pray that God will encourage and strengthen the Nepalese who have converted to Christianity.
* Ask God to bless worship and intercession by Christians from other countries who come to prayer-walk in Nepal.