Tharu in India






Largest Religion

Main Language


Introduction / History

The Tharu people live in the Tarai, a narrow strip of land which extends across 550 miles of the southern border of Nepal, next to northeast India. The land is forested and fertile. The Tharu people are divided into several subgroups; the Rana Tharu live in the southwestern corner of Nepal. Ethnically, their background is Rajput, members of a high caste in Rajasthan. Legend has it that after the Moguls invaded India in the 16th century, a Mogul king wanted to marry one of their women. The women and children fled east and settled in this forested region while their men stayed behind to fight the Moguls. When the women heard that all their men had been killed, they married the slaves who had attended them in their travels, and settled permanently in their new home. The forests of the Tarai are full of tigers and snakes and malarial swamps. The swamps kept outsiders away, and the Rana Tharu developed resistance to the malaria. Over the next four centuries their own unique culture and language emerged.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Rana Tharu have lived quiet, simple lives for four centuries. They are a gentle people. They live in villages in houses plastered inside and out with mud and cow dung, so fine it feels like silky skin. They make almost everything they use themselves, with a touch of art in everything. Their walls are decorated with relief plaster sculpture and windows in geometric patterns. Their houses are large and communal; a family group lives together, and the women cook together, care jointly for their children and pass on their culture and traditions to the next generation. Their clothes are colorful and beautifully embroidered; they buy scraps of left-over fabric from the fabric merchant and each woman puts her own dress together in a unique and gorgeous fashion. They wear beautiful jewelry. They make their own clay pots cook stoves, woven baskets and fishing nets that look like butterfly wings. Rice is their staple crop; they also grow corn. The men plow, plant and weave the nets that the women use to fish. They also hunt in the forest that is the backdrop to their neat fields and villages. The women plaster their houses and make the pots and baskets.

What Are Their Beliefs?

They have their own gods and follow a Bharra (shaman). Their religion is animist. Besides the Bharra, who treats their diseases, the village headman, bhalamansa, and the Desi-Mahajan - an Indian moneylender, are important people within the village.

What Are Their Needs?

Foreigners brought DDT in the 1950's and sprayed the swamps to get rid of the mosquitoes. Ironically, with the malarial pests gone, the culture has come under increasing pressure from the outside. Unscrupulous moneylenders have been able to get control of their land because of their illiteracy, and now many have to pay rent for land that they once owned. People from the hill country to the north are moving in and cutting down the protective forests. The large animals, the tigers and elephants, are becoming increasingly scarce. There is increasing pressure to speak Nepali instead of Rana Tharu, and many of the children and men are wearing more western dress. Even their houses are beginning to change, and brick houses are starting to be built. They are becoming more aware of outside issues and fireside chat in the evenings is becoming more outward focused, reflecting these changes. Their traditional houses have no doors, but the new ones do. This is symbolic of the whole pressure to change coming to bear on these people. New schools are coming to the villages, but the classes are taught in Nepali rather than Rana Tharu, and the parents are afraid their children will lose their language and culture. Similarly, more and more people are adopting the Hindu religion rather than their native animist beliefs.

Prayer Points

* Pray for missionaries who know or are willing to learn their language to come to these people with the gospel.
* Pray for their rich culture to be preserved.
* Pray for good medical care.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Tharu
People Name in Country Tharu
Population in India 443,000
World Population 2,158,000
Countries 2
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Kathoriya, Kathoriya Tharu, Mahatos, Mahatu, Tharu Rana
Affinity Bloc South Asian Peoples
People Cluster Hindi
People Name General Tharu
Ethnic Code CNN25k
People ID 15464
Country India
Region South Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Total States on file:  21  (up to 20 largest shown)
Bihar (157,000) Uttarakhand (107,000) Uttar Pradesh (105,000) Assam (54,000)
Sikkim (12,000) West Bengal (5,400) Arunachal Pradesh (1,000) Meghalaya (600)
Manipur (500) Maharashtra (400) Madhya Pradesh (400) Himachal Pradesh (200)
Jharkhand (100) Punjab (50) Telangana (50) Chandigarh (40)
Karnataka (40) Gujarat (40) Tamil Nadu (30) Andhra Pradesh (30)
Total States on file:  21  (up to 20 largest shown)
Bihar (157,000) Uttarakhand (107,000)
Uttar Pradesh (105,000) Assam (54,000)
Sikkim (12,000) West Bengal (5,400)
Arunachal Pradesh (1,000) Meghalaya (600)
Manipur (500) Maharashtra (400)
Madhya Pradesh (400) Himachal Pradesh (200)
Jharkhand (100) Punjab (50)
Telangana (50) Chandigarh (40)
Karnataka (40) Gujarat (40)
Tamil Nadu (30) Andhra Pradesh (30)
Languages & Dialects on file:  32  (up to 20 largest shown)
Tharu, Kochila (119,000) Hindi (78,000) Nepali (71,000) Tharu, Kathariya (62,000)
Kumaoni (54,000) Bhojpuri (18,000) Buksa (15,000) Kanauji (8,300)
Maithili (4,700) Garhwali (1,900) Oriya (1,000) Bengali (900)
Urdu (700) Awadhi (300) Kannada (300) Panjabi, Eastern (100)
Dogri (100) Byangsi (60) Marathi (30) English (20)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Tharu, Kochila 119,000 Hindi 78,000
Nepali 71,000 Tharu, Kathariya 62,000
Kumaoni 54,000 Bhojpuri 18,000
Buksa 15,000 Kanauji 8,300
Maithili 4,700 Garhwali 1,900
Oriya 1,000 Bengali 900
Urdu 700 Awadhi 300
Kannada 300 Panjabi, Eastern 100
Dogri 100 Byangsi 60
Marathi 30 English 20
For Primary Language: Tharu, Kochila

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions No
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Jesus Film: view in Tharu, Kochila Film / Video
My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime) Film / Video
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Hinduism

Major Religion Percent
1.87 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.25 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
96.99 %
0.47 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.08 %
0.35 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Anonymous  
Map Source: Omid / Joshua Project / Global Mapping Intl  
Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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