Chenchu in India

Joshua Project has identified the Chenchu only in India






Largest Religion

Main Language


Introduction / History

The Chenchu live in the hills of southern India, primarily in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The higher ranges of the Amrabad Plateau are pure, dense forests and are almost exclusively inhabited by the Chenchu. Other Chenchu communities can be found in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Orissa. Their native language (also called Chenchu) belongs to the Dravidian language family. Many also speak Telugu, the language of their Hindu neighbors.

Life for the Chenchu revolves around the struggle to survive. Whenever food resources become scarce, they migrate to another place in search of new possibilities. A market economy and sophisticated machinery are totally absent from this group of hunters and gatherers. Likewise, concepts such as 'profit' or 'accumulation of wealth' are unknown to them. As Hindus, the Chenchu hold a relatively high caste (social class) status. They prefer to remain segregated from other groups, living on the outskirts of multi-ethnic villages.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Chenchu depend on nature for nearly all of their food supply. They are hunters and gatherers, just as they have been for many generations. In former times, they hunted as a unified tribe. Today, they still hunt with spears or bows and arrows, but it is no longer a cooperative effort. Instead, each individual is responsible to provide for his own family, and their efforts are not very productive. The men are known as expert bamboo cutters and honey collectors. Very few crops are cultivated: tobacco, corn, and some millet. A few cows may be kept in a village for milk, but they are not eaten.

Many Chenchu have been forced out of their wandering, food-gathering lives by the growing number of peasant farmers. They now work as farmers or forest laborers and live in towns and well-settled villages. Their "permanent" villages have an average of seven houses and are occupied for only 10 to 15 years-unless disease ravages the community and causes a massive number of deaths. They live in hive-shaped houses made of wattle thatch (poles intertwined with twigs, reeds, or branches). Temporary shelters, which take only three or four hours to build, are made of grass or leafy branches.

Chenchu society consists of clans (extended family units), local groups, and families. They are exogamous, which means that they do not allow marriage within the same clan. They are also patrilineal, tracing the line of descent through the males. There are four main groups on the upper plateau, and villages usually have a mixture of various clans. The nuclear family (husband, wife, and unmarried children) is the basic unit of Chenchu society. One distinguishing factor of their tribe is the clear division of labor. The men hunt, gather honey, and make baskets, while the women prepare the food. The husband and wife are considered partners with equal rights; even their property is jointly owned.

Within the tribe, there are a number of differences between the older and younger generations. The older people remain rather scantily dressed, while the younger boys like to wear shirts and pants. Girls still wear the traditional sarees (colorful wrap-around dresses) or skirts and blouses, and some may wear more modern styles. Traditionally, both the men and women wore long hair that was tied up in a knot. Today, the older generation still lets their hair grow long, but the young people often cut their hair.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Due to increasing exposure to the plains peoples, the Chenchu have adopted the Hindu deities of the neighboring Telugu tribe. Today, they are virtually all Hindu, worshiping millions of gods and goddesses. Chenchus worship Bhagwan Taru who they believe lives in the sky and looks after Chenchus in all their doings. They also worship Garelamai Sama, the goddess of forest. They believe she protects them from any danger.

What Are Their Needs?

Alcoholism is a serious problem for many of the Chenchu. Their addictions allow them to temporarily escape from the reality of their difficult lives, but they need to find the permanent source of peace. Missions agencies focusing on the Chenchu have had very little success. Prayer is the first step toward reaching these precious people with the Good News.

Prayer Points

* Ask the Lord to send laborers to India to share the hope, peace, and love of Jesus Christ with the Chenchu.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Chenchu who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin faithfully interceding for the Chenchu.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Chenchu
People Name in Country Chenchu
Population in India 66,000
World Population 66,000
Countries 1
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Adi, Boathuk Savara, Chenchwar, Chenswar, Lambada
Affinity Bloc South Asian Peoples
People Cluster South Asian, other
People Name General Chenchu
Ethnic Code AUG04z
People ID 16581
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:  7  (up to 20 largest shown)
Andhra Pradesh (39,000) Telangana (21,000) Tamil Nadu (4,300) Karnataka (700)
Odisha (400) Pondicherry (80) Maharashtra (50)
Total States on file:  7  (up to 20 largest shown)
Andhra Pradesh (39,000) Telangana (21,000)
Tamil Nadu (4,300) Karnataka (700)
Odisha (400) Pondicherry (80)
Maharashtra (50)
Languages & Dialects on file:  21  (up to 20 largest shown)
Telugu (34,000) Chenchu (29,000) Oriya (1,000) Kannada (500)
Hindi (100) Koya (100) Urdu (100) Marathi (60)
Tamil (60) Gadaba, Pottangi Ollar (30) Ho (20) Gondi, Southern (20)
Kuvi (20) Panjabi, Eastern (10) Gadaba, Bodo Nepali
Kui Munda Santhali Gujarati
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Telugu 34,000 Chenchu 29,000
Oriya 1,000 Kannada 500
Hindi 100 Koya 100
Urdu 100 Marathi 60
Tamil 60 Gadaba, Pottangi Ollar 30
Ho 20 Gondi, Southern 20
Kuvi 20 Panjabi, Eastern 10
Gadaba, Bodo 10 Nepali 10
Kui 0 Munda 0
Santhali 0 Gujarati 0
For Primary Language: Telugu

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1812-1966)
New Testament Yes   (1818-1989)
Complete Bible Yes   (1854-2002)
Audio Bible Online
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Bible Visuals General
Bible-in-Your-Language Text / Printed Matter
Bibles, Bible League Text / Printed Matter
EasyBibles Text / Printed Matter
EasyBibles Text / Printed Matter
Fathers Love Letter Audio Recordings
Following Jesus (India, JF Project) Film / Video
Four Spiritual Laws General
God's Story Video Film / Video
Gods Simple Plan General
Got Questions Ministry General
International Bible Society Text / Printed Matter
Jesus Film: view in Telugu Film / Video
Magdalena (Jesus Film Project) Film / Video
My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime) Film / Video
Online New Testament (FCBH) Audio Recordings
Online Scripture (Talking Bibles) Audio Recordings
Oral Bible stories in Telugu Audio Recordings
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Hinduism

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.02 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
99.69 %
0.06 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.23 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Isudas   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Map Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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