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Introduction / History
The Kaibartta's primary occupation has been that of fishermen since their earliest days. In fact, their name may have originated from the words "ka," which means water, and either "vrit," which means to exist, or "varta" meaning livelihood. Thus, the name of the people group communicates that their livelihood is dependent upon water. Their occupations should serve as a natural bridge to messages of the Bible that speak of fish and fishermen, primarily the ones dealing with Jesus calling some fishermen to become his evangelistic disciples, and thus "fishers of men."
From a cultural standpoint, the Kaibartta are a despised people. Some people in India view them as primitive, uncultured, and tribal. India has numerous castes and some people view the Kaibartta as one of the lowest castes. The Kaibartta women do not participate in political or religious activities. Elderly men make judicial decisions in their communities. Thus, Christians should share the Gospel through the men before they do so with the women.
William Carey came from England to India as a missionary in 1793. Heralded as the "Father of Modern Missions," Carey worked in and near Calcutta, which is the largest city in which Kaibartta reside, though it is currently unknown if Carey had contact with the Kaibartta. Most likely, Carey led Indians to Christ who eventually led some Kaibartta people to Christ.
Furthermore, Kaibartta people did live and fish in the marshy land of Serampore, where Carey spent most of his time. The concentrations of Christians in India are mainly in South India and within the tribal people in East India, which is the region where most Kaibartta exist.
Where are they Located?
The Kaibartta currently have a population of 2.4 million, 1.7 million of which live in India and the remainder live primarily in Bangladesh with a couple thousand in Nepal. Over 0.6 million Kaibartta live in the Indian state of Assam and over 0.5 million live in the state of West Bengal, which is where Calcutta (or Kolkata) is located. The remaining states of India where Kaibartta primarily live, in descending order, are Bihar, Orissa, Tripura, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Those eight states comprise a total population of 0.4 million Kaibartta.
It is estimated that the Kaibartta migrated from Burma and China to their current locations in India and Bangladesh around 2000 B.C. Thus, the Kaibartta have been entrenched within the East and Northeast parts of India for some time.
What are Their Lives Like?
The national language of India is Hindi; however, the primary languages of the Kaibartta vary in accordance with their geographic locations. For instance, Kaibartta in Assam will speak the state's primary language, Assamese, while Kaibartta in West Bengal will speak that state's primary language, Bengali. Furthermore, each Indian state possesses several dialects of these primary languages: Jharwa (Pidgin), Mayang, Western Assamese, and so on. It is thought that the main dialect of Kaibartta in Assam is Western Assamese.
For evangelistic purposes, it would be wise to learn at least one of the primary languages of Assamese or Bengali, not only because they are common but also because the complete Bible has been translated into both languages. However, the majority of Kaibartta are illiterate, meaning not many can even use a Bible.
What are Their Beliefs?
The Kaibartta are a Hindu people. They recognize the existence of the Hindu gods, and even lay claim to one - Vasuli Devi - as their primary Hindu god, paying their homage to him every April in a dance called "Chaiti Ghoda Naacha." Yet, underneath the veneer of Hinduism, the Kaibartta also believe in the existence of spirits, and therefore, are rightly considered by some to be animists.
The Kaibartta are more fervent for animism than for Hinduism, and therefore, are not orthodox Hindus. Yet, their fervency for Vasuli Devi as well as other spirits ought to suggest, again, that the presentation of the Gospel ought to begin with a recognition of spirits and an introduction to the Supreme God over these spirits. Beginning at or even before creation would probably not be perceived as foreign or alien to the Kaibartta.
Kaibartta enjoy festive dances. As already mentioned, the dance "Chaiti Ghoda Naacha" is the dance to Vasuli Devi, and is the people's most favorite and famous dance. One male and one female dress in colorful attire and sing and dance around a wooden or bamboo horse, which is an idol of Vasuli Devi.
Another dance that is near to the affections of the Kaibartta is the "Chaiti Parva," a dance that worships boats. The Kaibartta enjoy this dance so much because it does not require the presence of a Brahmin to perform, but also because the main occupation of the Kaibartta is fishing.
Kaibartta folklore tells of a story about how the supreme god made man out of the dirt of his ear; man is subsequently saved by this god from a gigantic fish. Afterwards, the Kaibartta were given a goddess horse to be the primary deity, and the horse died! Only through worshiping this goddess do the Kaibartta believe they can receive salvation.
What are Their Needs?
Three needs the Kaibartta are facing are illiteracy, economic freedom from the diku oppression, and increased community solidity. The majority of Kaibartta are illiterate.
Kaibartta society is currently being threatened by a group of upper-caste peoples called "dikus." These "dikus" are attempting to claim fishing rights over certain rivers that rightfully belong to the Kaibartta. If there is one need which the Kaibartta would request immediate assistance from outsiders, it would be this need to be freed from the upper-caste economic oppression.
"Lord, for each person of the Kaibartta, please ...
* Let each one of them hear the name of Jesus at least once.
* Bring whole villages and families to salvation in You.
* Free them from idolatry, evil spirits, and Satan's power.
* Create churches that are pure, culturally relevant, and multiplicative.
* Decrease their illiteracy by giving them a hunger to understand and obey Your written Word.
* Deepen the 200 known Kaibartta Christians' walks with You and motivate them to witness to others.
* Bless them with the provision of employment, using it to improve their societies and provide their "daily bread."
* Raise up believers among the Kaibartta to lead other people groups in India, Bangladesh, and beyond to salvation in You."