Saharia in India






Largest Religion

Main Language


A Pilgrimage

Source Create International

Introduction / History

Most of the Saharia (or Sor) of India live in the state of Madhya Pradesh. They may also be located in the hills of the Ganjam district of southern Orissa, as well as in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and the Plains division of Assam. They speak a Munda language that belongs to the Austro-Asiatic language family.

The Saharia are a tribal people who have had little contact with the outside world. Between 1864 and 1866, the hills region was brought under control by the British expeditionary forces, who executed or transported the Saharia leaders. When the British began collecting taxes, the Saharia rebelled. Even today they have a reputation as being extremely fierce, although anthropologists have not found this to be true.

The Saharia who live in the hills have recently become aware of Indian national party politics. The younger generation is now learning to read and write their own language; however, most of the Saharia remain illiterate.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The hills Saharia are divided into five sub-tribes: the Jati, Arsi, Muli, Kindal, and Kumbi. This classification is based primarily on occupation. The Jati are farmers; the Arsi are weavers; the Muli are iron workers; the Kindal are basket makers; and the Kumbi are potters. The sub-tribes are divided into approximately 17 territorial units rather than clans. They are free to marry within these divisions, and they generally live as extended family units.

The Saharia farmers use the "slash and burn" method of cultivation along the hill slopes. This has brought them into tremendous conflict with the Forestry Department. Their main crops include gourds, millet, sorghum, and wild rice.

During the early 1900's, many of the Saharia migrated to other areas and took temporary wage-paying jobs on tea plantations or as road builders. Many remained in their new locations and became farmers or field workers. The most specialized occupation is the shaman. Shamans are religious leaders who cure the sick by magic, communicate with the spirits, and control events. There are also hereditary positions, which include village heads, deputy heads, pyre lighters (those who burn corpses at funerals), and priests of the village deity. Public opinion and gossip are the main forms of social control.

Saharia villages generally contain several quarters called longlongs. Each longlong is inhabited by one patrilineage (the line of descent as traced through the male's side of a family) called a birinda. Several houses belonging to close relative may be joined together on one terrace. Conversations can be held between houses over the dividing walls. The houses have thatched roofs and are built of stone plastered with red mud. During the autumn, the villages are largely deserted; the people move to widely scattered "baby houses" in order to guard their crops against wild animals.

The Saharia eat most kinds of animals. Their diet is based on a watery porridge that is sometimes garnished with vegetables or meat. Palm wine is a popular beverage. They prepare all of their food by boiling it. The villagers obtain necessary items in the weekly markets, which are located where the plains meet the hills. They exchange forest produce and millet for clothes, iron ax heads, plow tips, salt, chilies, jewelry, and buffalo for sacrifices.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Saharia practice their traditional ethnic religions. However, they are also aware of Hindu values and use them in defining their own identity. As a non-literate culture, they associate literacy with the power of the shaman's familiar spirits. All illnesses and deaths are believed to be caused by the spirits of the dead.

What Are Their Needs?

Since most of the Saharia are illiterate, there is a great need for the Gospel to be presented to them through radio broadcasts and the Jesus film. Increased intercession and missions efforts are necessary for reaching the Saharia for Christ.

Prayer Points

* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Saharia.
* Ask God to use the small number of Saharia believers to share the love of Jesus with their friends and families.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Saharia towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of India's governmental leaders to the Gospel.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Saharia
People Name in Country Saharia
Population in India 684,000
World Population 688,000
Countries 2
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Bakharia, Bamrawat, Banrakha, Harauti, Saharya, Sahni, Soprahiya, Suraiya
Affinity Bloc South Asian Peoples
People Cluster Hindi
People Name General Saharia
Ethnic Code CNN25c
People ID 17997
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:  9  (up to 20 largest shown)
Madhya Pradesh (518,000) Rajasthan (92,000) Uttar Pradesh (45,000) Bihar (24,000)
West Bengal (19,000) Chhattisgarh (1,700) Uttarakhand (600) Jharkhand (600)
Andaman and Nicobar (40)
Total States on file:  9  (up to 20 largest shown)
Madhya Pradesh (518,000) Rajasthan (92,000)
Uttar Pradesh (45,000) Bihar (24,000)
West Bengal (19,000) Chhattisgarh (1,700)
Uttarakhand (600) Jharkhand (600)
Andaman and Nicobar (40)
Languages & Dialects on file:  32  (up to 20 largest shown)
Hindi (614,000) Haroti: Harauti (28,000) Bundeli (23,000) Bengali (18,000)
Angika (6,300) Dhundari (4,500) Maithili (2,400) Magahi (1,900)
Chhattisgarhi (700) Telugu (700) Marwari (500) Kumaoni (300)
Mewari (300) Garhwali (200) Oriya (200) Malvi (200)
Bhojpuri (100) Bhili (60) Gujarati (50) Kanauji (20)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Hindi 614,000 Haroti: Harauti 28,000
Bundeli 23,000 Bengali 18,000
Angika 6,300 Dhundari 4,500
Maithili 2,400 Magahi 1,900
Chhattisgarhi 700 Telugu 700
Marwari 500 Kumaoni 300
Mewari 300 Garhwali 200
Oriya 200 Malvi 200
Bhojpuri 100 Bhili 60
Gujarati 50 Kanauji 20

For Main Lanugage: Hindi

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1806-1962)
New Testament Yes   (1811-1998)
Complete Bible Yes   (1818-2000)
Audio Bible Online
Format Resource
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio Recordings Hindi Bible stories
Audio Recordings Online New Testament (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Online Scripture (Talking Bibles)
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video Fathers Love Letter
Film / Video Following Jesus (India)
Film / Video God's Story Video
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Hindi
Film / Video Magdalena (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime)
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)
Film / Video The Hope Video
General Bible Visuals
General Gods Simple Plan
General Got Questions Ministry
General Yeshu Samaj
Text / Printed Matter Bible: Hindi Holy Bible
Text / Printed Matter Bible: Hindi Holy Bible
Text / Printed Matter Bibles, Bible League
Primary Religion: Hinduism

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.02 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
99.69 %
0.01 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.27 %

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  
Video Source: Create International
Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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