Introduction / History
Rajasthan - the land of kings is the second largest state in India. This desert region is also a land of beauty and mystery with palaces, forts and historic monuments. This region was once ruled by Rajput kings and their kingdoms lasted for more than a thousand years. The state comprised 18 little kingdoms. During the British rule in India the Rajput kings continued to rule the land under the collective name Rajputana.
Rajasthan is a land of deserts and rocks, forests and lakes. The climate, vegetation and natural resources are in great contrast from one part of the state to another. Rajasthan is extremely hot in summer with the temperature rising up to 48 to 50 degrees Celsius and cold in winters as low as 3 to 1 degree Celsius.
There are about 6 crores (60 million) of people living in the 222 towns and about 38,000 villages of Rajasthan. 60 to 70 percent of the people live in villages. There are more than 200 ethnic groups in the state, including 59 scheduled castes and twelve scheduled tribes.
Mewari (Mewadi) Region and the People
Rajasthan has 32 districts divided into 6 major regions.Mewar region in the southern part of the state has four districts, namely, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand and Bhilwara. The 30 lakhs of people who speak the Mewari (Mewadi) language live in the 7200 villages and four cities of this region. Though all of them speak Mewari (Mewadi) there are several people groups among them, socially and culturally different from one another.
The Mewari (Mewadi)'s mainly high caste Hindus. They are Rajput, Bhani, Sindhi, Rewar, Salvi and Sharma. A few scheduled caste groups and Muslims also live among them. The tribal people groups who speak their own language not known as Mewari's also live on the hills of this region.
The literacy rate of Mewar is about 35 percent, but in the villages most of the people are illiterate. The government has mobile schools to teach them basic literacy.
Mewari's are hard working and independent. Though some of the villagers now move to cities and towns in search of jobs, most of the people in the villages are farmers. They mainly cultivate wheat, maize, mustard, lentils, etc. Cultivation is mainly dependent on rain and natural water resources. Water scarcity is a major challenge for cultivation in this region.
The scorching heat of the summer and the freezing cold of the winter make life miserable. The dusty atmosphere makes everyday life difficult. Drought and famine strike the land every third or fourth year. Cattle and animals die in the chilly cold weather.
Most of the people are vegetarian. Roti (chappathi) made of wheat and maize is the common food. Rice is served as a special dish. Chewing 'pan', smoking and the like are accepted habits and means of leisure.
Mewari's are very religious and are proud of their culture. For instance, see this temple in Prathap Nagar. It is said that, once a monkey had fallen off the tree and was dead. The people had given it a reverent funeral and later there arose a temple. People worship several deities and gurus. There are plenty of temples all over the region.
History of Church and Mission Work
The Gospel was first proclaimed in 1860 by two Scottish missionaries (Bewar 3, March 1860). Along with their Christian witness, these missionaries set up schools, orphanages and hospitals. Most of their work was in Mewar and mainly among the tribals. After a hundred years before the Scottish mission left India in 1960 they had established 17 churches. Missionaries from South India continued to present the gospel in these areas in the 1960's.
Present Condition of the Church
The growth of the Church in Rajasthan is mainly among the tribals and especially among the Bhils. According to the latest available records there were only 50,000 Christians in the whole of the state. Half of them are migrants from South India. Most of the remaining Christians are nominal in their faith. Some of the old churches were closed down and several worshiping groups have vanished. These churches died gradually since there was no one to work among them.
The missionaries and early believers had to face severe opposition. Christians were not socially accepted by the high caste Hindus who are the majority of the region. The high caste groups do not eat beef or consume liquor. They believed that, Christians used both of these. Christians were also treated as low caste people because a good majority was from that background. In addition to that Christianity is considered as a foreign religion. There was no proper follow-up of the new Christians. Leadership among these local believers was not developed. Not many Christian workers were attracted to these areas.
Missionaries in the past had concentrated their work among the low caste people and tribals. But the high caste people should also be reached with the gospel. Churches have to be established among these major social groups. Mewari (Mewadi)s will reamain unreached unless and until these people are won for the Kingdom.
The message of the Kingdom of God should be shared in the heart language of the people in the way they can understand it. The church worship needs to be structured in their mother-tongue.
Leaders should be developed among the local believers so that they will reach out to their own people. Then the churches will continue to grow among them even without external leadership. But to make this possible someone needs to go to them. We need to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers to work on this dry land. The opportunities for missionaries are many.