Introduction / History
The Kuruba inhabit the thickly forested slopes and foothills of the Nilgiri plateau in Tamil Nadu state. Tamil Nadu is the most southeasterly state of India. It has a tropical climate with monsoon rains for about half of the year.
The Kuruba are closely related to the Pallava of the eighth century. As Pallava rule declined, the Kuruba's forefathers scattered over a wide area of southern India and became culturally distinct. During this time, the Kuruba survived by hunting, gathering forest produce, or small-scale farming. Some even became slaves. In time, the majority of Kuruba settled on the plains as small landowners or herdsmen.
The transition from hunting and gathering to small-scale agriculture and plantation work has not been easy for the Kuruba. Contractors insisted that they meet their standards of acceptable behavior. When the Kuruba refused, other workers were brought in; and as a result, their forests were devastated.
What are their lives like?
Originally, the Kuruba economy was based on collecting food from the jungle and hunting small game. Today, however, most of the Kuruba are small-scale farmers. Those who live in the uplands occupy higher and cooler slopes, and some still practice small-scale "slash and burn" cultivation, even though it is prohibited. However, with the increasing population and deforestation, these Kuruba have been forced to the lower elevations of the plateau. There, they earn a living mainly by working on tea or coffee plantations.
The Urali Kuruba (a dialect branch) traditionally worked as blacksmiths, potters, carpenters, and basket makers. Presently, they have given up all these trades, except for basketry. They now supplement their income by working as agricultural laborers in the estates nearby.
The Kuruba obtain most of their food supply from their own garden plots. Rice is the staple food, and almost all of their dishes are prepared with curry. They do not eat beef but will eat other meats.
Kuruba houses are built together in small village settlements called mottas. The typical house consists of only one room with an earthen floor, thatched roof, and a front porch. The people sleep on mats, which they roll up and store in a corner during the day. They always wash their feet before going inside, where usually only family members and relatives are allowed.
In some villages, different tribes and castes live alongside the Kuruba; whereas in other villages, the Kuruba live alone. On the outskirts of the village, they sometimes build small temples, hen-houses, and animal huts.
When compared to the Hindu plains-dwelling peoples that surround them, the Kuruba have preserved a fairly simple, democratic social structure. Their system is a patrilineal one (lineage is traced through the males.) Although marriage partners are selected from within the tribe, the Kuruba do not marry within their own family clans. Social control is exercised by a tribal council of men that are selected from the various clans. The village headman represents the village as a whole, and his position is hereditary.
Since they are considered a tribal people by the Indian government, the Kuruba qualify for college scholarships and loans to start their own businesses. Also, they are given priority for jobs. However, it is difficult for them to take advantage of these opportunities since so much of their time is spent simply surviving.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of Kuruba are ethnic religionists, following their own tribal religion and beliefs. Their religious practices revolve around the spirit world. Contact with the supernatural world of deities and spirits is the responsibility of the priests, and most of their rituals are connected with sorcery. Traditional religious beliefs also involve an ancestor cult.
What are their needs?
Christian resources designed for the Kuruba are few. Intercession is the key to seeing the Kuruba won to Christ.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into India to work among the Kuruba.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Kuruba.
* Pray that God will give the Kuruba believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.