Introduction / History
India is one of the most culturally, linguistically, and geographically diverse countries on the face of the earth. The nation's geography ranges from the lofty crags of the Himalayas to the deserts of Rajasthan. Isolated, primeval jungles can be found in the northeast, and growing masses of people cover the plains in the central states.
What Are Their Lives Like?
With more than 1,000 million people, India ranks second only to China in the world's population. The Manjhi are only one of the many hundreds of ethnic groups living in India. They live mainly in the Gumla district in the eastern-central state of Bihar. Other Manjhi live spread throughout the plains of the states of Bihar, West Bengal, and Assam.
The Manjhi are a dark-complexioned people. They are said to be strong, loving, clever, and industrious. Their primary language is Manjhi, but they also speak Sadri and a little Bihari.
Life in India has been traditionally governed by the "caste" system, which is a strict and complex social class order. For the Hindu Indian, people are born into their caste. Each caste has its own specific profession, which nearly all its members follow. Members of a caste are expected to marry only within their own caste.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The word Manjhi means "ferryman." However, if the Manjhi once followed that profession, they no longer do so. Instead, they are now farmers who earn their livelihood by cultivating rice, wheat, and vegetables. Very few Manjhi own their own land; thus, most of them work as laborers on others' property. In addition to farming, many Manjhi also make bamboo baskets and sell them in the markets.
Manjhi houses are made of mud and are roofed with tiles or thatch. The men wear the common Indian lungis (colorful pieces of cloth wrapped as skirts) and kurtas (knee-length, collar-less shirts. Women wear saris (long pieces of cloth wrapped around their waists and draped over their shoulders) with petticoats and blouses.
Rice is the staple food for the Manjhi. Although their Hindu religion forbids the eating of meat, most of them are not very concerned with this restriction and enjoy meats of all kinds. For this reason, they still are not accepted by mainstream Hindu society and have been given the lowest rank in the caste system. They were traditionally considered "untouchables" and were avoided and abhorred by higher caste Hindus.
In the past, the Manjhi were animists. (Animists believe that animals, plants, and forces of nature all have spirits.) Today, even though they are shunned by other Hindus, they call themselves Hindus and follow most Hindu customs.
What Are Their Needs?
Hindus believe in millions of gods and goddesses, with the chief ones being Brahman (the creator of the universe), Vishnu (its preserver), Shiva (its destroyer), and Kali (Shiva's wife). According to the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation, a person's soul is reborn into another body after death. They believe that if a person has lived a good life, he will be reborn into a higher caste; but if he has led an evil life, he will be reborn into a lower caste or even as an animal. This process of birth and death supposedly continues until the soul achieves "spiritual perfection" and enters a higher dimension of existence.
The Manjhi are a poor people. Health care, sanitation, hygiene, education, transportation, and communication are all inadequate. Girls are not sent to school at all, and even men have a low literacy rate. In addition, the Manjhi have a strong addiction to haria, their native alcoholic beverage which is consumed during every special occasion.
More urgent than their physical needs are their spiritual ones. The Manjhi follow Hinduism and tradition. They need Christian laborers who are willing to share the Gospel with them in a clear and easily understood way.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send Christian doctors and teachers to minister the love of Jesus to the Manjhi of India.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Manjhi who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that God will give the Manjhi believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up an army of intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Manjhi.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Manjhi church for the glory of His name!