Introduction / History
Newah society is traditionally caste-based. Traditionally intermarriage was largely restricted to one's fellow caste members and boys were expected to follow the occupation of their fathers. Today the modern economy means there is theoretically freedom to follow almost any trade, but inter-caste marriage is still widely frowned upon if not seriously punished.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Most Newah people are skillful merchants and traders. Many others have found government jobs, and a few are farmers. Some of the farmers use tractors, but many still cultivate the land with hoes called kus. Rice is the staple food of the Newah. It is eaten with soup, vegetables and some meats.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most Newah settlements are built on elevated ground surrounded by farmland. The settlements look like small cities. Rows of three-story brick buildings stand along narrow lanes. The settlements have many ornate Buddhist and Hindu temples.
Newah societies are patrilineal, which means that the line of descent is traced through the males. Members of the same family line generally worship the same gods. Marriages are almost always arranged by the parents, and they use a mediator to complete the formalities.
The artistic talents of the Newah are displayed in their sculptures and architecture. Inspired by Indian traditions, they have developed unique styles of palaces, temples, monasteries, fountains, and residential buildings. They are often decorated with wooden carvings and equipped with stone or metal sculptures. The walls are covered with religious paintings, scrolls and manuscripts. They play drums, cymbals and wind instruments during religious festivals and rituals.
Newah people in Bangladesh are primarily Hindu and others self-consciously Buddhist, but most Newah would not recognize the distinction. For them it is more important to follow the traditions of their ancestors. In fact, Hinduism, Buddhism, and traditional ethnic beliefs are all a part of the Newah's religious lives. They believe they must appease evil spirits through prayers, sacrifices and rituals.
What Are Their Needs?
Newah people worship a multitude of gods, many of which are local gods and others of which are more clearly identified with the prestigious Hindu deities worshiped, especially Shiva. They also believe in the existence of demons, hostile spirits the dead, ghosts, and witches. Traditional practices include the digu dya rituals, in which they feed frogs after rice planting. They believe that cremation grounds, crossroads, and huge stones are favorite haunting places. They also believe diseases are caused by the ill will of the "mother goddess," witchcraft, or evil spells. Treatments include reciting incantations, making offerings to the gods, and using herbs and other medicines.
The Bible has been translated into the Newahi language, and several other Christian resources are available to the Newah at this time. Prayer is the key to reaching these precious people with the gospel. These people for whom the Lord Jesus laid down his life need to be set free from sin and death. Who will tell them?
* Scripture Prayers for the Newah in Bangladesh.
Ask the Lord to call Holy Spirit anointed people who are willing to go and share Christ with the Newah.
Ask God to grant wisdom, favor and discernment to mission agencies currently focusing on the Newah people.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the spiritual soil of Bangladesh through worship and intercession, making disciples who will in turn make more disciples, who will plant churches filled with Bible believing and teaching families.