Introduction / History
The Hindu Bahelia people live in India and Bangladesh. Before the coming of the Muslim Moguls, they were part of Rajput armies. Some Bahelia decided to join the Mogul armies while others ran away to the forests and became hunter-gatherers. They survived by catching birds and animals and extracting honey. Taking such jobs led to them losing their Rajput status to become Dalits, people outside the Hindu caste system. Dalits are discriminated against in Hindu society. The Bahelia were active in the Indian independence movement.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The primary language of the Bahelia is Hindi. Many resources are available in Hindi including a complete Bible, radio programs and the JESUS Film. There are few if any Bahelia believers.
Most Bahelia people live in Uttar Pradesh, an Indian state where few that follow Christ. There are smaller numbers of them in Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
Since they do not own land, many Bahelia work as day and farm laborers. They have a tradition of making fans with peacock feathers and selling the birds they catch in the forest. Government policy is to limit the catching of birds and animals since their numbers have drastically declined in recent years.
What Are Their Beliefs?
India's development programs are improving the lives of the Bahelia people. They are taking advantage of their educational opportunities, and their literacy rate is improving, especially among boys. Their health care is also improving with the introduction of modern medicine.
Bahelia marry within their group. Families arrange marriages with the consent of the young people. Bahelia couples tend to have a large number of children. Sons are required to take care of elderly relatives. Village elders make judicial decisions and deal with cases of divorce. Some young people are leaving the villages and moving to Indian cities in hope of the better life.
The Bahelia people practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of India. Hinduism is a catch-all phrase for the local religions of South Asia, so it is very diverse. At the popular level, Hindus worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon. They visit Hindu temples and offer prayers, food, flowers, and incense to their gods in hopes of gaining protection and benefits. They do not have a personal or familial relationship with their gods like Christians do. There are other Hindus who are much more philosophical, especially among the Brahmins.
What Are Their Needs?
Almost all Hindus participate in yearly celebrations like Holi, the festival of colors and the start of spring / Diwali, the festival of lights / Navratri, the celebration of autumn / and Rama Navami, Rama's birthday.
The Bahelia need good schools for their children. They need new job skills to prosper in modern Indian. Most of all, the Bahelia must hear the good news about Jesus Christ. He alone can forgive their sins and give them a bright hope for the future.
Pray that God will send workers to the Bahelia who will show them the way to Jesus Christ.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to work on the hearts and minds of Bahelia leaders to make them open to the gospel.
Pray for a disciple making movement among the Bahelia in this decade.
Pray that the Lord will move the Bahelia to listen to gospel radio programs.
Scripture Prayers for the Bahelia (Hindu traditions) in India.