Introduction / History
The Barda or Adivasi are small tribal people who live in west India. The word Barda means “a dweller of the hills” in the Gujarati language. Since they are an indigenous people, they are outside of the Hindu caste system. The Barda are part of the much larger Bhil tribal community. They are a Scheduled Caste meaning they are eligible for reserved pubic jobs and special consideration for university admissions.
Where Are they Located?
Historically, the Barda were a hunter-gatherer people. Today most live in settled rural villages. Their main occupation is farming. The Barda own a few plots of land but most of them work on land owned by others. Very few of the Barda can read and write. Their children either do not attend school or attend for only a few years. The children quit school to help their families make a living in the fields.
The main language of the Barda is Marathi. Some also speak Gujarati and Kannada. Many Christian resources are available in all three languages, but since so many Barda are illiterate, the gospel will need to be presented to them in oral and visual form.
The Barda people live in India’s western states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Poverty and illiteracy plague the Barda people. With little or no education, their prospects for the future are not good. Some Barda young people are becoming educated and moving into India’s large cities. They hope to find a better life.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Barda marry within their group but not within their particular clan. Sons inherit property with the eldest son becoming head of the family upon the death of his father. Marriage to one spouse is the norm.
Most Barda villages do not have electricity, indoors plumbing and access to clean water. Life expectancy is short because most Barda do not enjoy the benefits of modern medicine. Many Barda children die before the age of five. The main foods of the Barda are rice, millet, lentils, and vegetables. As Hindus they will not eat beef. Meat is often reserved for special occasions and holidays.
The Indian government and many NGOs are working to improve the lives of the Barda.
The Barda people practice Hinduism heavily influenced by folk religion. They worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon and their own tribal deities. Hindus believe that by performing rituals and good works that they will attain moksha or freedom from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. 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 or Jews. There are many forms of Hinduism, each with its own deities and beliefs. The Barda employ their own priests and shamans because Brahmins will not associate with tribal people.
What Are Their Needs?
The Barda have many needs. Solar panel could bring electricity to their villages. NGOs can work to provide the Barda with clean water. The Barda need help in educating their children and in learning new job skills. Most of all, the Barda need to hear and understand the message of Jesus Christ. He alone can forgive their sins and get them right with the one, true God.
* Scripture Prayers for the Barda in India.
* Pray for gospel workers to catch a vision for reaching the Barda people for Jesus and that in God’s sovereign timing their hearts would be open and ready to follow Him.
* Pray for Jesus movements to bless extended families so the gospel will spread rapidly among the Barda people group.
* Pray for the spiritual lives of the Barda people to become fruitful as they follow Christ.
* Pray for the lives and culture of the Barda people to evidence the rule and reign of the Kingdom of God as they open to the gospel, and for the beauty of Jesus to be seen in them.