Introduction / History
The Binjhwari, also known as the Binjhal, live in several states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, and West Bengal. It is uncertain as to whether their native language, called Binjhwari, is of Dravidian or Indo-Aryan origin. Many of the Binjhwari are bilingual, speaking both Binjhwari and Chhattisgarhi.
What Are Their Lives Like?
In the eastern state of West Bengal, the Binjhwari own their own farms. They are described as, "quiet, unwarlike people, flat-faced and black, of good physique, and wearing their hair in matted locks." For years, Hinduism has been the dominating influence in the lives of the Binjhwari. Both their homes and their clothes are made in Hindu fashion. The Binjhwari are a part of the complex Hindu caste system, which has divided the people into an endless number of social classes. One's caste is determined at birth, according to Hindu standards of social and religious purity.
Most of the Binjhwari are rural farmers. For them, land has both economical value and social status. The main crop is rice (grown in a flooded field). They also grow some winter vegetables such as tomatoes, chilies, cucumbers, and pumpkins. They learned their farming techniques from neighboring Hindu tribes. Weeding is usually done by the women.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Many of the Binjhwari have no land of their own, and work others' land as hired laborers. Some work on a daily wage basis, while others work on yearly contracts. The daily laborers are either paid in cash or in rice.
The Binjhwari are basically self-sufficient, living on what they raise in their gardens. Although they do not depend on the weekly markets for their food, they do visit the markets to purchase items such as salt, kerosene, tobacco, dried fish, and cloth.
The Binjhwari villages are medium in size, consisting of 20 to 50 families. Each family lives in one or two roomed mud houses with thatched roofs. The tiny huts line both sides of the main village street. Overall, their living conditions are not very sanitary. Their goats and fowl are allowed to roam freely inside.
The Binjhwari have no tradition of organized government. Unlike many other tribal groups, they have no formal village council. Instead, the elderly villagers deal with any social issues or conflicts that arise. Final decisions are made by all of the adult villagers.
Binjhwari men and women must wait until they are adults before they are married. Marriages are not arranged; young adults are free to choose their future mates. Weddings always begin on Sundays and last for several days.
Binjhwari women are fond of wearing jewelry such as bracelets, necklaces, and armlets made of silver, brass, and beads. Beaded necklaces are their favorite.
Because the Binjhwari have had much contact with Hindus, they are classified as a Hindu tribe. Though they have adopted many Hindu gods and goddesses, they also still practice a form of their own ethnic religion. Their supreme deity, Bindya Basini, is represented by a stone in the shape of a woman. They believe she looks after the welfare of the Binjhwari, protecting them from all danger. Many other gods are also kept in their homes. Offerings of raw rice, milk, sweets, liquor, and fruit are continually made to these gods. Also, at the birth of a family's first child, a goat is sacrificed.
What Are Their Needs?
Ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors) is another common practice. Because the Binjhwari believe that their ancestors are reborn as children, children are worshipped at a festival once a year.
Quality laborers are one of the greatest needs. There is also a great need for Christian resources to be made available to these people.
Ask the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth many laborers to live and work among the Binjhwari.
Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few known Binjhwari Christians.
Pray that God will begin using these new converts to share Christ with their own people.
Ask God to call forth prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Binjhwari church for the glory of His name!
Scripture Prayers for the Binjhia in Bangladesh.
Bethany World Prayer Center