Introduction / History
The Dubla live along the coast of western central India, primarily in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Rajasthan. They speak Dubla, a Bhil language that belongs to the Indo-Aryan linguistic family. The Dubla tribe contains twenty sub-groups, of which the Talavias have the highest social rank.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Long ago, the cultural prosperity of Gujarat State attracted people from all the surrounding states. Gujarat became a target of the Maratha tribes, who made annual raids to the region for many years. Eventually, the Muslims fortified the area east of Surat in order to reap its economic benefits. It is believed that the Dubla moved farther south due to pressure from the Muslims.
By 1817, the British had risen to power, and attempted to mend what the Maratha had left behind. At that time, farmland was dispersed among the settlers. A long period of oppression by the Rajput and other outlaws brought the Dubla to such indebtedness that they were sold as slaves.
Agricultural slavery was not abolished until 1923. Until that time, the Dubla were in bondage to the landowners. They were completely dependent on their masters to loan them whatever they needed for survival. The masters knew that it would be impossible for the Dubla to ever pay them back; and for this, the Dubla owed their masters loyalty, respect, and submission. The slave lived near his master providing them with "economic security."
What Are Their Beliefs?
Once slavery had been abolished, the number of Dubla agricultural workers who did not own land increased. The loss of slave labor was a great setback for the landlords. Since this changeover from the bondage of servitude to the freedom of day-laborers, the government has given financial support to help improve the Dubla's social position.
Today, the Dubla are a very stubborn people, perhaps because they were considered inferior servants for such a long time. They now work as sharecroppers, servants, and casual laborers. However, due to a lack of sufficient and consistent employment, many do migrant work in order to survive. They may spend seven months each year at brickyards near Bombay, taking their whole families with them to work. Since most of the Dubla still do not possess their own land, they remain the poorest of the farmers. The villagers depend on shopkeepers for the sale of their agricultural products and purchase of consumer goods.
Dubla villages are located along small rivers near other Bhil villages. The Dubla are among the poorest in the village, and they typically live in one-room, mud-brick houses with extremely low thatch roofs. With government aid, some have been able to obtain tile roofs, and the more prosperous even have houses of wood or brick. Their huts are not built in orderly rows, but are simply clustered together. The average number of occupants per hut has increased to the point that it is no longer possible to shelter all members of the household from the winter cold and monsoon rains. Some years they are forced to move into neighboring territories because the floods take away their homes. These villagers have very little contact-if any-with those living in cities.
The Dubla are a meek and stubborn people, worn out by their hard lifestyle and fondness of liquor. Some have realized that a proper education can help them escape "backward village life." However, school attendance remains low, and literacy is still only about ten percent.
Virtually all of the Dubla are Hindus. They look to the village bhagat (priest and medicine man) for spiritual guidance. He is thought to be the ultimate "good man," who is able to communicate with the gods. He is considered a friend, a philosopher, a guide, and a healer.
What Are Their Needs?
Teachers, missionaries and humanitarian aid workers are needed to work among these precious people and share the love of Christ with them.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth faithful laborers to live and work among the Dubla.
* Ask God to grant His favor to missions agencies focusing on the Dubla.
* Ask God to give the Dubla believers boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.
Bethany World Prayer Center