Introduction / History
The Gamti live mainly in the Surat and Broach districts of Gujarat, India. Among the Bhil, the word gamta means "headman," possibly giving the Gamti a feeling of superiority over other Bhil tribes. The Gamti are a regimented tribe and consider themselves distinct from the main lineage of Bhil. Their language, Gamti, is one of the Bhil languages.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Long ago, the prosperity of Gujarat state enticed people from the surrounding states, thus becoming a target of various Muslim tribes who made annual raids to the region for many years. The Islamic rulers reached their greatest power under the Moghal dynasty and overtook the Gujarat kingdom by the end of the thirteenth century. However, the Hindu Maratha fought the Moghals and also established an empire in Gujarat. While war continued between these and other groups over the Gujarat territory, the British rose to power by 1817. Attempting to mend what the Maratha left behind, they began dispersing farmland to the settlers.
Although other Bhil tribes (the Dubla, the Chodhari, and the Dhodia) live in the same region as the Gamti, they live in separate villages. Neither the Dhodia nor the Gamti intermarry with other groups. However, they do make exceptions by marrying the Chodhari Bhil. Cross-cousin marriages are also permitted. The men have more than one wife when they can afford it. The wives are "bought" while they are still young girls. At the wedding parties, it is customary for the men, rather than the women, to sing.
What Are Their Beliefs?
If a young couple wishes to marry but cannot afford the bride price, it is common for the girl to be "willingly abducted" by the young man. They return home after several months and have their union sanctioned.
The Gamti and the Chodhari are culturally very similar, but the traditions of the Gamti are much stronger. It is even said that they have "one more rib than the others." The Gamti, unlike the Chodhari, do not have theatrical dramas at their festivals. Instead, community singing gives variety to their festivals. While the Dhodia women wear necklaces made of beads and coins, the Gamti women wear necklaces made of rows of shells.
Most of the Gamti have given up the nomadic lifestyles of their ancestors and have settled into farming. They inhabit the more richly forested eastern areas of Surat district, an area well known for its rich soils and fine cotton crop. Many others live in areas where, because of the heavy rainfall, they are able to cultivate rice. Forest labor, hunting, and fishing are secondary to agriculture, as well as trade labor in the cities.
Among the Gamti, the town leaders (headmen) have only social functions to perform. Village houses are usually scattered near the streams so that the people might easily draw water, fish, and water their cattle. Homes are typically built by hired labor. They are small bamboo huts made with tiled roofs. The poorer villagers live in mud huts that they build themselves. The important thing to note is that the Gamti residences are all beyond the tidal flows of the rivers.
Unlike many of the Bhil tribes, most of the Gamti have a high school or college education. Unfortunately, many Gamti are addicted to alcohol.
The Gamti have deep-rooted beliefs in demons and witches. Beside the crocodile which is considered a god, they worship groups of deities made of shapeless pieces of stone or wood, placed under trees, where the supernatural beings are believed to dwell. The Gamti have no temples in which to hold their religious ceremonies.
What Are Their Needs?
Much intercession must be made for the Gamti so that their eyes will be opened to the Truth.
* 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 quality laborers to live among the Gamti and show them Christ's love.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Gamti.
* Pray for the effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Gamti.
* Ask God to give the Gamti believers boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.
Bethany World Prayer Center