Introduction / History
Few sources have ever mentioned the Gara as a distinct ethnicity— making it even more surprising that the Indian authorities have granted them official status. Those few sources that do mention the Gara usually list them as a sub-group of the Ladakhi. While it is true that much of their culture mirrors Ladakhi culture, there are significant social differences between the two peoples. The main difference is a linguistic one. The Gara speak an Indo- European language, totally distinct from the Tibeto-Burman Ladakhi.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Gara people live in Jammu & Kashmir and northern Himachal Pradesh.
The Gara people serve the Ladakhi as blacksmiths. They supply the Ladakhi with iron implements. In return, they usually receive a fixed amount of grain as payment.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Traditionally there was a clear distinction between the Ladakhi and smaller servant groups in the area such as the Gara. K S Singh notes, "The Ladakhis traditionally did not participate in the marriage and death rituals of the Gara, Mon and Beda. Secular attitudes have brought neighboring communities closer to each other socially." Today, even though the Gara live in ethnically mixed communities, the Ladakhi consider the Gara the lowest social class. The Gara are still not allowed to hold any position in the village or monastery administration.
Throughout the year the Gara youth hold ceremonies that help them find a spouse. Young women wear their best traditional clothing to these ceremonies, as a display of their needlework goes a long way to attracting a prospective suitor. Marriages are arranged "through negotiation, elopement, exchange, courtship, etc. … bride price is paid both in cash and kind. The reasons for seeking divorce are adultery, barrenness, maladjustment, impotency, cruelty, and inability to meet the wife's expenses, and remarriage is permissible."
Most Gara families follow Tibetan Buddhism, while a few are Hindus, especially among the Gara in Himachal Pradesh. One source notes, "They observe all the Buddhist festivals and celebrate Losae and Budh-Purnima." Bon, the pre-Buddhist religion, is obvious in their rituals and ceremonies Gara. Bon is basically a belief in spirit worship and demonism. They call upon powerful demonic forces for assistance and protection. Shamans wear gruesome masks, and occasionally the lamas go into a demonic trance during which they predict the future and give guidance to the community.
What Are Their Needs?
The Gara people need to put their trust and identity in the hands of the loving God of Creation who sent his son to make it possible for them to enter the Kingdom of God.
Pray for the authority of Christ to bind hindering spiritual forces to lead them from darkness to light.
Pray for signs and wonders among them and for great breakthroughs with a rapid multiplication of disciples and house churches.
Pray for bold workers who are driven by the love of the Holy Spirit to go to them.
Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them.
Scripture Prayers for the Gara in India.
Peoples of the Buddhist World, Asia Harvest, Copyrighted © Used with permission