Introduction / History
The Rajput Garasia are dispersed throughout the forested regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan, in western central India. Their language, known as Dungri Garasia, is an Indo-Aryan language belonging to the Bhil sub-group. Although they are related to the Bhil, the Rajput belong to a higher caste (social class) and dislike being referred to as a Bhil tribe.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Rajput Garasia are the descendants of the Rajput who married Bhil women. It is said that they originally were chiefs who were driven from their wealth by invaders. During the thirteenth century, many poor Rajput fled to the Vindhya and Aravalli hills where they mixed with the Bhil settlers. In time, the Garasia defeated the Bhil chiefs and their followers, settling near the foothills and in the forests. There they were given land for cultivation as a reward for protecting the people and the area. The name "Garasia" refers to the Rajput and other landholders living in the Gujarat and Rajasthan regions.
Among the Rajput Garasia, the average land holding is small; therefore, the man of the household is able to do all of the work himself. Maize is the staple food grown by all families. Many also depend on forest produce as a means of support. The people are generally vegetarians and are no longer addicted to alcohol like other Bhil tribes.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Rajput Garasia typically live in one-room houses made with mud and bamboo walls. Those with more money build flat tiled roofs, while the poorer people still use thatch. Houses are usually built on the slopes of hills with their fields extending out in front. There is usually a guest house opposite the house of the "headman" of the village. There is no central village site where the people meet together. In fact, there is very little unity or cooperation between the village clans.
The Rajput women are not allowed to own property and are required to wear veils over their faces when in the presence of elder male relatives. Ironically, however, they are not considered inferior to men. The women's responsibilities include cooking, tending to the cattle, milking the animals, and looking after the children. The men do the physical labor such as plowing, harvesting, and building the houses.
The Rajput are allowed complete freedom in choosing a spouse. Young men between the ages of 18 and 24 usually marry girls that are between the ages of 14 and 18. The two live together without any official marriage ceremony, although this may vary in some regions due to Hindu influence. The Rajput have a "joint family system" in which the sons remain with their families until their own children become adults. Intermarriage with other Bhil tribes is permitted, but cross-cousin marriages are strictly forbidden. A man is allowed to have more than one wife, if his first wife is either infertile or bears him no sons.
The Rajput believe that widows bring bad luck to the villagers. Although it is now illegal, some widows will sacrifice themselves in fire for the sake of the villagers. The community then commemorates her noble decision to end her life.
The women love to dress with many silver ornaments. They usually wear black or red blouses with large petticoats. The men are noted for their red or white turbans. Both men and women wear tattoos.
Traditionally, the Rajput worshipped their horses, their swords, and the sun. Today, they still practice ethnic religions, but their beliefs have been heavily influenced by Hinduism. Even though they now worship millions of gods and respect holy cows, as do Hindus, they still hold onto their original belief in spirits, fearing ghosts, spirits of the dead, and black magic.
What Are Their Needs?
Only a few of the Rajput have converted to Christianity. More laborers are needed to live and work among these precious people.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Rajput Garasia
* Pray for God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to give the Rajput believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Rajput toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Bethany World Prayer Center