Introduction / History
The Hill Maria are a sub-group of the largest tribal group in India known as the Gond. Historically, the Gond were the most important group of original Indian tribes. In the 1500s, several Gond dynasties were established and the Gond rajas, or kings, ruled like Hindu princes until they were conquered by Muslim armies in 1592. In the 1700s, the Gond lost all power to the Maratha kings, who forced them to flee into the hills.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Today, the Hill Maria live in the rugged interior of central India, mainly in the Abujhmar Mountains and Kutrumar Hills. This region, which is covered in thick jungle, is geographically inaccessible, allowing little communication with outsiders. Although only a few miles of mountains and forests separate them from their neighbors and former rulers, the Telugu, the Hill Maria remain the most primitive and least influenced of the original Gond tribes. They speak a Dravidian language called Abujmaria.
The Hill Maria are semi-nomadic farmers who use the "slash and burn" method of agriculture. After farming an area for two or three years, they abandon their houses, move to a different location, and make new land clearings. They survive by farming, hunting, and eating the fruits of the forests. They hunt with spears, and bows and arrows, and eat the game that is killed. Wild buffalo, boar, deer, and tigers live in the dense forests of the region. The people vow to protect the tiger, which is highly honored, feared, and respected.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Hill Maria villages are intended to be communal, territorial units, with each village led by a committee of elders. The actual enforcement of this state system is difficult, however, since the villages are so widespread throughout the jungles and forests.
Most of the Hill Maria are undoubtedly poor. They live in thatch-roofed, bamboo and mud houses that line a common street. Although the Hill Maria are less civilized than other Gond, they far surpass the others in strength and ability. A strong sense of community exists between them. Liberty, equality, and brotherhood are highly valued principles. Overall, they are said to be shy, friendly, and attractive.
The Hill Maria are required to pay taxes in grain. However, these shy tribesmen have no communication with those who come to collect it. Rather, they leave the grain on the banks of the Indravati River to be taken away.
The ghotul, or temporary dormitory for unmarried youth, is a significant building within the Hill Maria villages. It contains no domestic furnishings and is basically a social club and sleeping place for the young and unmarried. The ghotul is considered a religious institution, a "holy place," and there is no such thing as sin within its walls. Without exception, there is complete sexual liberty until marriage. Teenage boys are divided into two groups, the first of which allows and encourages sexual relations with the unmarried girls. The other group is connected with war, hunting, and magic.
The dress of the Hill Maria depends upon their distance from civilization. A few have purchased clothes from the outside, but they usually wear outfits of a scanty description, such as aprons made of leaves.
Most of the Hill Maria are Hindus, worshiping millions of gods and goddesses. Some practice ethnic religions, particularly animism (based on the belief that non-human objects have spirits). They believe that the forest is the dwelling place of the gods and ancestral spirits, and they regularly pray to the ancestral spirits for protection and blessings. They also believe that the spirits warn them of future events through the actions of wild animals.
What Are Their Needs?
The Hill Maria live in poverty, both physically and spiritually. There are only a handful of known believers among them. Sustained intercession, evangelistic tools, and continued missions efforts are essential for seeing them reached with the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to send additional missionaries and humanitarian aid workers to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of the Hill Maria.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to give missions agencies creative strategies for reaching the Hill Maria.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Hill Maria who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of India through worship and intercession.
Bethany World Prayer Center