Introduction / History
The Wagdi belong to a much larger cluster of peoples known as the Bhil. The Bhil are the third largest and most widely distributed tribal group in India. Although the Bhil were once thought of as a single tribe, it is now clear that they consist of many subgroups, one of which is the Wagdi.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The name "Bhil" was probably derived from the word villu or billu, which in most Dravidian languages is the word for "bow." The bow has long been a characteristic weapon of the Bhil because the tribesmen always carry their bows and arrows with them.
The Bhil tribes inhabit some of the most remote and inaccessible areas of India. Unfortunately, their scattered settlement pattern has hindered government efforts to provide services for the people. It has also facilitated their general distrust of government officials. The Wagdi language, also called Wagdi, belongs to the Bhil branch of the Indo-Aryan language family.
The Wagdi were traditionally hunters and gatherers. They relied primarily on bows and arrows for hunting, although spears, slings, and axes were also used. Edible plants, roots, and fruits were gathered from the forests. Unfortunately, extensive deforestation in this region has greatly diminished the forest resources. As a result, most of the Wagdi are now settled peasant farmers. Their primary crops include maize, millet, cucumbers, cotton, wild rice, lentils and barley. Some of the Wagdi have lost their land and now earn a living as hired laborers. Many of them have found jobs clearing forests or repairing roads. Since the Wagdi do not weave cloth, make pottery, or work with metals, they are dependent on trade to obtain these types of items.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Wagdi mark their village boundaries by tying bundles of grass to trees along the paths. Each village usually contains from three to forty families. The villagers live in houses that are set far apart from each other. Most of the houses are built on hills with their fields surrounding them. Most villages also have some land that is reserved for community use.
The Wagdi live in wooden framed, rectangular homes that generally have two stories. The houses have bamboo walls daubed with plaster that is made of water, clay, and cattle dung. Such materials repel insects and keep the houses cool. The homes do not have windows, and have only a single entrance on the front wall. The roofs are usually thatched with grass or teak leaves and bamboo, materials that often require annual replacement.
The father is the head of his household, distributing the daily work among each of the family members and controlling all of the income. The mother assigns duties to her daughters and daughters-in-law, and supervises their work. These duties include preparing the family's meals and taking them to the men in the fields. Drawing water, milking cows, and gathering firewood are also part of the women's daily routines. Farm work such as plowing and sowing is done by the men. Hunting is also primarily a male activity.
The Wagdi are divided into clans, each of which is led by a chief. The chiefs have supreme power in matters concerning the clan. Since the clans are often geographically separated, the main purpose of the clan seems to be ensuring exogamous marriages (marriages between members of the same clan), and identifying the proper lines of descent.
The Wagdi are animists (believe that non-living objects have spirits) who have been heavily influenced by Hinduism. In fact, most of their Hindu and animistic practices have been so intertwined that it is difficult to separate them. Ancestor worship (worshiping the spirits of deceased relatives) is also quite popular. The village shamans (priests) attempt to appease the gods and mud idols by making sacrifices to them on stone altars.
What Are Their Needs?
Christian laborers are needed to share God's love with these needy people. Prayer is the first step toward seeing them reached with the Truth of the Gospel.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to begin break up the spiritual soil of India through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to send forth many Christian laborers to live and work among the Wagdi.
* Ask God to use the small number of Wagdi believers to share Christ with their own people.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of the Wagdi towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Bethany World Prayer Center