Introduction / History
There are two divisions of Bhil: the Central or "pure" Bhil, and the Eastern or part-Rajput Bhil. The Central Bhil live in the mountain regions of India, particularly in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. They are known as the connecting link between the Gujarati and the Rajasthani. They speak Bhili, which is an Indo-Aryan language.
Where Are they Located?
Many years ago, Bhil rajas (kings) permitted immigrants from the plains to settle in the hill regions. To safeguard their independence and rule, the Bhil fought against the Moghals, the Maratha and the British Raj.
The Rathia Bhil people have always been experts in handling bows and arrows. In fact, the name "Bhil" was derived from the word billee, which means "bow." For years, the bow has been a characteristic weapon of the tribe, and the men usually carry their bows and arrows with them. They are known for their rugged independence, but also for their banditry.
The Rathia Bhil live in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Many Bhil are being threatened by the Sardar Saravor Dam Project, which when completed will flood the land where many Bhil currently live. Though re-settlement plans have been discussed, they remain incomplete.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Today, the Rathia Bhil primarily work as farmers, field laborers and village watchmen. With a growth in population, most of their land holdings are small and generally non-productive. The women wear brightly colored clothes. The city boys are distinctive from other Hindus because they tie rags around their heads, wear earrings, and carry swords or guns.
The Rathia Bhil are usually shy and love their independence. Festivals, dance, drama, and music are a large part of their culture. The length and enthusiasm for these events is usually directly proportional to the amount of alcohol that is consumed.
The Rathia Bhil usually marry within their own classes. If they do marry someone of another class, the person of the lower class must convert to the higher, leaving behind all family ties. This custom is strictly enforced among the Bhil tribes.
Each Rathia Bhil village is led by a head man who deals with disputes. Respect among family members is strong, and there is a great sense of connection between the living and the dead. Property is shared equally by the male descendants. Bhil villages are rather widely scattered. The houses are located in fields where they grow millet, maize, wheat, and barley. Bhil highlanders live in tidy houses made with walls of sticks intertwined with small branches. The roofs (shaped like bee-hives), are usually made of clay tiles, but are sometimes made of straw and leaves.
Almost all of the Rathia Bhil practice ethnic religions that have been highly influenced by Hinduism. They consider Shiva to be the supreme god. Ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors) is also popular. They call upon shamans (priests) to offer sacrifices to their many gods and mud idols.
What Are Their Needs?
Much intercession is needed to see Rathia Bhil eyes opened to the truth.
Pray for his kingdom to come and his will to be done among the Rathia Bhil people.
Pray for a movement of Rathia Bhil households to study the Bible and accept the blessings of Christ.
Pray for a spiritual hunger that will drive the Rathia Bhil people to the arms of Jesus.
Pray for workers who are filled with the fruit and the power of the Holy Spirit to go to the Rathia Bhil people.
Scripture Prayers for the Bhil Rathia in India.