Gujarati in Portugal

Photo Source:  Anonymous 
Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Gujarati
Country: Portugal
10/40 Window: No
Population: 20,000
World Population: 3,518,000
Primary Language: Gujarati
Primary Religion: Hinduism
Christian Adherents: 0.50 %
Evangelicals: 0.10 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: South Asia Hindu - other
Affinity Bloc: South Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Gujaratis (the people of Gujarat who speak the language Gujarati), migrated to Portugal from Mozambique, where they had previously established communities and then moved north to Lisbon when a civil war erupted in the African country. Some Gujaratis came to Portugal before World War II and some after in the early 1980s.

All the Gujaratis speak in their traditional language of Gujarati, although the second and third generations have difficulty speaking and reading fluently in it. However, the youngsters are proficient in Portuguese. There is the habit of switching between different languages during the same conversation and often English slips in as well.

In recent years, the economic crisis in Portugal has led to the departure of many Gujaratis to the UK, but also a return to Mozambique, particularly by specialized professionals (engineers) and doctors.

The vast majority of the Gujarati population is concentrated in the Greater Lisbon area and most of them live and work in the municipality of Loures. There is also a small Gujarati nucleus in Oporto and Coimbra.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Gujaratis are known for maintaining a peaceful relationship with their surrounding community and are known famously for "not upsetting anybody."

The main occupation of the Gujaratis is commerce. Old Gujarati shops—Gujarati stationery, the Gujarati shoemaker, the Gujarati goldsmith, the Gujarati haberdashery, the Gujarati kiosk, the Gujarati hairdresser, and the Gujarati grocery store—are seen all over Lisbon and suburban areas. They are also domestic servants, masons or workers in other construction jobs, though they have been in decline throughout the years of settlement. Many are now professionals in various sectors of Portuguese society such as in government services, education, medicine, and engineering.

The Gujaratis prefer to live in a joint family system where many members of the family live under the same roof along with their married children and grandchildren. Their festivals are marked with colorful garments and decorations both in and around the house, dances and folk songs that last late into the nights with a sumptuous spread of vegetarian delicacies.

Gorbai is one of the most important festivals that is observed with great fervor and devotion by womenfolk who worship Gauri, the wife of Lord Shiva. It is the celebration of marital fidelity. Unmarried women worship her to be blessed with a good husband, while married women do so for the welfare, health and long life of their husbands and for a happy married life.

Traditionally, the bodies of the deceased after the ritual of funeral ceremonies are cremated and a part of the ashes are then immersed into the river or sea, accompanied by flowers and prayers. With no water bodies in Portugal to do so, they have taken up to crematoriums to complete the rituals.

The community in Portugal maintains an intense network of exchanges with India through postal correspondence, phone calls or electronic contact, as well as a permanent flow of people traveling between the two countries.

Every year on Oct 2nd, the Hindu Community of Portugal, commemorates the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (fondly called the "The father of the nation" and who was born in the state of Gujarat), with a Blood Donation Campaign which extends for approximately four days.

Cultural associations and religious institutions play a key role in the cohesion of Gujarati communities and function as mediators within society and contribute to the group's identity. Almost all of them belong to the various Hindu Cultural Associations that are on the rise in the country. The Hindu Cultural Association, which is a space dedicated to Hindu culture, promotes sports activities for young people and teaches traditional dances and the Gujarati language.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Most of the Gujaratis are Hindus, though some are Sunni Muslims. Their everyday lives are heavily influenced by the various rituals and activities that surround their polytheistic faith. Brahmin priests) officiate in their rituals.

Portugal's capital is home to many Hindu temples such as the Radha Krishna Mandir, the Amba Mandir, which comprise of an imposing architecture, with their own spiritual leaders and patrons to support their worship.

Many religious movements such as the Swaminarayan movement (based on the Vaishanva cult), and the Hare Krishna movement have built many 'mandirs' (temples), in various parts around the capital city and they serve as a hub for spiritual, community and charity services. Every Gujarati family visits the temple on the numerous religious occasions, for the blessings of the deities from the sadhus and swamis (religious leaders) and to carry out the rituals that accompany the festivals like Diwali and Navratri and also during weddings.

They are also heavily influenced by the International Association for the Consciousness of Krishna (ISKCON), that propagates the Hare Krishna movement with the practice of meditation and Bhakti-Yoga, through the chanting of mantras.

Hindu women organize satsangs, a form of worship, by gathering in their homes to pay homage to the deities through hymns and sacred readings. The satsang also aims to celebrate Agyaras (or Ekadashi/fasting). During Agyaras, the eleventh day of each lunar half of the Hindu month, women gather to fast, worship, sing and sometimes dance. The domestic space also serves as a venue for the celebration of other Hindu calendar dates, including the dates of birth and marriages of the gods and the reading of the Ramayana, (a sacred book).

In the areas where there are no temples, communities would gather at devotees' houses to offer prayers. In fact, every Hindu family's house has a domestic temple. Gujarati families always have somewhere to offer devotion to deities even if there is no community center.

What Are Their Needs?

Even though Gujaratis are second and third generation immigrants now, they are all relatively well settled with their hard work ethic. Sometimes, their settled life prevents them from being open minded to the gospel when presented. The Hindus naturally are afraid of the spirits that would harm them if they turned away from their gods and goddesses.

Prayer Points

Pray for open doors for the mission minded to reach the tightly knit Gujarati community.

Pray that Bibles and gospel literature will be effectively distributed throughout Portugal and have a strong spiritual impact on the Gujarati people.

Pray that the Lord would raise up Gujarati speaking Christian believers who have a burden to disciple others.

Pray for the effectiveness of the JESUS Film in Portugal.

Ask the Lord to rise up strong local churches among the Gujaratis in Portugal.

Text Source:   Joshua Project