Koli Patelia in India

Koli Patelia
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Map Source:  People Group data: Omid. Map geography: UNESCO / GMI. Map Design: Joshua Project
People Name: Koli Patelia
Country: India
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 547,000
World Population: 554,700
Primary Language: Gujarati
Primary Religion: Hinduism
Christian Adherents: 0.05 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: South Asia Tribal - other
Affinity Bloc: South Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Koli Patelia are a landowning caste who live in the west Indian state of Gujarat. During the British colonial period they often served as tax collectors and administrators. The name Patel comes from a word meaning village chief. Many Patelia also went into business and commerce during the Raj period. Some Koli Patelia claim descent from Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. Therefore, they are Kshatriya, the second highest caste in the Hindu system. Others say they are Vaishyas, the caste of merchants and traders. The name Patel is prominent in entertainment, politics, medicine, and business in west India. Ironically the Patelia are seeking scheduled caste classification as their children are having trouble finding spots in Indian universities. The Patelia are the dominant caste in Gujarati government and industry. Outside of the state of Gujarat, some Koli groups do have scheduled caste status. The primary language of the Koli Patelia is Gujarati. They also speak Hindi and English. A newly edited complete Bible became available in Gujarati in 2016. Only a tiny number of believers exists among the Koli Patelia.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Patelia still own large tracts of land but the land is often cultivated by lower castes. Most Patelia are involved in business, education, administration, and politics. Patelia parents encourage their children to obtain graduate degrees. Some are strict vegetarians while others eat meat except for beef. Patelia live in modern Indian cities in Gujarat. Families arrange adult marriages with the consent of the young people. Newly married couples generally live apart from their parents. Sons inherit property. The Patelia hire Brahmin priests to officiate at important family ceremonies such as births, weddings and funerals. They cremate their dead. There is a Patelia diaspora throughout the world. Many Patels live in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and in South America. They are business owners, physicians and professors who maintain contact with their relatives and friends in Gujarat.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Patelia practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of India. They worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Hindus believe that by performing rituals and good works that they will attain moksha or freedom from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The Patelia visit Hindu temples and offer prayers, food, flowers, and incense to their gods in hopes of gaining protection and benefits. They do not have a personal or familial relationship with their gods as Christians do. There are many forms of Hinduism, each with its own deities and beliefs. The Patelia pay special homage to Rama and Krishna. The main yearly holidays of the Patelia people are Holi, the festival of colors and the start of spring, Diwali, the festival of lights, Navratri, the celebration of autumn and Rama Navami, Rama's birthday. The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories. The Patelia are considered Kshatriyas which means they have good status in Hindu society.

What Are Their Needs?

The Patelia are proud of their strong Hindu tradition. Pride, status and wealth can keep people from seeing themselves as sinners in need of a savior. The Patelia must hear and understand the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. He alone can forgive their sins and grant them eternal life.

Prayer Points

Pray for a disciple making movement to flourish in Koli Patelia communities. Pray that Gujarati Bibles and resources would fall into the right Patelia hands. Pray that a strong movement to Jesus will bring whole Patelia families and communities into a rich experience of God's blessings. Pray for Patelia families and communities to discover and embrace the free gift of life found by trusting Christ and His finished work.

Text Source:   Keith Carey