Introduction / History
The Nat of India are professional dancers, singers and acrobats by tradition. They like to be known as Raj Nat as they claim to have Rajput origins and originate from Rajasthan. They are also called Bhanmati, meaning something amazing. The Nat are classed as a Scheduled Caste except in Delhi, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. They also live in Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Haryanna, Punjab, West Bengal and Chandigarh.
What are their lives like?
The name Nat comes from the word nata meaning dancer. They speak Bagri (Nati) which is their own language as well as Hindi and languages from the regions they live in. The higher Hindu castes do not accept food and water from them and the Nat do not accept these things from some lower castes.
Some of the Nat do agricultural and other manual work. Others do such as metal work, selling herbal medicines, rickshaw pulling, repairing watches and radios or working in musical bands.
The Nat eat all meat except beef. They also eat wheat and rice. Alcohol is a main part of their lives socially. They smoke Bidi and cigarettes. The Nat use modern and local medicine and some do family planning. They have generally a low literacy level, so there is a need for the Gospel to reach them in oral form.
The Nats do not marry except in their own community and have clan exogamy (They do not marry within the same clan in their community). They are happy to marry Rajputs though, because of the Rajput high status. Monogamy is the usual way and marriage is done by discussion by parents and elders. Bride price is paid in cash. Divorce is allowed for adultery, cruelty and for difficulty in adjusting. Divorcees and the bereaved can marry again.
The Nat mostly live in hamlets that border towns and villages. Only sons can inherit family property and the oldest son becomes in charge of the family but must discuss important matters with his mother. The women contribute much in religious and social matters. The Nat have caste councils to judge on marriage and property disputes for example. Punishments are by fines and social boycotting.
What are their beliefs?
The Nat are generally Hindus but there are some Muslims in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The Hindu Nats worship Rama, Shiva and the other Hindu gods and goddesses. Some claim to be fortune tellers, exorcists or healers. They celebrate the main Hindu festivals and many of them worship ancestors too.
What are their needs?
The low caste position of the Nat means they are denied many benefits and their work and partly nomad lifestyle has caused them problems such as poverty.
* Pray that the problems the Nat are having will lead them to Jesus Christ.
ReferencesView Nat (Hindu traditions) in all countries.