Introduction / History
The Chero live in Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. They are primarily concentrated in Palamau, Shahabad, Champaran, and other surrounding districts. The Chero speak a language that is also called Chero. Those in Bihar are bilingual, speaking both Chero and Bihari.
The Chero claim to be the descendants of the Rajput, who were a powerful race of Indian warriors whose kingdom existed between the eighth and thirteenth centuries. The Chero were once the lords of all the provinces surrounding the sacred Ganges River. Now, however, they hold meager jobs in the cities or live in the woods skirting the hills.
Like many people in India, the Chero belong to a particular social class, or caste. They are officially classified as land-owners and farmers. In general, they are a proud race and have never forgotten that their bloodline is one of royalty.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Chero live in villages situated near streams to ensure the people of a fresh water supply. The villagers get timber from the forests to build their homes and to use as fuel. Their settlements are clusters of homes seemingly huddled together without rhyme or reason. The poorest Chero live in homes made of mud. These families share their homes with the cattle, farm tools, and grain.
Today, agriculture is vital to the Chero economy, and the villagers usually grow exactly what they need for survival. Men and women work together to produce the harvest, and the women especially love to sing as they work. Some of the Chero have moved over to shop-keeping and petty trade in towns and cities. Others earn wages by working on roads or in coal mines.
For the Chero living on the plains, their livestock is crucial for their livelihood. Oxen, buffaloes, and cows are yoked to plows and carts to help them work the fields. Goats, fish, and fowl are important components of their diet and are also used as sacrifices in religious ceremonies.
The nuclear family, which consists of parents and unmarried children, is the basic building block of Chero society. While they hold their elders in high regard, old age itself is viewed as an ailment. The tribe is governed by councils called panchayats, which are made up of the village elders, the headman, and the high priest.
The land-holding Chero in the Palamau region have borrowed the gotras social structure, which means that they do not associate with those of lower castes. They are divided into two sub-castes, and marriage outside of their own group is strictly forbidden.
Over the years, the distinctive physical traits of the Chero have been softened by intermarriage with pure Hindu families. Because they are of Rajput descent, the Chero obtained military land grants, which they hold to this day.
The higher caste Chero are almost equal to any other high caste group of Hindus. Brahmins (the highest Hindu caste, made up of priests and scholars) will actually take water from the Chero's hands. This is considered a privilege in their society. They now live strictly as Rajputs and wear their caste symbols. However, they still do not intermarry with pure Rajput families.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of Chero are Hindu, and Brahmin priests serve at all their weddings. About one-fifth of the Chero are Muslims, who were converted during Muslim invasions of the nineteenth century.
What are their needs?
At the present time, there are only a few known Chero Christians. Missionaries are needed to disciple these young believers. Christian resources are desperately needed. Prayer is the key to seeing the Chero reached with the Gospel.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun in the hearts of the few Chero believers through adequate discipleship.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Chero.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Chero church for the glory of His name!