Introduction / History
The Dangs Bhil live in the rocky, hilly forests of western central India. They are primarily located in the Dangs district of Gujarat State. Dangi, their native language, is the language of trade in this region. Dangi is a sub-group of Khandesi, which belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family.
The Western Chalukya were the first people to establish political control throughout the region. Later, the Rashtrakuta gained control and brought the Dangs under submission to local chiefs, who were mostly Bhil. The forest wealth exploited by the Dangs enticed the Bhil, as well as the British, causing constant conflicts between the groups. Eventually, the Dangs were forced into slavery.
Later, the people who lived on the plains joined forces with the invading tribes. The Dangs, however, granted shelter to those who were ousted from their homes. For years the Dangs remained isolated, living in poor physical conditions. However, in 1947, plans were initiated to improve their circumstances.
What are their lives like?
The Dangs were originally very poor, having few material possessions and survived by gathering food from the forests. They had no time for intellectual pursuits, but sought only to survive. They lived a hard, monotonous life in the mountainous forests, causing them to become individualistic and somewhat introverted. Nevertheless, their love of freedom has made them a people of sturdy character.
Today, the Dangs Bhil continue to live in extreme poverty, and their social lives are built around the search for food. They have always lived close to nature, depending on it for survival. Animals are respected and treated as equals. For this reason, they are often called the "children of nature." The Dangs district contains many protected forests that the Dangs are allowed to use for cultivation and residence. They live in one-room bamboo huts made with thatched roofps.
The family is the basic unit of social and religious life among the Dangs. Their society is patrilineal, meaning that the line of descent is through the males. Young newlyweds typically live near or with the husband's family. Social and religious order is maintained by an institution known as the panch.
Due to the warm, moist climate of the Dangs district, the people wear very little clothing. The women like to wear grass ornaments.
Despite their poverty, the Dangs enjoy singing and dancing. However, their animated tribal dances are no longer as significant as they once were. The villagers are skilled in creating objects out of stone, wood, and clay. Hindu artisans often help them with such crafts. Tattooing has also become an art among the Dangs.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of the Dangs practice ethnic religions, and all of them are involved in ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors). Their lives revolve around rites, rituals and folk beliefs. Many are animists, believing that all objects have spirits. Trees, animals, demons, serpents, and spirits are worshipped through magical rituals. Wagh-Dev, the tiger god, is their sacred animal god and their emblem of worship.
The Dangs believe in magic, witchcraft, and sorcery, along with their many tribal gods and Hindu deities. They believe that the supernatural world contains both good and evil. Their constant fear of the spirits keeps them revolving around a circle of prayers, rituals, offerings, and sacrifices. The Bhagat (priest and medicine man) is thought to be the ultimate "good man." He is believed to be a spiritual man who communicates with the gods. He is considered a friend, a philosopher, a guide, and a healer.
What are their needs?
More missionaries and humanitarian aid workers are needed to work among the Dangs.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray the Dangs Bhil be lifted out of poverty.
* Pray that the Lord will send forth laborers to live among the Dangs tribes.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Dangs Bhil.
* Ask God to give the Dangs believers boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.