Introduction / History
The Kamar are one of the scheduled tribes of India. They live in the hills, valleys, and forests of central India, primarily in the Raipur and Rewa districts of Madhya Pradesh. They continue to speak their native language, also called Kamar, despite outside influences. According to popular legends, the Kamar are the original inhabitants of the area in which they live, south of the plains of Chhattisgarh. The Kamar are said to be related to their neighbors, the Gond, who conquered them.
The Kamar consider military service their traditional occupation, and say that they converted to farming and manual labor jobs through force of circumstances. Sadly, their lives are aimed entirely at physical survival and the fight against natural disaster and starvation.
In Bengal and Chota Nagpur, Kamar is an occupational term meaning iron worker.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Kamar earn their income by making bamboo items, which they sell and trade in the weekly markets. Many engage in basketry throughout the entire year, and they are well known for this skill. Their fine bamboo baskets can be traded for goods such as rice, tea, and liquor.
Farming is the secondary occupation of the Kamar, followed closely by hunting and fishing. Recently, many Kamar have become workers in large scale industries near their homes. They may supplement their incomes by collecting forest products, especially certain types of leaves, which are sold to contractors. The women do much of the strenuous work in the fields and forests.
Many of the smaller Kamar villages consist of settled farmers, but all Kamar believe that it was their destiny to practice the slash and burn method of agriculture. Even those who work on permanent plots burn off the land and practice crop rotation. The fields are worked with pick axes and spades, and iron sickles are used to harvest the crops.
The Kamar are dispersed in approximately 200 villages, which are generally mixed with other tribal communities. The settlements consist of scattered huts with no definite pattern. The larger villages are located near the foothills or deep in the forests, while the smaller settlements are found along roadsides.
The Kamar typically live in two-room mud huts. One of the rooms is for storage and for the household god. Their houses are very neat and clean. Various kinds of fishing traps are found in every home, since all Kamar love to fish. Many have a shed for socializing, as well as a separate cattle shed. Most houses also have a bari, or small vegetable garden, which is an important factor in their survival.
The Kamar tribe is divided into a number of clans, or gots. The gots are endogamous, meaning they only marry within their own clan. Cross cousin marriages are preferred, and males initiate the marriage negotiations.
The Kamar wear very simple clothes. They do not wear shoes, and they tie cotton cloths, or phundras around their heads. There are noticeable differences between the traditional and modern styles. For example, young Kamar girls wear saris (wrap-around dresses) made from elaborate prints; whereas, the traditional clothes were plain white. They also wear petticoats, glass bracelets, and elaborate hair pins.
What are their beliefs?
The Kamar are ethnic religionists who have been heavily influenced by Hinduism. Each home has a family god in the form of iron chains decorated with peacock feathers. The Pujari (priest) offers goat sacrifices to the local gods and deities on ceremonial occasions. The villagers believe that punishments for evil behavior, such as incest, are carried out supernaturally by the gods.
What are their needs?
Prayer is the first step toward seeing these precious people reached with the light of the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Kamar.
* Pray that the Lord will grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Kamar.
* Ask God use the small number of Kamar believers to share the Gospel with their friends and families.
* Pray for the salvation of key Kamar leaders who will boldly proclaim the Gospel among their own people.