Introduction / History
The Mech settled centuries ago in the sub-Himalayan regions of Assam and West Bengal. They are members of the Mongoloid race, who moved from the north into southwestern China. Most eventually migrated into Burma and Indonesia, but a branch of the tribe remained in India.
While living under Brahmin influence, the Mech embraced Hinduism and took Hindu surnames for themselves. An ancient tradition claims that the Mech are descendants of the god Shiva ("the destroyer"). Although they have mixed with other peoples, they have retained social class divisions, or septs. These include classes of priests, warriors, and farmers. The divisions are not to be mistaken for castes, as there is no prohibition against intermarriage or eating together.
Where are they located?
Today, the Mech build their villages in the forests and hills of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and Cooch-Behar districts. A smaller number have migrated to Bhutan.
What are their lives like?
In the early 1900s, the Mech were nomadic people, practicing swidden ("slash and burn") agriculture. There were few people and much land; thus, this type of erratic agriculture did not affect the country at all. Now, however, with growing populations in the region, they have become permanent farmers, using bulls and plows in their cultivation of the soil. Rice is their principal cash crop, but they are experts in growing the areaca nut and betel leaves, two powerful stimulants. Recently, they have begun to grow maize as an additional food supplement.
The Mech are very hospitable, friendly people. They are amiable and honest. Although they have an ancient history of being headhunters, they are free from arrogance, revenge, and cruelty. The Mech marry within their own tribe. Women are forbidden to engage in any premarital sexual activity, and any sexual offenses are heavily punished. Husbands generally have great respect for their wives, who have absolute control over the household affairs and are consulted in all family and social matters. Most households consist of extended families, as the sons bring their wives home after marriage. Fathers are responsible for training their sons in economic skills, and mothers train their daughters in household duties.
What are their beliefs?
Mech religious beliefs are a blend of animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits) and Hinduism. Like many primitive tribes, their idea of gods developed from the concept of "dynamism" or "power." Anything that appeared to possess superhuman power was regarded as an object of worship. The Mech worshipped, and still worship, rivers, forests, celestial bodies, snakes, and certain plants. Tree-worship is an important custom, for every tree is a symbol of life. The Mech believe that trees have souls like their own and that the tree-soul is capable of being transferred to humans and animals.
The Mech have a close affinity with the earth, referring to it as the "human mother." Harvests cannot be fruitful, they believe, without first worshiping the Great Mother through offering an animal sacrifice and performing the ritual dance.
The great god of the Mech—the Bathou (the Euphorbia plant)—is worshipped in every Mech household. Most of the ancient Mech gods now have Vedic names but have retained the old, animistic qualities. Except for the use of lumps of dirt in the worship of the earth, the Mech traditionally have no idols. However, the influence of Hindu culture has caused some of the Mech to begin making idols of gods in recent years.
What are their needs?
As in most animistic cultures, the Mech live in fear of the spirits of nature. Only through appeasement can they have peace or success in life, but no one is sure when or if the spirits are appeased. The Mech need liberation from such oppressive beliefs. Their culture is also in great transition economically. A large percentage of Mech have encumbered unmanageable debt, and may face lives of poverty in the near future.
* Pray that the Lord will set the Mech free from fear of the spirits.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to the mission agencies that are focusing on the Mech.
* Ask God to anoint the gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
* Pray that the Lord will raise up long term workers to join the few who have already responded.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun in the hearts of the Mech believers in India.
Text source: Keith Carey