Introduction / History
India is a complex mosaic of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and social groupings. Because of this diversity, it is extremely difficult to adequately describe any single people group.
India may be divided into four main regions: the Himalayas, the northern river-plains region, the Deccan, and the Eastern and Western Ghat Mountains. Because of numerous geographical features, climatic conditions are also diversified on both a seasonal and regional basis, ranging from tropical to temperate extremes.
In the midst of this complexity can be found the Sondwari. They are located mainly in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Their language is a member of the Indo-Aryan language family. Little is known about their specific way of life.
What are their lives like?
Most of India's population lives in rural areas and is engaged in some form of agriculture. Many are farmers barely growing enough to survive. Farms are extremely small and often very fragmented. The raising of livestock, particularly horned cattle, buffalo, horses, and mules, is a central feature of the economy. Because of Hindu influence, however, these animals are used almost exclusively as beasts of burden rather than sources of meat.
Indian culture is primarily Hindu-oriented. Many Hindu institutions, including the rigid caste (social class) system, have wide-ranging effects on Indian society. The word "caste" basically means breed, race, or kind. Indian society is divided into hierarchical castes which are usually endogamous (marriage only within the caste). Castes may be defined by occupation or by kinship and lineage, but there are exceptions. Nevertheless, caste is so fundamental to the social organization of India that it prevails in all parts except some of the tribal populations. Not enough is known about the Sondwari to accurately place them within the caste system; thus, their particular lifestyle and culture cannot be adequately described.
Many Sondwari live in the state of Rajasthan. An important segment of society there are the Rajputs (Indian nobility). During the era of princes and maharajahs, Rajput aristocracy dominated the Rajasthan scene for several centuries. Rajasthan is also home to the Bhil tribe, the second largest scheduled tribe in India.
What are their beliefs?
The Sondwari are almost all Hindu and follow the basic Hindu customs and traditions. The term "Hinduism" came into use about A.D. 1200, but clearly identifying what Hindus believe is difficult. The religion has no founder, no prophet, and no instructional system. It is a way of living much more than a theology; it is a philosophy more than a religion. Contrary to popular belief in the West, Hinduism is not an ancient, fixed set of beliefs. It is instead a body of customs, practices, and beliefs which go through major changes every few hundred years.
The majority of Hindus, but not all, believe in a supreme being. Some respect all life and eat only vegetables, while others will gladly eat meat from sacrifices in the temple. To some, their religion is highly personal; to others, it is impersonal. While most Hindus worship Brahman (the creator), Shiva (the destroyer), Vishnu (the preserver), and the goddess Shaktri, they also worship a pantheon of other minor gods, their incarnations, spouses, or offspring. A belief in reincarnation is one of the few unifying features of Hinduism.
What are their needs?
The few Christian believers need materials to encourage and strengthen them in their walk with the Lord. Fervent intercession and increased missions effort are necessities to see the Sondwari reached with the Good News of the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send long-term missionaries to the Sondwari of India.
* Ask God to save key leaders among the Sondwari who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that God will strengthen, embolden, and protect the few Sondwari believers.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.