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Gongduk in Bhutan


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Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
2,400 Gongduk Buddhism 0.00 % 0.00 % No No   

Gongduk in Bhutan

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More than 1,000 Gongduk people live in a few extremely isolated villages in Bhutan's Mongar District. Nothing was known about this small ethnic group until the Dutch linguist George van Driem discovered them in 1991. Van Driem wrote, 'The Gongduk language is spoken by a dwindling population in a remote enclave along the Kurichu [River] in east-central Bhutan.... In May of 1991, I discovered this previously unknown language in a remote portion of Mongar District, where I was conducting a linguistic survey of the country in the serve of the Royal Government of Bhutan.... Gongduk can be reached on foot from Jepzh'ing, from which it is two or three days' journey to the south. It is also about a two days' journey up from the Manas River in the plains. This accounts for the fact that the Gongduk have remained largely unknown outside of the Gongduk area itself and its immediate environs.'

As van Driem studied Gongduk, he excitedly realized that he had found a unique language that appears to be the sole representative of a branch of the Tibeto- Burman family. Another source has said that Gongduk 'retains the complex verbal agreement system of Proto Tibeto-Burman. It is said to belong to one of the ancient populations of Bhutan.' Part of the reason the Gongduk remained undiscovered for so long is because the people pass themselves off as Kheng when they meet outsiders. Just why they do this is uncertain, as they have their own unique culture and language that is not mutually intelligible with Kheng. Van Driem further notes, 'There are currently just over a thousand speakers of the Gongduk language. According to one legend Gongduk was once long ago a small independent kingdom. The Gongduk themselves repeat that they are of aboriginal Dung lineage, or Dungjüt, and that their ancestors were semi-nomadic hunters.' In these respects they are similar to the Lhokpu people of Bhutan.

One has to wonder how many other small tribes and language groups exist in the hundreds of isolated valleys of the Himalayan Range. The Gongduk may have been one of the earliest people groups in Bhutan, but for uncertain historical reasons they were driven to their present location centuries ago. Bhutan was completely closed off to outside influence for centuries until 1960, when the king allowed more freedom. Little has changed in rural areas of the nation for centuries. When the Earl of Ronaldshay entered Bhutan in 1921 he reported, 'With our passage through the bridge, behold a curious transformation. For just as Alice, when she walked through the looking-glass, found herself in a new and whimsical world, so we found ourselves, as though caught up in some magic time machine fitted fantastically with a reverse, flung back across the centuries into the feudalism of a mediaeval age.'

The religious belief of the Gongduk is Tibetan Buddhism mixed with animistic spirit worship.

Throughout two thousand years of Christianity, the good news that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world has never once entered the remote enclave inhabited by the Gongduk.

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Prayer Links
Global Prayer Digest: 2007-08-02
Global Prayer Digest: 2016-08-25
Global Prayer Digest: 2018-08-09
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Country: Bhutan
Continent: Asia
Region: Asia, South
Persecution Rank:45 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Population in Country:2,400
Largest Provinces:
Eastern (2,400)Western (30)
Location in Country:Approximately 1,000 Gongduk people live in a few extremely isolated villages in Bhutan's Mongar District.
(Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, 2004)
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Gongduk
People Name General: Gongduk
Alternate People Names:
ROP3 Code: 103435
Joshua Project People ID: 11924
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 2,400
Population all Countries: 2,400
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: South Asian Peoples
People Cluster: South Asia Buddhist
People Name General: Gongduk
Ethnic Code: CNN25
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
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Primary Language: Gongduk (2,400 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): goe    Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religions:
Buddhism100.00 % 
Christianity0.00 %(Evangelical: 0.00 %)
Ethnic Religions0.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam0.00 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic0.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
GSEC Status:Level 0   No evangelical Christians or churches. No access to major evangelical print, audio, visual, or human resources
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: Help start a Bible Translation
New Testament: None Reported
Complete Bible: None Reported
Ministry Resources [7]
None Reported
Ministry Activity
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Data Notes
Data Sources

Gongduk in Bhutan

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    South Asia Buddhist     Asia, South    
      Gongduk Bhutan    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Gongduk in Bhutan          
      Religion Language  
      Buddhism     Gongduk  
    All Religions                              

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