Introduction / History Bhangi is a Hindu caste that was previously classed as Dalit. They have many subdivisions. They prefer to be called "Balmiki" or "Valmiki." During the colonial period they were brought from villages to remove human excrement and clean the cities. They became an urban community. Balmiki make up a cluster of communities, having united to form one community, claiming a common origin from the saint Balmiki. Balmiki is thought to be the first Sanskrit poet and author of the holy Hindu epic Ramayana and was brought up by a sweeper woman although he was a Brahmin mendicant's son. Despite these claims, this community holds unusually low status among Hindus.
What are their lives like? In time, with the introduction of septic latrines, the practice of carrying buckets of excrement on their heads is gone, but they still work to clear blockages in sewers where they are half submerged in filth. The stigma remains as they are still identified with the work they perform. Even Dalit castes classed as "backward" such as the Dhobi washer men are socially higher. The Bhangis are rightfully described as "outcasts even among outcasts." They have always been marginalized and treated as outcasts socially, economically and culturally. Sweepers are now referred to as sanitary workers.
What are their beliefs? The Balmiki people are Hindus, even in Muslim Pakistan. Hindus tend to worship the gods they believe will protect and benefit them. As the lowest of the low, the Balmikis are not always welcome at Hindu temples.
What are their needs? Most Bhangis are refused education; teachers and students don’t want them nearby. It is very difficult for the Bhangis to find work as they are unwanted.
Prayer Points Pray for a spiritual hunger that will send the Balmiki people into the loving arms of Jesus. Pray for workers to go to them until there is a church planting movement. Pray for the Lord to raise up people to help them rise above their low economic standings.