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 Plateau, and the Eastern and Western Ghats Mountains. Because of numerous geographical features, climatic conditions are also widely diverse on both a seasonal and regional basis, ranging from tropical to temperate extremes.
While the majority of the Pahari live in Pakistan, a smaller group can be found in India, mainly in the northern states of Jammu and Kashmir. Their language is a member of the Indo-Aryan language family. Little is known about their specific lifestyle and culture.
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 growing barely enough to survive. Farms are extremely small and are often very fragmented. The raising of livestock, particularly horned cattle, buffalo, horses, and mules, is a central feature of the agricultural 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, although there are some 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 Pahari to accurately place them in the caste system; thus, their particular lifestyle cannot be adequately described.
The people of Jammu, where many of the Pahari live, are open-hearted with a good sense of humor. They are generally good-looking, smart, tall, and well-built. Most people eat three meals a day and have been known to drink alcoholic beverages. Their social life is reflected in their festivals and fairs, most of which are associated with religious events.
What are their beliefs?
The Pahari are nearly all Hindu and follow the basic Hindu customs and traditions. The term "Hinduism" came into use about 1200A.D., 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. Rather, it is a body of customs, practices, and beliefs that go through major changes every few hundred years.
The majority, though not all, of Hindus 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 (continual cycle of death and rebirth) is one of the few unifying features of Hinduism.
What are their needs?
The Pahari have few Christian resources available in their own language. The small number of Christian believers need materials so that they might be encouraged and strengthened in their walk with the Lord. Fervent intercession and pioneer missions efforts are needed to see the Pahari won to Christ.
Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into India who will share the Good News with the Pahari.
Pray that God will use the Pahari believers to share Christ with their own people.
Ask God to call intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Pahari.