Introduction / History
The Pardhi Bhil are a migrant people, scattered over a wide area of central India in the states of Andrah Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. Their language, Pardhi, is one of the Bhil languages. Their name is derived from the Marathi word paradh, which means "hunting."
Long ago, the prosperity of Gujarat state enticed people of surrounding states and made it a target of various Muslim tribes. The Islamic rulers reached their greatest power under the Monghal dynasty and overtook the Gujarat kingdom by the end of the thirteenth century. However, the Hindu Maratha fought the Monghals and also established an empire in Gujarat. Apparently, the Pardhi came under Maratha influence at that time. As these groups continued warring over the Gujarat territory, the British rose to power by 1817. The Pardhi were scattered into other areas, taking whatever jobs were available. Today, the Pardhi Bhil consist of many distinctive sub-groups.
Pardhis are of two types, one is Phasse Pardhi and another is Gaon Pardhi. Phasse Pardhi are basically involved in hunting and Gaon(villlage) Pardhis are involved with in stone work. Originally Phasse Pardhis were located in Gujurat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Gaon Pardhis are basically from Rajasthan. They are followers of Maharana Pratap. When Maharana Pratap died these peoples suffered a great deal. They migrated to Maharashtra and started works like stone brugging and farming. Gaon Pardhis are found mostly in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra and in districts like Buldana, Akola and Amravati. Now most of Gaon Pardhis are educated and some have become doctors and enginners also. Gaon Pardhis are strong followers of Maharana Pratap and Godess Devi.
What are their lives like?
The Pardhi are a rather unusual people in comparison the surrounding Bhil tribes. Because of their refusal to become a part of the caste system, they are a predominantly isolated group. They prefer hunting, begging, or even stealing for a living, rather than submitting to a social system that they consider demeaning and degrading. Those who make a living by thievery steal items that they can trade or sell, as well as standing crops for food.
Many of the Pardhi Bhil live scattered throughout the Bombay region. They have become a wandering tribe of game and bird hunters, living in primitive huts that are made of mud and sticks. Those who live in Kutch, (northwestern Gujarat), enjoy catching snakes, and many of them have become snake charmers. Many Pardhi groups make and sell baskets, while others make black-stone vessels.
Features that distinguish the various Pardhi groups from one another are somewhat unusual. Some groups hunt with traps and snares. Others travel from village to village and chisel household grinding stones. The Chitewala hunt with tamed leopards, and the Thanknkar and Langoti have very strong criminal tendencies. Some of the Pardhi groups sell oil from crocodiles, perform monkey shows, or kill only birds that are black. These are but a few of the peculiarities that distinguish these varying groups.
As is the practice of most Bhil tribes, the Pardhi marry only within their own sub-groups.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of the Pardhi practice ethnic religions. They are firm believers in the spirit world and its influence on the physical world. They worship millions of gods and goddesses in their houses. These deities must be worshipped and appeased in various ways.
Though the vast majority of the Pardhi do adhere to the folk beliefs and traditional religions that have permeated their culture for centuries, there has been some Hindu influence among them. There are more adherents to Hinduism than to Christianity, with very few professing Christians.
In spite of their traditional beliefs, there have been several interesting manifestations of the Spirit of God among them. One tribesman told this story: "A village priest talks about white people from another part of the world who will come and tell the village people about the real God...the priest says we must follow him." When missionaries first arrived to the Pardhi, that priest and his family immediately became followers of Jesus Christ.
What are their needs?
It is evident that God has prepared the way for this people, and now they need missionaries to teach them about the true God. They are wanderers, like the people of Israel, who need to find lasting security in Jesus Christ.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that the Lord will call people to India to share Christ with the Pardhi Bhil.
* Ask God to encourage and protect the few known Pardhi Christians.
* Pray that God will give these believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Pardhi towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.