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A Study of the Garasia Tribe and Strategies to Evangelize Them

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A Study of the Garasia Tribe and Strategies to Evangelize Them

1.) Overview of the Tribal Groups in Rajasthan
Rajasthan is a state steeped in culture and history. Rajasthan, or the realm of the Kings, as it is known, is perhaps one of the princely states of all in India. Its history is abundant with stories and legends about its kings and rulers. In its golden age, the region was ruled by the Rajputs, and in their honor the state was known as Rajputana in its erstwhile years. These were the royal people, the Kshatriyas, the warriors and they were known to be fierce fighters, extremely proud of their heritage and position.

But the state itself comprised of many other people groups, most of them tribal in nature. The state even now comprises of five major tribal people groups with many other either being the branches of these major groups or minor ones. These five tribal groups are Mina, Bhil, Garasia, Saharia and Damor. Of these tribal groups, the Minas are the largest of the lot with almost a share of close to 50 percent of the total population; Bhils come close with a population of 45 percent and then come the Garasias with a population comprising 3-4 percent of the total population of tribal people. The population of the Garasias in Rajasthan has been dwindling in the recent past because of their migration to North Gujarat.

2.) The Garasias
Numerically speaking, the Garasias constitute the third largest group of the state of Rajsthan. Though they are also found in the neighboring state of Rajasthan, they are mainly spread in the state of Rajasthan in the districts of Sirohi, Udaipur and Pali. The highest concentration of Garasia is in the tehsils of the Abu Road and Pindwara of Sirohi district.

The word Garasia is also spelt differently as Grasia, Girasia, Girrasiya, Girresseya and Grasya. The word Garasia has its origin in the Sanskrit word ‘Gras’ which means sustenance. The Garasias have been classified into three different groups by the census operators, namely, Garasia, Rajput Garasia and Bhil Garasia.
2.1) Origins 2.1.1) Mythological Origins The Garasias have their own bards (barwas), who keep the genealogy of the tribe. These bards maintain the genealogy of each and every clan of the tribe. The mythological accounts of the origin of the Garasias differ from bard to bard. Some say it was because of the grace of Ambaji that a ruler named Parmo became the tribal chief of Bhakar – the hilly dwellings of the Garasias. Some say that a shepherd was blessed by the goddess so that he could walk in the sleep. His clan brothers thought it to be of unique quality since he could walk in the sleep without hurting himself. It is said that this shepherd boy, in turn gave rise to the tribe of Garasias.

2.1.2) Historical Origins According to tradition, when the Chauhan Rajputs of Jalore were defeated, they fled to the hills and started carving out their existence or the sustenance available there. They tried to overpower the Bhils, who were the inhabitants of the region, but ultimately had to pacify them by parting from some of their sustenance to the Bhils. These Bhil who received sustenance or Gras, from the Rajputs, came to be known as the Garasias.

Further when the Rajputs were driven by the Turks to this isolated region ruled by the Garasias, confrontation occurred between the two groups. The Rajputs began to dispossess the tribal chiefs of their land in order to settle their. But these tribal chiefs did not allow peace to the Rajputs. Frequent disturbances were created by taking away the grains and horses of the Rajputs at night. The Rajputs had no other choice but to appease the tribal chiefs. They made the chiefs co-partners in land. These tribal chiefs were made headmen of their areas with power to appoint local leaders and village patels.

2.1.3) Geographical Roots The Garasias have been dwelling in the hills and the forests. They call it the Bhakar. They are therefore called the Bhakarwasis- the hill dwellers. During the earlier period, the forests and hills provided them with safety and security and on the other hand these same features kept them isolated from the mainline civilization for many years. Currently the Garasias are found mainly along the Aravali range of hills, in North Gujarat and South Rajasthan. In Rajasthan, they are found in the districts of of Pali, Udaipur, Sirohi and a few in Banswara. Approximately 68 percent of the Garasia population can be found in Abu Road Tehsil.

2.2) Social Organization 2.2.1) Pal
A Garasia village has scattered pattern of habitation like the Bhils. In a hilly region (Bhakar), one could see a number of clusters of houses situated in rough terrain. The smallest unit of the village is Phalia. The Phalia consists of the members of a single clan.

There is further the division of pal which the Garasias term as patta. There are two pattas among them: Bhakar Patta and Pindwara Patta. The Bhakar Patta consists of twenty four villages which are grouped into three groups: Jamudi, Uplibore and Nichala Khejada. In each group there are eight villages. Jamudi is the oldest region of this village.

The Garasias are further territorially divided into two divisions: Moti Jyoti (higher caste) and Nanki Jyat (lower caste). There are no characteristic differences between these divisions and the division is also spatial, but in practice the members of the Moti Jyat consider themselves as superior in terms of purity and pollution.

2.2.2 Clan System
The social organization of the Garasia consists of clans and atakhs. Each clan traces its ancestry to a legendary forefather who happened to be the founding ancestor. A clan is further subdivided into atakh (Gotra). All persons belonging to a clan and its various atakhs regard themselves as belonging to a common origin. No two clans can have a common atakh. The atakhs of Garasias may be named after plants, trees, vegetables, animals and such other things. Marriage relations are possible only among different clans. The atakh of a Garasia is his social identity. The women of a clan and its sub-clans are considered as sisters.

2.2.3) Kinship Organization
Garasias have a dominant kinship organization. Some of the names and words used in kinship are addressive. Mota or Bawa are used for a grandfather or persons of that age. Ayiji is the addressive term for mother. Similarly there are addressive terms for son and daughter, dikra and dikri respectively. Such addressive terms also exist for father (bapa), uncle (kako), mother-in-law (hahu), daughter-in-law (benu) and so on.

2.2.4) Marriage, Remarriage and Divorce
The Garasia’s accept three ways of marriage, namely, elopement (the most common), capturing the bride you like, and formal marriage. Formal marriage takes place when the parents select a bride and then go to the parents of the bride and talk. The negotiations are done by some elders of both the villages. The parents cannot speak directly to each other on this topic. When the terms are fixed and accepted, the relatives take the bride and leave her at the groom’s place. Tea is necessary on both occasions. Once the date, place and the bride price is fixed, there is a function that lasts for seven days and the village priest formally marries the bride and groom. Any couple, however old and with any number of children, can get married at any point of time.

The other form of accepted marriage is ‘capture’. At the yearly festive gatherings, the boys roam around with their friends and the girls roam around with their friends. If a boy likes a girl, then he and his friends look for the opportune moment and just pick her up and run off into the jungle. The girl can scream or struggle, but to no avail. The boy takes the girl away to a far-off place so that she cannot come back to her parents. She usually settles down, but if not, the boy has to finally let her go and pay a fine that is smaller than the actual bride price for the capture.

The third form, and the most common, is elopement. The boy or girl who are in love plan a time and place to meet and just disappear after a day’s work when the rest of the family is not noticing.

Marriage within the clan is not permitted. Normally a boy marries a higher clan girl. If he happens to find a bride from a lower clan, his people do not eat the food she prepares. Of a ritual and feast is given to the community then she is clean and they start eating the food prepared by hands. However, if the boy marries a girl from a higher clan, he has to pay a heavy bride price, so often the former is preferred.

Often quarrels between the husband and wife result in the wife running away to her brother’s house. The man goes after a few days to her brother’s place to bring her back or the relatives of the wife do so. If the situation and relationship worsens, then neither parties look for reconciliation; they divorce or merely separate. Divorce or separation often results in tension between the concerned parties and revenge.

If a man divorces his wife, he has to call the elders of the girl’s village and discuss the problem. The bride price and sometimes a fine is often demanded back by the boy and once it is paid, the girl is free to remarry again. If she cannot afford to pay back, he will keep harassing her. She can run back to her parent’s home but cannot remarry. If she does, the boy will demand a double bride price.

The man is permitted to bring as many brides home as possible. Sometimes, this shows his strength and wealth.

2.2.5) Family Organization
After marriage, the couple often sets up an independent household. If they continue to stay with the parents it usually ends up with a fight between mother-in law and son and daughter-in law. They are very individualistic in outlook and hardly take care of their parents, even in their old age. Younger people tend to respect the decisions of the village leadership, the Panch, rather than that of their parents. Parents also take their disputes to the Panch, to solve them.

The oldest male is the head of the house and his word is always final. Family based decisions are negotiated by brothers and uncles. The woman has poor self-esteem and sometimes is treated and referred to as a vegetable by the men. The term ‘it’ is often used by men to refer to their wives, to put them down. The husband can mistreat and wife and not initiate the divorce. The government of late has started appointing women sarpanch and has some programs to uplift the status of the women.

2.2.6) Language
Garasia belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages. The phonology and grammar of Marwadi and Garasia are much related while Gujarati and Garasia have lexical similarities. One of the characteristic features of Garasia dialect is the pronunciations of s/as/hl.

2.2.7) Food and Drink
Maize is the staple food, cultivated during the monsoon. Maize is often not sold, even if there is an abundant harvest. They revere it as a grain through which the spirits can speak to them. They eat maize in the form of bread, porridge and boiled grains. Jawar also features prominently in their meals.

Liquor drinking is a Garasia tradition. They brew liquor to drink on community occasions like marriage and festivals. They believe that liquor is created by the god; thomad. They offer liquor to the deities in worship as well.

2.2.8) Dress, Ornaments & Weapons
The traditional hairstyle of a Garasia distinguishes him from the rest of the population. Normally, the patel keeps a beard and a mustache. These are the symbols of authority and bravery. Women wear kankoo mark (vermilion) on their forehead. The headgear of a Garasia male consists of a turban- potiyu, the color of which depends on the age and status. The female apparel consists of different colorful garments such as red, blue, green or any other attractive dark color.

There is a practice of tattooing among the Garasias. Images of plants, flowers, animals, birds and so on are tattooed on face and arms. It is generally believed that tattooing brings happiness, love and pleasure in the life of a person. The Garasia ornaments are made of silver, bronze, stones and shells. Both men and women are fond of wearing ornaments.

The Garasias are much fond of keeping weapons with them. It is for their self-protection. Bow and arrows are the common weapons kept by them. Even women know how to use the bow and arrow. They also use daggers. Keeping arms is a symbol of prestige and power. 2.3) Economy- Means of Livelihood
The Garasias are basically subsistence farmers who just what’s needed to survive. They are not known to be much industrious, even when the land is good. Both men and women participate in agricultural activities. Children herd cattle, and goats, from the age of six, and help in the field or in labor work by the age of ten. During the season of monsoon, most of them stay away from schools because they need to work in the fields. Everybody has to work with their hands to earn their livelihood. Generally people do their own work and do not employ others to do so.

Wealth is measured in terms of cattle and fields and sometimes, also in wives. A major part of their income is used up in paying fines and giving gifts at funerals, births and weddings and hence most of them remain poor.

Cash income is earned by making charcoal, collecting and selling gum, honey, firewood, surplus grains and cash crops. Liquor making is the most common commercial activity. Many people go to the towns and do labor work to earn daily wages. They use this income to purchase items like oil, spices, chilly and the like. Cash crops, liquor brewing and prostitution have come to be some of the prominent ways of earning money in the Garasia community.

2.4) Politics 3.4.1) Past Political Activities and Present Situation
The Garasia belong to a very rich heritage. Their ancestors revolted against the British regime in the uprising of 1857. When an effort was made for the first time for census enumeration, the Garasias demonstrated their vehement non-cooperation. Again in the twenties, when Motilal Tejawat mobilized Bhils, the Garasia joined the movement in full strength. The Garasia movement was suppressed by the British regime in the half of the princely states of Mewar, Sirohi and Palanpur but it succeeded in its objective if creating awakening for the attainment of freedom.

In the post-independent India, the Garasias have not shown any particular and substantial evidence of political strength.

2.4.2) System of Local Administration
The traditional leader is the Patel, recognized by the government, and sometimes receiving a small salary from the government. The village Panch and the Patel make up the local leadership and often the Patel is the village shaman too. Some village patels are losing their power and authority to the Panch, since the Panch is becoming stronger. Normally, the older people of a village are the part of the Panch.

Those who show disrespect to the Panch are excommunicated from the community and in extreme cases, they are forbidden even to come anywhere near the village. The Sarpanch is the village-level elected government leader. He is normally a Garasia. Of late, some women sarpanchs have been appointed due to encouragement from the government. Patwari is normally an outsider and is responsible for the distribution of land. The gram sewak is responsible for the development loans.

2.5) Religion 2.5.1) Past Animism and Present Beliefs
The census of 1910 described the Garasias as animists. But today they mostly follow tribal religion. Their religion still basically consists of animism, but has been influenced by Hinduism. Each village has a place at its entrance, where the spirits are appeased at the beginning of each season. At the beginning of every season they have an all-night gathering at the temple. Girls who are married return to their father’s village temple. Each clan has a temple of their own and there has to be a shaman in place. When they need any healing or if there are any special needs, they bring offerings such as wheat flour, jiggery, ghee, cock, goat etc. to appease the spirits.

Each family has a family god, which is symbolized with a piece of tile whichthe man of the house puts some coconut pieces and ghee and burns it. At harvest a few cobs of corn are tied above this placd too.

After the influence of Hinduism, the chief god of many of the Garasias is Shiva with the pantheon including gods and goddesses such as Gune, Kanha, Hanuman, Kala, Hesnag and so on.

2.5.2) Fairs and Festivals
There is much importance of fairs and festivals among the Garasias. The festivals are held at three different levels. The first level is at the village level and these are held in the honor of local deities. These are held on the occasions of festivals such as Holi, Diwali and Navratri. The second category of festivals are held are the regional fairs which are held at the level of Pal or Bhakar Patta. These are held in different villages of a Patta by rotation. These fairs have the sanctions of the traditional panchayat. The third category of fairs is the biggest one- Mankho-mello. It is held once in a year on a fixed day. The Garasias make it a point to attend this fair.

There are also other festivals which are included in the order such as Rakshabandhan, Dashera, Hang and so on.

2.5.3) Music and Dance
The Garasia folk tradition is very rich. They have their traditional dance and music participated by young boys and girls. The Garasias see dance as a mode of expression of the creative energy of the tribe and brings about a refreshing change in their routine life. It gives expression to their feeling of happiness and gaiety. The principle factor of the Garasia dance is its rhythm. These festive dances also form the platform where brides and grooms are selected. Young boys and girls who make their mark on such occasions are much sought after.

3.) SWOT Analysis

3.1) Strengths
The strengths of a community plays a vital role in understanding the community better as well as approaching them in better ways with the Gospel. So is true also in the case of the Garasias.

One of their main strengths is their strong sense of fidelity within the community. A Garasia would easily lay down his life for the sake of another one, if the cause seems just to him. This strong sense of brotherhood is fostered in them. They are a close-knit community and this goes a long way in keeping a community together, even in dire situations.
Intellectual and skilled persons are highly valued among the Garasia community. Anybody with a skill in the medical field or in the teaching field or any other field of social importance is held in high regards in their community.

3.2) Weaknesses
Unemployment and illiteracy are one of the primary weaknesses of this community. The children drop out from schools at a very early age so as to work in the fields and tend the herds. The Garasias don’t have any means of livelihood that can drastically improve the living standard of these people. In spite of growing unemployment and meager means of income, the Garasias spend all they earn over a period of time on festivals, special occasions, and religious causes. They hardly save anything for the future and this has resulted in many evils.

Alcohol addiction is also a genuine cause of concern among these people. In fact, liquor brewing is one of the main industries of these people and it is the women who actively participate in it. Families are disturbed, lives are ruined and homes are rendered poor without any means of supporting themselves because of this addiction.

One of their strong points is also their weak points. Although they have a strong sense of fidelity among own clans, it often results in in-fighting and also sometimes to the slaughter of whole clans. Violence is also one of the primary causes of concern for the missionaries who want to minister among them.

Class distinction, low self-esteem of women, illiteracy, violence, addiction etc. are the combined factors that have affected this community from the insides to a large extent.

3.3) Opportunities
There are plenty of opportunities to approach the Garasia community if they are approached in a proper manner. One of the best avenues that can be explored is of education, employment and healthcare. Loyalty among the clan members of the Garasias can also be an effective tool to mobilize Garasia Christians so as to reach others of their own community.

The Garasias want their children to have education, but they usually drop out from schools to help in the fields or to take care of the herds, but primarily because of insufficient funds. Education could be one of the ways in which the Garasia community could be reached. Besides, providing employment opportunities, raising native missionaries and so on can result in the opening of new doors for ministry among the Garasias.

3.4) Threats
There are various threats that stand in the face of a missionary are violence, non-acceptance, castration from the society etc. Some of the threats that are faced by the Christians among the Garasias are excommunication, abuse from the relatives and villagers, loss of jobs, poverty and outside opposition from fanatics.

4.) Evangelization Strategies

4.1) Past Efforts
Efforts to properly reach the Garasias communities dwelling on the Bhakar (hills) have been very sparse and too less concentrated to have any concrete results. There have been some efforts to evangelize the Garasias living in the cities but fewer efforts have been made to reach the Garasias in their original setting.

In the year of 197, a missionary couple came to the place called Danta along with then 15 month son, and they began to minister there. They were medical missionaries so, once they healed the local chief’s mother-in-law. This greatly impressed the chief and he offered them a place to work. Soon few people joined them, but since then there has been no noticeable work among the Garasias.

4.2) Evangelization Strategies to Reach the Garasias
The Garasias are very much antagonistic to any foreign elements or foreign religion. They are usually aggressive in their antagonism. This feeling of antagonism has been recently flared with the involvement of foreign elements coming and instigating them. So it is best to approach them with different strategies in place.

One of the best strategies that could be used is through the social arena. The Garasias are very much inclined towards education but cannot do so, either because of financial issues or the children drop out of schools so as to work in the fields or with the herds. So if an opportunity could be provided for them to learn and study, it could be one of the vehicles to spread the Gospel among them. Providing employment opportunities to them could be another tool. The Garasias have very meager and limited means of income. So if they could be provided with employment opportunities where they could earn sufficient income, it could be a tool to acclimatize with the Garasias and win their confidence. Healthcare is another field which can be used so as to reach out to them.

One of the best methods of direct evangelism is yet to be used among them. And this method draws heavily from their attributes. The Garasias have a strong affinity and sense of loyalty towards their clan members, even to the point of death. So is true in the case of Garasia Christians. They have a strong affinity towards fellow clan members, even if they are persecuted and troubled by them. These Garasia Christians could be trained so as to reach out to their fellow clan members with the Gospel. The clan members who initially reject ones, who convert to Christianity, accept them back with the passage of time. These Christians could be trained in the word of God, solidifying their doctrinal beliefs and taught different tools of evangelism. They could in turn reach out to their fellow clan members. This could be one of the best tools to evangelize the Garasias.

5.) Conclusion
The Garasias are a very self-respecting community and they see themselves in line with the Rajputs. The efforts to reach out to the Garasias with the Gospel has to be coupled with fervent prayers and spiritual support. It is crucial that the spiritual strongholds preventing the Garasias from responding to the Gospel to be brought down before the gospel affects their lives. It is only with the power of prayer and Holy Spirit that any evangelization tools and methods could be effective.

Bibliography: 1.) Doshi, S.L. Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine of the Aravali. Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992. 2.) Hrangkhuma, F. Tribes in Transition. Bangalore: SAIACS Press, 2004. 3.) Gupta, Paul. The Unfinished Task in Rajasthan. Council on National Service. 4.) Behera, M.C. Tribal Religion. New Delhi: Commonwealth Publishers, 2000. 5.) Ahuja, D.R. Folklore of Rajasthan. New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1980. 6.) Meherda, B.L. History and Culture of the Garasi. Jaipur: Adi Prakashan 1985

Webliography: 7.) 8.) 9.) 10.)

Assignment Paper
A Study of the Garasia Tribe and Strategies to Evangelize Them

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the course


Blesson Philip
Master of Divinity II
30th September, 2010

[ 1 ]. S.L Doshi & Narendra Vyas, Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine on the Aravali (Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992), 8
[ 2 ]. S.L Doshi & Narendra Vyas, Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine on the Aravali (Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992), 9
[ 3 ]. F. Hrangkhuma, ed., Tribes in Transition (Bangalore: SAIACS Press), 97
[ 4 ]. Paul Gupta. The Unfinished Task in Rajasthan. Council on National Service, 29
[ 5 ]. These different spellings of the word Garasia may be used interchangeably throughout the paper while meaning same at all places.
[ 6 ]. S.L Doshi & Narendra Vyas, Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine on the Aravali (Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992), 103
[ 7 ]. S.L Doshi & Narendra Vyas, Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine on the Aravali (Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992), 105
[ 8 ]. F. Hrangkhuma, ed., Tribes in Transition (Bangalore: SAIACS Press), 97
[ 9 ]. S.L Doshi & Narendra Vyas, Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine on the Aravali (Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992), 106
[ 10 ]. B.L Meherda, History and Culture of the Garasia, (Jaipur: Adi Prakashan, 1985), 78
[ 11 ]. F. Hrangkhuma, ed., Tribes in Transition (Bangalore: SAIACS Press), 100
[ 12 ]. F. Hrangkhuma, ed., Tribes in Transition (Bangalore: SAIACS Press), 103
[ 13 ]. F. Hrangkhuma, ed., Tribes in Transition (Bangalore: SAIACS Press), 108
[ 14 ]. S.L Doshi & Narendra Vyas, Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine on the Aravali (Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992), 108
[ 15 ]. S.L Doshi & Narendra Vyas, Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine on the Aravali (Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992), 108
[ 16 ]. S.L Doshi & Narendra Vyas, Tribal Rajasthan: Sunshine on the Aravali (Udaipur: Himanshu Publications, 1992), 110
[ 17 ].
[ 18 ]. F. Hrangkhuma, ed., Tribes in Transition (Bangalore: SAIACS Press), 112…...

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