Introduction / History
The Paraiyan or Paraiyar are an agricultural Hindu people who live in south India and Sri Lanka. Their name comes from the Tamil word for drum. The Paraiyan are known for making drums and playing them at weddings and Hindu festivals. The English word "pariah" may come from this people. As the numbers of this people increased, they had to take jobs that other castes would not take such as dealing with corpses and tanning leather. The primary language of the Paraiyan is Tamil. Illiteracy is a big issue for the Paraiyan as less than half of them are able to read and write. Many resources are available in Tamil including a complete Bible and the JESUS Film. Most Paraiyan will have to have the gospel given to them in oral and visual forms.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Most Paraiyan make their living in agriculture and animal husbandry. For the most part they work on land owned by higher castes. To supplement their incomes, they make baskets and mats. A few Paraiyan have been able to attend universities and become physicians, politicians and administrators. The Paraiyan marry within their people group. Families arrange marriages with the consent of the young couple. Monogamy or marriage to one spouse in the general rule. Sons inherit property upon the death of their father. Parents encourage their sons to get at least a primary education. Girls often have to quit school after a few years to help their families. Paraiyan are not vegetarians but as Hindus do not eat beef. Due to their poverty the Paraiyan often eat meat only on holidays or special occasions. Their dead are cremated.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Paraiyan practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of Indian subcontinent. Hindus believe that by performing rituals and good works that they will attain moksha or freedom from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The Paraiyan visit Hindu shrines and offer prayers, food, flowers, and incense to their gods in hopes of gaining protection and benefits. They do not have a personal or familial relationship with their gods like Christians do. There are many forms of Hinduism, each with its own deities and beliefs. The main yearly holidays of the Paraiyan people are Holi, the festival of colors and the start of spring, Diwali, the festival of lights, Navratri, the celebration of autumn and Rama Navami, Rama's birthday. The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories. Dalits such as the Paraiyan are outside of the caste system and face discrimination.
What Are Their Needs?
The Paraiyan have major physical and spiritual needs. At least half need to learn to read and write. They need to learn new job skills to escape the cycle of poverty. Most of all the Paraiyan must hear the good news about Jesus Christ. He alone can forgive their sins and give them eternal life.
Pray that God establishes the Paraiyan believers in the faith and uses them to share the gospel with their families and friends. Pray that Hindu background believers build relationships with the Paraiyan and help meet their spiritual and physical needs. Pray for a movement to Jesus to multiply among Paraiyan families and communities.
Scripture Prayers for the Paraiyan (Hindu traditions) in Sri Lanka.