Introduction / History
The majority of the Limbu live in the extreme eastern section of Nepal; however, a few live in the adjacent Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal. They live primarily in the area between the high Himalayan Mountains and the plains of northern India.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Limbu are closely related to the neighboring Rai. Together, the two groups comprise the Kiranti, a large tribal group which lives in much of eastern Nepal. The Limbu are of Mongolian descent and speak a dialect of Kiranti called Limbu, which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family.
The Limbu are known and admired for their bravery, fearlessness, and strong work ethic. They enjoy drinking and dancing, and these two activities are practiced at nearly all important events, including weddings, funerals, gift exchanges, and conflict settlements. These events give the young people opportunities not only to enjoy the drinking and dancing, but also to meet one another.
The Limbu are almost exclusively farmers, growing rice, corn, and millet as staple crops. They often use a mixture of straw, leaves, and manure to fertilize their fields. Those who live at lower elevations often cultivate rice on terraces that are painstakingly carved out of the mountainside. The terraces are irrigated by diverting streams or springs and allowing them to flow down from one terrace to the next. In addition to their cultivated fields, nearly all the Limbu have gardens near their homes, where crops such as spinach, cabbage, potatoes, mangoes, and oranges are grown. In an effort to generate extra income for their families, many Limbu men join either the Nepalese or Indian army.
What Are Their Beliefs?
A poor Limbu family may live in a house made of mud or bamboo with a straw roof. In contrast, a wealthy family may inhabit a two-story stone structure with an iron-sheet roof. However, the most common type of home is more durable than the first type but less elaborate than the second. Most houses are poorly ventilated, poorly lighted, and have little furniture. At the front of the house, there is usually a verandah that faces a large courtyard. The courtyard is used as a place to carry out family chores and to spend leisure time.
In Limbu families, the wife plays a very active role. This is partially due to the fact that the husband often leaves to join the army to generate more income. During her husband's prolonged absences, the wife holds the family together and is the main decision-maker concerning household matters. When a young woman marries, she lives in constant fear of her mother-in-law. Many brides return home because they are unable get along with their mothers-in-law. Until the bride is accepted by her husband's mother, the marriage remains quite shaky.
Interestingly, the Limbu are hesitant to address each other by name. Calling out a name in public is taboo and creates embarrassment.
Many Limbu follow a combination of Buddhism and their traditional beliefs. While they recognize and participate in many important Hindu festivals, they also hold animal sacrifices to appease their gods, a practice condemned by Hinduism. The Limbu do believe in a god who created the universe, but they worship him as a force or energy rather than as a personal being.
What Are Their Needs?
The Limbu believe that after a woman marries, she inherits her mother's gods, who are then recognized as the gods of the young woman's household. If her husband commits an offense or causes a problem, he is required to be washed clean of his deed in order to appease the household gods.
Very few of the Limbu have become Christians. Nearly all continue to follow Buddhism, Hinduism, and their traditional ethnic religion. Christian intercessors are the key to breaking the power that Satan has over their lives.
Ask the Lord to call Spirit-filled Christians who will share the Gospel with the Limbu of India.
Ask the Lord to strengthen, embolden, and protect the small number of Limbu believers.
Ask God to raise up a mighty army of prayer warriors who will faithfully intercede for the Limbu.
Scripture Prayers for the Yakthumba, Limbu in India.
Bethany World Prayer Center