Introduction / History
The Bangni (also known as the Dafla or the Nishi) inhabit the hills of northern India, mainly in the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Their native language, Nisi, belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family. The term nisi is derived from the word ni, or "man." Because of their extensive trade relations in the Assam plains, many of the Bangni are also fluent in Assamese.
What Are Their Lives Like?
In times past, the Bangni were feared because they did not allow the Apatani or other tribes to trade in the Assam valley. However, the past three decades have brought drastic changes to the Bangni. Due to the establishment of Indian administrative control, peace and order have now replaced the feuds, kidnappings, murders, and cattle thefts of their history. Once known as tough, independent, "born hunters," the Bangni are now seen as a happy-go-lucky people, no longer terrorizing the weaker tribes. Unfortunately, these changes have left the Bangni feeling unstable and insecure.
The Bangni are mainly farmers. They clear the forests on hill slopes at altitudes of 1,000 to 6,000 feet, where they raise dry rice, millet, maize, and sweet potatoes. In times past, the Bangni's system of land tenure did not include individual rights, so the farmers were free to cultivate wherever they wanted. In recent years, however, the government has introduced the Bangni to rice cultivation using terraces and permanently irrigated fields. These new methods have yielded both economic and social changes for the Bangni. A majority of the farmers have adopted a settled lifestyle, although some have continued to practice shifting cultivation.
What Are Their Beliefs?
In addition to farming, some of the Bangni run small shops. Others have become expert weavers, and some have learned to prepare fiber from tree bark. The more remote Bangni in eastern Kameng depend mostly on trades such as blacksmithing.
The Bangni men wear their hair tied in knots above their foreheads and the women wear large wooden nose clips. They live in small scattered hill villages. Traditionally, they lived as extended families in "long houses." As many as 40 family members lived together in a long house. When there was no tribal organization to maintain law and order, each long house was a self-governing unit. Without authority or any form of social control, armed raids commonly occurred. Today, most of the Bangni still live in long houses, but the houses are not autonomous. Polygamy (having multiple spouses) is common.
The Bangni believe that they are the descendants of one mythical ancestor named Takr. It is said that Takr's sons are the forefathers of the three branches of the Bangni tribe. Each branch is divided into phratries, or units, which are sub-divided into clans. In some areas, the clans have developed a judicial system with a council of elders.
Trade with the neighboring tribes in the plains of Assam has boosted the economy of the Bangni. In exchange for cotton, they usually purchase rice and cloth from the Apatani. In recent years, education has been the most important social change for the Bangni. They have progressed exceptionally well and are now represented in the legislative assembly.
Almost all of the Bangni practice their traditional ethnic religion. Unfortunately, some of the ethnic religionists regard Christianity as a threat to their traditional culture. Sadly, some of the Bangni children who attended a Christian mission school returned to their villages with little tact or tolerance for their friends and families. The Bagni's main complaint is that Christianity deliberately disrupts the harmony of community life. Some reported that Christian converts even physically attacked priests as they invoked the traditional gods.
What Are Their Needs?
The Bangni need a revelation of who Jesus Christ is. They cannot understand why the new converts do not want to participate in their tribal rituals, celebrations, or idolatry. The Bangni Christians need prayer for encouragement, favor, and wisdom so that they might effectively share the Gospel with their people.
Pray that God will call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Bangni.
Ask the Lord to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies working among this people group.
Pray that God will encourage Bangni believers as they mature in Christ and learn how to tactfully share the Gospel with their own people.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Bangni towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Pray that God will raise up teams of intercessors to faithfully stand in the gap for these precious people.
Scripture Prayers for the Bangni in India.
Bethany World Prayer Center