Introduction / History
The Hatkar are a subgroup of the Dhangars, or shepherd caste of Maharashtra. One source says the name Hatkar comes from the word for "cowherd." Another source says their name mean "one who is obstinate." The traditional work of the Hatkar is taking care of sheep and cattle. They are also known for weaving wool into blankets and other articles. Due to their nomadic life, low education levels are common among the Hatkars. Some Hatkar work in agriculture on small plots of land that they own. There is a debate going on now in the government about whether the Hatkars should become a Scheduled Caste and become eligible for special treatment.
Where Are they Located?
The Hatkar are proud of their military tradition. The bravest and most loyal soldiers of a 17th century Marathi king Shivji were his Hatkar. The Hatkar led an unsuccessful rebellion against the British in the early 19th century. Hatkars today join and serve in the Indian Army.
The primary language of the Hatkars is Marathi. Others speak Kannada and other Indian regional languages.
The largest groups of Hatkar live in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Hatkar is changing. The Indian government encourages nomadic people to live in one place, not wander around the forests, deserts and grasslands of India. More and more Hatkar are leaving their profession of raising animals to become famers and small businesspersons. A small number of educated urban Hatkars have become wealthy. However, most Hatkars fall into the lower middle and lower class category.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Hatkar obtain the services of Brahmin priests for their important life event like births, weddings and funerals. Their babies are given a name on his or her 12th day of life. Families negotiate marriages with the father of the bride asking the father of the groom if his daughter can join his family. The dead are both cremated and buried depending upon the age and circumstances of the person who died.
The Hatkars are not vegetarians. However, they do not eat pork or beef. Their main foods are lentils, sorghum, rice, wheat, vegetables and fruit. Meat is eaten on special days and festivals.
The Hatkar practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of India. They worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon. 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 Hatkar visit Hindu temples and offer prayers, food, flowers and incense to their gods. Their patron god is Khandoba, a fierce manifestation of Shiva, the destroyer god. They also worship Krishna, the avatar of Vishnu, preserver god.
What Are Their Needs?
The main yearly holidays of the Hatkar people are Holi, the festival of colors, Diwali, the festival of lights and Navratri, the celebration of autumn.
The Hatkar need to hear the life-changing message of Jesus Christ in a way they can understand. They need help in gaining new job skills and in educating their children.
* Scripture Prayers for the Hatkar in India.
Pray that a strong movement to Jesus will bring whole Hatkar families and communities into a rich experience of God's blessings.
Pray for Christian laborers to have wisdom in applying the pattern Jesus gave in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, leading to blessing among Hatkar households.
Pray that God will overthrow spiritual forces of darkness opposing the spread of His Gospel among the Hatkar.