Introduction / History
At one time the Mahara people, also known as the Mahar, were considered untouchables, meaning they had the lowest status. Today they are regarded as one of the common basket-making castes, though they consider themselves to have higher status than the others. They have Scheduled Caste status.
Where Are they Located?
The Mahara people live in Odisha, a state in eastern India. Usually they live in the western, inland districts within Odisha.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Unlike most other Hindu communities, the Mahara people bury their dead rather than cremate them.
What Are Their Beliefs?
This community does not do a variety of tasks; they are almost always basket-makers. Men and women are involved with this work along with children as young as age 10. They make and sell bamboo baskets to other communities, which means they have much contact with others. The Mahara people do not dress any differently than other rural peoples, so it might be hard to identify them.
Perhaps partly because men and women both do basket weaving work, the women are not looked down upon by the men. Their marriages, though arranged by family members, are characterized by cooperation, mutual help, respect, and understanding. When the couple marries, they settle in with the husband's family (a patrilocal pattern) until they have a home built. Childbirth takes place in the home of the husband's family, and an elderly woman from their community delivers the baby.
This community is poor, and their literacy rate is low. They are usually dependent on money-lenders which can potentially saddle them with life-long debt.
These Hindus worship a variety of gods, but their primary deity is Biswarkarma. Only low-ranking Brahmans officiate at Mahara spiritual events. The Maharas consult an astrologer before deciding on an auspicious day for their weddings.
What Are Their Needs?
The Mahara people need new markets for their baskets that will help them to flourish economically.
* Scripture Prayers for the Mahara in India.
* Pray for an abundant blessing of Mahara families and communities as they embrace Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords.
* Pray for a movement to Christ that will spiritually enrich the Mahara community.
* Pray for spiritual openness to Jesus Christ that will not be hindered by the false belief in religious institutions rather than the person, Jesus Christ.
* Pray for an unstoppable disciple-making movement during the 2020s.
Peoples of India: Odisha, vol XVI, part 2, pp. 1080-84, K.S. Singh