Introduction / History
Centuries ago, the sub-Himalayan regions of Assam and Bengal were settled by Bodo-Kachari peoples who migrated into the area. The story goes that, during the migration, they split, marching in two directions: One along the river Brahmaputra to Assam, the other to the West along the Himalayan foothills to the river Mechi, the border between India and Nepal. The first group spread up to Goalpara, and into regions of the Jalpaiguri district and Cooch Behar, under the name Bodo or Boro. Today, these peoples are known as Mech.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Mech have not always been Hindu, but while living under Brahmin influence, the Mech embraced the religion and took Hindu surnames for themselves. Although they have mixed with other peoples, they have retained traditional social class divisions, or septs. These include classes of priests, warriors, and farmers. The divisions are not to be mistaken for castes, as there is no prohibition against intermarriage or eating together.
The Mech marry within their own tribe and between any of their septs. Women are forbidden to engage in any premarital sexual activity, and any sexual offenses are heavily punished. Husbands generally have great respect for their wives, who have absolute control over the household affairs and are consulted in all family and social matters. Most households consist of extended families, as the sons bring their wives home after marriage. Fathers are responsible for training their sons in economic skills, and mothers train their daughters in household duties.
What Are Their Beliefs?
In the early 1900s, the Mech were nomadic people, practicing slash and burn agriculture. There were few people and much land; thus, this type of erratic agriculture did not affect things like it would today. However, as the populations grew, they settled into permanent farmers, using bulls and plows in their cultivation of the soil. Rice has been their principal cash crop, but they are also experts in growing the areca nut and betel leaves, two powerful stimulants. Maize is also cultivated as an additional food supplement.
The Mech religious beliefs are a blend of animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits) and Hinduism. Like many tribes, their idea of gods developed from the concept of "dynamism" or "power." Anything that appeared to possess superhuman power was regarded as an object of worship. The Mech worshipped-and still worship-the rivers, forests, celestial bodies, snakes, and certain plants. Tree-worship is an important custom, for every tree is a symbol of life. The Mech believe that trees have souls like their own and that the tree-soul is capable of being transferred to humans and animals. The great god of the Mech-the Bathou (the Euphorbia plant)-is worshipped in every Mech household. Most of the ancient Mech gods now have Vedic names but have retained the old, animistic qualities.
What Are Their Needs?
The Mech have a close affinity with the earth, referring to it as the "human mother." Harvests cannot be fruitful, they believe, without first worshiping the Great Mother through the offering of animal sacrifice and performance of ritual dance.
Except for the use of lumps of dirt in the worship of the earth, the Mech traditionally have no idols. However, Hindu culture has had an influence, and idols of the Mech gods are now more common.
As in most animistic cultures, the Mech live in fear of the spirits of nature. Only through appeasement can they have peace or success in life, but no one is sure when or if the spirits are appeased. The Mech need liberation from such oppressive beliefs. Their culture is also in great economic transition. A large percentage of Mech have encumbered unmanageable debt and may face lives of poverty in the future.
* Scripture Prayers for the Mech in Bangladesh.
Pray for the Lord to work among the Mech people to free them from fear and spiritual death.
Pray for the Lord to get through to Mech elders so they can open the door to allow the King of kings to enter their families and communities.
There are believers among some of the Mech people in Nepal but not Bangladesh. Pray Mech believers will take Christ to the others.
Pray for a movement to Christ among the Mech people.