Introduction / History
The Yerva or Ravula people were a thriving, agriculture and forest-based tribe, in the southern Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka. Over a period of time, a feudal system came into place, which resulted in the Ravula literally becoming slaves of high caste Hindu families. With the development of coffee and tea plantations in the area, forest lands were cut down and plantations established. These plantations required cheap labor. The Yerava and other peoples were recruited to serve as cheap daily-wage laborers.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Having no land of their own, the Yerava ended up as landless workers for the plantation owners. Soon the Yerava were being referred to as “Adiyan,” meaning slaves. Even the government list of scheduled tribes lists them as “Adiya.”
The Yerava people speak their own language of Ravula. The New Testament and the JESUS Film are available in Ravula. A tiny fraction of Ravula claims to be followers of Jesus Christ.
Though their living conditions have now improved slightly, most Yerava live in poverty. As a result, most of them also end up working as low paid, unskilled laborers. Many have alcohol problems or spend their money and day chewing betel nut. Both these activities waste money that could be used to help their families.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Yerava marry within their community. Marriage to one spouse is the norm. Yerava children often quit school after a few years in order to help their families make a living. Illiteracy is a problem especially among the Yerava women and girls. Rural Yerava young people are moving to Indian cities but have trouble finding employment due to their lack of education and job skills.
The Yerava people practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of India. Hinduism is a catch-all phrase for the local religions of South Asia, so it is very diverse. At the popular level, Hindus worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon. They visit Hindu temples and offer prayers, food, flowers, and incense to their gods in hopes of gaining protection and benefits. They do not have a personal or familial relationship with their gods like Christians do. There are other Hindus who are much more philosophical, especially among the Brahmins.
What Are Their Needs?
Almost all Hindus participate in yearly celebrations like Holi, the festival of colors and the start of spring / Diwali, the festival of lights / Navratri, the celebration of autumn / and Rama Navami, Rama’s birthday.
When the language researchers visited the Yerava and inquired about their language they said, "You are the first person to ask us about our language!" "When will you come back?" others asked. This research was seen by them to be of great value, and they were excited about someone being interesting in their language. The researchers concluded that using Malayalam or Kannada – the state languages - would not provide sufficient understanding of the deeper truths of Scripture. A Ravula New Testament became available in 2018 and translators are working on the Old Testament.
The Yerava would benefit by learning new jobs skills. Most of all they need to hear and accept the good news of Jesus Christ.
Ask God to bring about a spiritual and social transformation among the Yerava.
Pray that Yerava children would take advantage of higher education opportunities.
Ask the Lord to open doors for communicating the gospel to the Yerava.
Pray that the Lord moves the Yerava to read the New Testament.
Ask the Lord to raise up a disciple making movement among the Yerava of India in this decade.
Scripture Prayers for the Yerava in India.
Singh, K. S., ed. "India's Communities A-Z", Oxford University Press, USA 1999