Uttar Pradesh (UP) is the home of Hinduism, and has a long historical connection to Buddhism and Jainism also. Sadly, it has given no home to the gospel.
- Millions of Hindu pilgrims visit Varanasi, the holy city of Hinduism on the Ganges River. But very few find the living water only Jesus can give. This key state needs vast amounts of prayer, and thousands more Christian workers.
- The scale of human need and suffering here is immense. Water-borne diseases are widespread. Most of the world’s polio cases occur in Uttar Pradesh. The majority of children are undernourished. Christian witness must go together with acts of mercy.
- The size of the unfinished task in Uttar Pradesh should drive us to prayer. If Uttar Pradesh were its own country, it would have the third-largest unevangelized population in the world. 191 groups remain unreached and unengaged. This single state likely represents the world’s greatest missionary challenge. Praise God that more churches, mission agencies, and prayer networks (both national and expatriate) now focus some work on UP.
Uttarakhand: Freedom for Uttarakhand is only recent. Its struggle for statehood and separation from Uttar Pradesh was finally won in 2000. This upland region has two divisions – hilly Kumaon and mountainous Garhwal. The people of both identify themselves as Pahari (mountain people) and speak their own Indo-Aryan languages as well as Hindi. There is good potential for development, but also great need for it, especially in the hills and mountains. Pray for good governance that can bring cooperation between these two regions and languages. Pray that further freedom might be found not in statehood, but in knowing Christ.
- Religion and culture. Hindus are 85% of the population. Uttarakhand is home to some of Hinduism's most holy pilgrimage sites - Haridwar (host of the Kumbh Mela), Badrinath, Kedarnath and others attract millions of pilgrims each year. A holy Sikh shrine also attracts many visitors. The people of Uttarakhand claim to be guardians of the gods' land and are therefore very resistant to the gospel. Pray that both the native peoples and the pilgrims who come seeking release from the cycle of suffering will find it in Jesus.
- Caste. Uttarakhand's population is largely upper caste, dominated by Rajput (70%) and Brahmin (20%). Christians who minister here must be fluent in Hindi and local languages and able to present the gospel in enlightened, more intellectual ways; methods used to reach oppressed Dalits and tribals will probably accomplish very little.
West Bengal: The Bengalis number 250 million, with communities found throughout the world. The 67 million Bengalis living in West Bengal are the large majority of the state's 82million people. Globally, they are the world's largest unreached ethnic group. William Carey's pioneer work 200 years ago was among Bengalis. Carey and his successors achieved much in Bible translation and in social and economic transformation, but these achievements are now past glories; little of that legacy remains. The barriers: pride of culture, demonic powers, a spirit of independence, little adaptation of the Christian gospel to local culture and, in recent years, obstruction from the long-reigning Marxist state government. Pray for the removal of every barrier to Bengalis believing in Jesus.
Kolkata, once India's capital and leading city, has continued to decline since 1954 due to political instability, violent clashes because of a strong Marxist movement and economic stagnation from failure to modernize. Some growth has occurred since 2000, thanks largely to a burgeoning IT industry. The city faces huge challenges in terms of poverty, congestion and pollution; many of its population live in squalid slums. Kolkata is dedicated to and named after Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.