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Tribal and Human Values

Thomas Kochuthara
Thomas Kochuthara Author Interview

Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India provides readers with an in-depth exploration of Indian tribes and Christianity. Why was this an important book for you to write?

The north eastern region of India comprising of seven states, covering the sub-Himalayan mountain ranges, has seen waves of migration from time immemorial. It exhibits a plurality of cultures, races, languages and religions and is one of the most unique and romantic places. I lived there for fifteen years and thus had the opportunity to visit the places and have contact with people. My appreciation for their social, cultural and religious life and the way they led their political and economic struggles and faced the challenges and threats from the natural forces, prompted me to write the book to convey relevant messages to modern man.

What were some key aspects of tribal societies that were important for you to include in this book?

Their loyalty and faithfulness to the tribal traditions and way of life, their struggles to keep up their tribal identity in spite of modernization, their desire for imparting education to their children, their involvement in the struggles for obtaining political statehood on tribal basis, gender equality, higher status of women in some tribes as an inspiration for women liberation, absence of any caste system found in many major population groups in India, their love for singing and dancing etc., are some of the important aspects included in the book.

What kind of research did you undertake to complete this book?

It is a descriptive and analytic research that I have followed in this work. I have given a clear and precise picture of the seven states in the north eastern region of India, their topographical and geographical details, the tribal people inhabiting the states, their cultural, social, religious and political life, the struggles for the formation of the different states and the scope and challenges in the economic and agricultural fields. I have also analysed various aspects of their socio- cultural life and advances in education and political consciousness and I have made theological reflections in the light of these.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

The one thing, I hope, the readers will take away from the book is their high sense of tribal and human values, characterised by sincerity, openness, simplicity, solidarity with fellow human beings and concern for the poor and the weak.

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The north-eastern region of India comprising of the seven states known as the ‘Seven Sisters’ represents an area of enormous ecological, geographical and ethnical diversity. This region which is inhabited by 166 diverse tribes is blessed with dense and lush green forests, hills and valleys, rich flora and fauna, and holds immense mineral and power resources. Its passes and valleys have witnessed centuries of migration and served as a gateway of commerce and culture. The North East has a plurality of races, religions, cultures, languages and dialects, making it one of the most diverse and picturesque regions of India. Ending its isolation, this region has come into the main stream of national life through the educational and modernization process set in motion in the region chiefly by Christian missionaries. The region has also over the years been through much unrest and turmoil. With growing awareness, people have also been demanding a greater share in the achievements of the nation. But often their aspirations are met only partially, and the dissatisfaction with the poor development of the region and the absence of adequate opportunities prompt the younger generations to adopt what often turn out to be unconstitutional and militant ways to end exploitation and domination, culminating in much violence and bloodshed, throwing the entire region into turmoil. As Christianity has much influence on the life of the people here, it is its responsibility to take seriously the situation of insurgency and militancy that directly affect the people’s aspirations for an authentic, dignified and peaceful life. In order to enable the Church to respond adequately to this situation, it is essential that a suitable theology emerge in the multicultural and plurireligious context of the North East. Such a theology will not be limited to that region, but will have consequences also for dealing with several problems affecting the universal Church. The present study is undertaken with a view to examining the features of the theology that will emerge in the north-eastern context, and also its impact on universal theology. The North East of India can exert tremendous influence on the debates on current theological issues and can pave the way for the emergence of a Church with truly indigenous features.

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Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India

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Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India by Thomas Kochuthara provides readers with detailed and precise descriptions and narration of North East India’s Christianization. This treatise on anthropology and religion, takes readers through the different tribes’ lives and analyses their relationship with Christianity and the western or “evolved” world. In addition to that, positive aspects like the spread of education and negative aspects like the loss or contamination of tribal identity are analyzed and related to different generations and their point of view. The introduction to the different tribes then leads us through a reflection on the effects of this new religion on the north-eastern population.

Kochutara writes beautifully with long descriptions and his work shows the research and effort behind the pages. This aspect doesn’t usually come out in books, but as we’re talking about a treatise instead of a novel, it is a significant aspect that will show the author’s in-depth research.

As a reader keen on details, I appreciated the abundance of minutiae and the new information given in every paragraph can surely catch the reader’s attention. While I appreciated the details in the book I felt that there was quite a long lists of ancestors and tribes, and I think readers that are not familiar with Sanskrit will have a hard time reading them. In any case, through the course of the book the list of names leaves room for deeper reflections.

However, I appreciated the focus on the single tribes and the detailed narration that accompanied them, making the reader feel almost as part of the tribe itself and most importantly making everyone understand the importance of identity in a tribe.

The detail that makes this book interesting to younger generations is the importance given to current topics, such as gender equality and global warming. These themes represent a connection between the reader and the book, but most importantly between the reader and those tribes whose names might sound distant and unfamiliar.

Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India by Thomas Kochuthara provides readers with an in-depth and comprehensive piece of literature on both Indian tribes’ culture and Christianity in general. This is a highly enlightening book that I found to be engaging and informative.

Pages: 492 | ISBN: 9791220104500

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