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What is the purpose of the South Asia Peoples website?

The South Asia Peoples website shows which people groups reside in each district of South Asia, with populations, primary language spoken in that district, and number of adherents of each major religion. Field workers can plan their evangelistic and church planting efforts in light of this valuable information.

In addition, profiles are available for each people group in each country of South Asia. These include a small amount of statistical information, and often include a photo, map, and textual description. Also, the availability of scripture and resources such as the Jesus film and Gospel recordings are indicated for each language in South Asia.

The purpose of the site is to equip field workers with useful information as they plan their outreach and carry the gospel message to the peoples of South Asia.

Who created this website?

Joshua Project has created and maintains this South Asia Peoples website.

How does this website relate to Joshua Project's main website?

The data shown at is a subset of the Joshua Project data shown at Specifically, the data shown on this South Asia Peoples site includes only Joshua Project data for India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

Why was the South Asia Peoples website created?

The main Joshua Project website contains a great deal of information, and this complexity can obscure the highly detailed data available for South Asia. We are concerned that people often do not notice what is available. Also, we desire to provide a second website that more directly supports the needs of South Asia field workers.

Who are the primary intended users of this South Asia Peoples website?

On-the-ground field workers, but of course anyone may benefit from the site.

What are some benefits of this site?

  • Displays a relatively small amount of text, making it easier to understand for workers where English is not their primary language.
  • Highlights district-level lists of people groups. We believe this is the customary focus of attention for workers in South Asia.
  • Displays well on mobile phones.
  • People group names are available as alternate names in Hindi, and these can be used in the Search feature.

What are some limitations of the South Asia Peoples website?

The main Joshua Project website offers various features and resources not found on this South Asia site such as:

  • Country-level or state-level lists of people groups
  • People group data outside South Asia
  • Data downloads
  • Many resources such as prayer cards, PowerPoints, handouts, maps, articles and more.

Where did this data come from?

Joshua Project staff are not primary researchers. Rather Joshua Project is an effort to compile and integrate ethnic peoples research from various global, regional and national sources into a comprehensive whole. We are deeply grateful to the sources who have provided data to Joshua Project. For a list of sources, please visit We invite you to submit any information you have related to particular people groups using this form.

How often is the data on this website updated?

The view-able data on the South Asia website is updated approximately every two weeks.

Is the information available in other languages?

Currently the information is available exclusively in English, with few exceptions.

Why use caste to define a people group in South Asia?

Various people group lists define the peoples of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan) differently. Joshua Project uses caste / community and religion to define people groups in South Asia. These seem to be the primary barriers to the spread of people group church planting movements. Language is certainly a barrier, but given that it is very common for South Asians to speak multiple languages, language is seemingly not the highest barrier.

What is the Joshua Project Progress Scale?

The Joshua Project Progress Scale provides an estimate of the progress of church planting among a people group, people cluster or country. To see the Progress Scale and a fuller explanation, visit

How can I submit a photo of a people group?

Submit images using the feedback form. Please include the people group and country names along with any relevant information about your file, source, location and date. Be sure to attach your file to the e-mail. Also be sure to read the usage agreement at the bottom of the form.

Please designate if you want your name listed as the source or if you prefer the source as "Anonymous". For security considerations, if no designation is given we will not associate your name with the media.

Consider using the Joshua Project Photo / Data Gathering app on your mobile device. Learn more about it here.

How can I suggest feedback, changes or updates?

There are certainly errors and omissions in this people group data. Joshua Project welcomes your input. Send feedback and updates using this form or email us at

Where can I find Bibles in various languages?

Joshua Project does not have printed Bibles available. In general, we suggest contacting:

  • Forum of Bible Agencies
  • World Bibles
  • World Bible Finder
  • Amazon

Do you have field staff in these countries?

Joshua Project information comes from several individual and organizational sources, but we have no field staff. Joshua Project does not have offices in South Asia.

Do you train and send missionaries?

Joshua Project supplies people group information to the Church around the world as our sole focus. We do not train or send missionaries or field workers.

Are you available to come speak?

With a very tiny staff and many invitations to speak, we are unable to travel for speaking invitations.

Do you finance workers or projects?

Joshua Project has a very modest budget to keep the office running and the website online. We are unable to provide funds for the requests we regularly receive from around the world.

Do you have paid volunteer opportunities?

All Joshua Project staff raise their own funds and all opportunities are for self-funded volunteers. Joshua Project does not pay salaries.



"Usually written as "church" with lower case "c." A gathering of followers of Christ. Does not imply a building or specific location. A fellowship of believers committed to spiritual growth and mutual encouragement. Starting these fellowships is often called church planting." (Operation World,, 2010)

Additional definitions of church from various sources:

"God’s message fleshed out in their culture, producing vibrant churches that plant other churches, with locals leading from the beginning – that’s the goal. A group of local people who follow God and love each other will deeply impact their community in the long term." (WEC Church Planting,, 2012)

"An autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth." (IMB "Definition of a Church" 2005)

"An assembly of disciples who know and reflect their identity in Christ expressed through corporate worship and mission." (AIM International 2008)

"A group of baptized believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who meet regularly to worship, nurture one another (feed and grow one another), and fellowship (practice the one another statements of the Bible), and depart these gatherings endeavoring to obey all the commands of Christ in order to transform individuals, families, and communities." (David Watson, CPM Trainer,, 2009)

Caste or Community

The rigid South Asian structure of hereditary social classes. Caste and social status are determined at birth and cannot be changed. Marriage is restricted to members of one's own caste. The caste system originally had four levels: Brahman - seers (priests, teachers), Kshatriya - administrators (military leaders, business owners), Vaisya - producers (skilled craftspersons), and Shoodra - servants (unskilled laborers). Each caste is split into countless sub-castes.

Today there are four general caste levels in South Asia:

  • Forward Castes (FC)
  • Backward Castes (BC)
  • Other Backward Castes (OBC)
  • Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/ST)

The word "caste" is actually a corrupted Portuguese word. The more useful term for sociological groupings is "Jati." Jati as used in South Asia is a very close fit to the definition of "people group."

Source: Omid - South Asia Researcher

Christian Adherent or Professing Christian

One who professes to be a follower of the Christian religion in any form. This definition is based on the individual's self-confession, not his or her ecclesiology, theology or religious commitment and experience. This includes professing and affiliated adults and also their children (practicing and non-practicing) who reside in a given area or country, or who are of a particular ethno-linguistic or ethno-cultural people.

This is the broadest possible classification of Christian and includes the six ecclesiological types of Christians: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Other Catholic, Orthodox, Foreign marginal, Indigenous marginal as defined in Operation World. Professing Christian numbers include the Evangelical subset.

Source: Operation World

Church Planting Movement (CPM)

A rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment. Characteristics of a CPM:

Rapid: As a movement, a Church Planting Movement occurs with rapid increases in new church starts. Saturation church planting over decades and even centuries is good, but doesn’t qualify as a Church Planting Movement.

Multiplicative: This means that the increase in churches is not simply incremental growth—adding a few churches every year or so. Instead, it compounds with two churches becoming four, four churches becoming eight to 10 and so forth. Multiplicative increase is only possible when new churches are being started by the churches themselves–rather than by professional church planters or missionaries.

Indigenous: This means they are generated from within rather than from without. This is not to say that the gospel is able to spring up intuitively within a people group. The gospel always enters a people group from the outside; this is the task of the missionary. However, in a Church Planting Movement the momentum quickly becomes indigenous so that the initiative and drive of the movement comes from within the people group rather than from outsiders.

Source: Church Planting Movements


Followers of Christ who generally emphasize:

  • The Lord Jesus Christ as the sole source of salvation through faith in Him.
  • Personal faith and conversion with regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
  • A recognition of the inspired Word of God as the only basis for faith and living.
  • Commitment to Biblical preaching and evangelism that brings others to faith in Christ.

The noun "Evangelical" is capitalized since it represents a body of Christians with a fairly clearly defined theology (as also Orthodox and Catholic bodies, etc.). Evangelicals are here defined as:

  • All affiliated Christians (church members, their children, etc.) of denominations that are evangelical in theology as defined above.
  • The proportion of the affiliated Christians in other denominations (that are not wholly evangelical in theology) who would hold evangelical views.
  • The proportion of affiliated Christians in denominations in non-Western nations (where doctrinal positions are less well defined) that would be regarded as Evangelicals by those in the above categories.
  • This is a theological and not an experiential definition. It does not mean that all Evangelicals as defined above are actually born-again. In many nations only 10-40% of Evangelicals so defined may have had a valid conversion and also regularly attend church services. However, it does show how many people align themselves with churches where the gospel is being proclaimed.

Source: Operation World by Patrick Johnstone

People Group

A significantly large grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity with one another. "For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance."

In many parts of the world lack of understandability serves as the main barrier and it is appropriate to define people groups primarily by language with the possibility of sub-divisions based on dialect or cultural variations.

In other parts of the world, most notably in portions of South Asia, acceptance is a greater barrier than understandability. In these regions, caste, religious tradition, location and common histories, plus language may define the boundaries of each people group.

Joshua Project uses the terms "people", "people group" and "ethnic people" synonymously. However, others may distinguish between the terms. 

Source: 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting and Joshua Project

Primary / Secondary Language

May be referred to alternatively as Majority / Minority languages. If significant numbers of individuals within one people group speak language A as their main language, and other individuals speak language B as their main language, Joshua Project marks the language with the most speakers (sometimes an estimate) as the Primary language for the entire people group. Other languages spoken are marked as Secondary languages.

Note that a language marked as Secondary for the entire people group may in fact be the main language for certain individuals.

In South Asia each people group may speak dozens of languages, and understanding what we mean by primary and secondary languages is essential.

Note that marking languages as primary and secondary does not refer directly to the degree of bi-lingualism in a people group, although it implies bi-lingualism is occurring.

Source: Joshua Project

Primary Religion

The religion with the greatest number of adherents in this people group. Usually more than half the people group follow this religion, but not always.

Source: Joshua Project

Unreached / Least-Reached

An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.

Joshua Project uses the terms "unreached" and "least-reached" to mean the same thing. The terms are used interchangeably on this website.

The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than or equal to 2% Evangelical Christian and less than or equal to 5% Professing Christians. While these percentage figures are somewhat arbitrary, "we should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision." - Robert Bellah, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, originally quoted in Psychology Today in the 1970s, currently quoted in Christianity Today Oct 2011: 42.

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history." - Gandhi

Source: 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting, AD2000 & Beyond Movement and Joshua Project

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Joshua Project
PO Box 62614
Colorado Springs, CO 80962-2614
United States