Indigenous peoples in Bangladesh
The indigenous peoples of Bangladesh refer to native ethnic minorities in southeastern, northwestern, north-central and northeastern regions of the country. These regions include the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Sylhet Division, Rajshahi Division and Mymensingh District. The total population of indigenous ethnic minorities in Bangladesh was estimated to be over 2 million in 2010. They compromise of diverse ethnic communities including Australoid, Tibeto-Burman and Sino-Tibetan races.
The primary census report of 2011 illustrates that total ethnic population group of Bangladesh is 27. The 1st is Chakma consited 4,44,748 people while the Marma, the second largest ethnic group compares with 2,02,974 person.
The Chakmas are the largest tribe of Bangladesh. The Chakmas are of mixed origin but reflect more Bengali influence than any other tribe. The Chakmas generally lived in the highland valleys. Most Chakmas are Buddhists, but some practice Hinduism or animism.
The Chakmas ( Chakma or ), also known as the Changma (চাংমা), are a community that inhabits the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and the North-East India. The Chakmas are the largest ethnic group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, making up more than half the tribal population. Chakmas are divided into 46 clans or Gozas. The Chakma has their own language, custom, culture, and profess Theravada Buddhism. The chakmas are so good in heritage and culture and found mostly in India and Bangladesh and have their own script.and some chakmas population are inhabiting in china and Burma(mayanmar) and also in Thailand.
Marmas are the second largest ethnic group in Bangladesh and they are of Burmese (Myanmar) ancestry. The Marmas regarded Burma (Myanmar) as the centre of their cultural life. Historically it is believed that the Arakanese emperor has invaded the south-eastern region of the current Bangladesh. Since then the region was ruled under the Burmese emperor and Marma ethnic groups were established from that period. Their cultural aspect is connected to their ancestors, including dress (which is call Thumbui- the lower part, and Angi-the upper part), Food (mostly spicy, sour and hot), writing (Burmese script), traditional songs and music instrument (for example, Kappya, Jjea, Kharra so on). They speak (Marma) and the majority is (Buddhist- Theravada). They have a lot of festival during a year, but (Sangrai) is regarded as the biggest celebration among them. It is a tradition to welcome a new year according to the Buddhist moon calendar. This festival held for 3 days, and the popular ritual during the 2nd and 3rd day of the festival is to splashing water to each other. They believe that the water takes away all the sorrow and pure up our soul and body, so it must to greet each other (even strangers!) by splashing water.
The Santals are known as one of the oldest and largest indigenous communities in the northwestern belt of Bangladesh. They have been living in the pristine natural surroundings of the area for thousands of years. They might be described as children of nature who are nurtured and reared by its bounty. Santals are largely seen in the northern districts of Dinajpur, Naogaon, Thakurgaon, Panchagar, etc. The Santals are of ebony colour with little growth by way of beard, are generally of stocky build and capable of undertaking hard labour. Physically the Santals are not prepossessing. The face is round and softly contoured; the cheekbones moderately prominent; eyes full and straight, nose broad and depressed, mouth large and lips full, hair straight, black and coarse. They are long-headed and of medium height. By nature, they are very peace loving, honest, industrious and trustworthy people. They always respect their social customs and are satisfied with what they earn and what they eat. They have profound respect for the land they live in, the soil they till and the community they live with. They are not acquainted with hypocrisy, double-dealing, deception, fraudulent practices and tricks and artifices used to obtain things illegally. Their bravery, courage and righteousness are well known. They have actively participated in the Tebhaga movement led by Ila Mitra in 1950, the Santal revolt, Birsa Munda Uprising, Kol revolt, Jitu Samur Rebellion, Pandu Raja Insurgency, Swadeshi Movement and the War of Liberation in 1971. Santal women, especially young girls, are by nature very beauty-conscious. Santal women wear ornaments on their hands, feet, nose, ears and neck and also wear peculiarly shaped ornaments on their ankles. They fix flowers on their heads and hair-buns, and make themselves graceful with simple ornaments. Like their simple, plain and carefree way of life, their dress is also very simple. Santal dresses are called panchi, panchatat and matha. The Santal women wear coarse homespun cotton sarees of bright colours that barely reach their knees, while the upper end is flung over the shoulders. Santal men and women wear tattoos on their bodies. Most of their houses are usually neat and clean even though built of mud. Their homestead often includes a garden. The peculiarity of the houses is that they have small and low doors and almost no window. There is practically no furniture except a wooden bedstead and bamboo machang on which the people of the comparatively well-to-do class spread their beds. The Nabanna ceremony is undoubtedly of great importance to the rural people, and is observed during the harvest time when delicious preparations from newly harvested food grains are made and friends and relatives are entertained. Santals have their own language, culture and social patterns, which are clearly distinct from those of other tribes. They speak Bangla fluently and have adopted many Bangla words for their own language. Most Santals are Christians now but they still observe their old tribal rites. Although the Santals used to lead a prosperous and peaceful life in the past, their economic and social conditions are now very backward. Agriculture is their main source of livelihood. Principal food items of Santals are rice, fish and vegetables. They also eat crabs, pork, chicken, beef and the meat of squirrels. Jute spinach (nalita) is one of their favourite food items. Eggs of ducks, chickens, birds and turtles are delicacies in their menu. Liquor distilled from putrefied rice called hadia or (pachai) is their favourite drink. Santal women are skilled in making different kinds of cakes. Most of the Santals are animists. The main weapon used for hunting and self-protection is the bow and arrow made of locally available materials. They are fond of flowers and music. Hunting and collecting food from the forest were their primitive economic activity. Santals are divided into twelve clans and all these clans are fond of festivities. They are very proficient in music and dance. Like Bangalis, they also have 'thirteen festivals in twelve months' and many other festive occasions around the year. Their year starts with the month of Falgun (roughly, 15 February-15 March). Almost each month or season has a festival celebrated with dances, songs and music. In the spring, Santals celebrate holi when they drench each other with colours. To express gratitude to the god of crops is also a part of this festival. It turns into a carnival with dances, songs, music and food and drinks. Probably its greatest attraction is the choral dance of Santal girls. Another important ceremony of Santals is called Baha or the festival of blossoms. The purpose of this festival at the beginning of spring is to welcome and offer greetings to the freshly blossoming flowers. It is also characterized by dancing, singing and music. The Santals cremate their dead bodies. But nowadays, many of them bury the dead. When an inhabitant of a village dies, the village headman's duty is to present himself at the place of the departed and arrange for the last rites with due respect.
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The Manipuris are one of the major ethnic communities of Bangladesh. They migrated to Bangladesh during the reign of Rajarshi Bhagyachandra (1764-1789) and the process was accelerated by the Manipuri-Burma war. After the war with Burma, Manipur was ruled by the Burmese invaders for about seven years. During that period, King Chourajit Singh accompanied by a large following of Manipuri subjects moved to areas - now in Bangladesh. At present they live in different places of Sylhet Division, like Kamalganj, Sreemongal, Kulaura and Baralekha thanas of Moulvi Bazar district; Chunarughat thana of Habiganj district and Chhatak thana of Sunamganj district. According to the 1991 population census, there were about 25,000 Manipuris in Bangladesh. As a result of their changing geographical locations and various kinds of religious and political interaction, Manipuri society became the meeting point of different ethnic groups and cultures. The mother-tongue of the Manipuris belongs to the Kuki-chin group of the Tibeto-Burman sub-family of the Mongolian family of languages. Manipuri literature is very old. It has a rich and variegated history and traditions. Interestingly, a characteristic of the old Manipuri script is that each and every letter of the alphabet has been named after a part of the human body. The shape of a letter is also based on the body part it is named after. Some books on Manipuri subjects have been published in Bengali.Manipuri men and women work together in the field. Men clear the jungles and till the soil, while the women sow seeds and do the transplanting. They celebrate seed planting and crop harvesting in their own colourful way.Manipuri culture has a rich and colourful tradition where dance and music play a vital role. The most vibrant branch of Manipuri culture is dance. Rasa dance is the finest product of their culture. Manipuri dance is characterized by gentleness, tenderness and devotion. The dress they wear during a dance is really gorgeous and beautiful. Most of the festivals of the Manipuris are accompanied by the consumption of alcoholic beverages.A very popular festival of the Manipuris is a type of Gopi dance celebrating the romantic liaison of Radha and Krishna. In the spring, Manipuris celebrate Holi, when they drench each other with colour. Most religious rites and festivals of the Manipuris are based on the seasons of the year. They also celebrate the rice harvest through a singing contest.Manipuris put up colourful wedding pandals, and the bride and groom go round the pandal to be greeted with paddy and durva grass. Manipuris cannot marry within their own clans. A Manipuri bride comes to visit her parents for the first time on the fifth day after marriage, providing an occasion for a lavish feast. According to tribal custom, all members of the clan are invited to this ceremony and they come with presents of rice, meat, fowls, pigs, money and alcohol.Monipuris have their own rituals regarding disposal of the dead body. They keep the dying person outside the house on a banana leaf, while Kirtans are chanted. Dead bodies are washed with the head pointed northward. They bury bodies of adolescents and cremate bodies of older persons. After disposing of the body, the pallbearers take a bath and dry their hands by holding them above a fire before entering their house.
The Tripura are one of the Indingenous Peoples living both in the plain land and the CHT in Bangladesh. during the partition of the India subcontinent the princely state of Tripura were not marged neither in India nor Pakistan. However, Tripura Kingdom were marged in 1949 with the India through the Marger agreement. The peoples of Tripura both Bangladeshi and Indian Tripura State shared common culture, history, tradition, history and way of livelihoods. their languages are called Kokborok. there are more than one million peoples are speak this languages.
The Tanchangya (তঞ্চংগ্যা) people are an indigenous people in southeastern Bangladesh. There are 13 indigenous ethnic communities living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) among the 45 ethnic communities in Bangladesh. ‘Tanchangya’ is the one of them. The word “Tong” means Hill and “Taugya” means Jhum (Hilltop Sweden cultivation). So, the word Tanchangya means Hill Sweden farmer. Arakanese Tanchangyas are also known as “Doingnak”. Tanchangyas are the 5th largest indigenous ethnic community in CHT. There are many peoples who imaging that Tanchangya are the sub-tribe of Chakma community. In 1869 DC of CHT Mr. Lewin renamed Tanchangyas as the sub-tribe of Chakma and he wrote spelling “Toungjynya”. The Tanchangya living in the present Cox’s Bazar district are identified as Chakma. They call themselves as Chakma and their Bengalee neighbors also know them as Chakma. But for many specific characteristics Tanchangya community became as one of the separate ethnic community and after a long term continuous demand for separate identity of Tanchangyas community the Govt. recognized Tanchangyas as a separate community in 1989 (Rupayan Dewan; Jhum). Anthropologically Tanchangya belong to the Mongoloid group.
Tanchangya peoples have been living in CHT since its prehistoric age. Nowadays Tanchangya peoples live in Rangamati, Bandarban, Roisyabili & Sadhikyabili (Chittagong district), Ukhia and Teknaf (Cox’s bazaar district) areas of the Bangladesh. Tanchangyas also live in North-east Indian states (Assam, Tripura and Mizoram) and Rakhine State of the Myanmar. Most of Tanchangyas live in reserve forest of CHT but in 10 April’2000 Govt declared new Forest law named “The forest (Amendment) Act; 2000”, according to this act “Cultivation & preparation of cultivation on reserve forest land are illegal. The survival of these areas peoples becomes difficult for this act.
There are also confusion about the numbers and spelling of Tanchangyas. This is because of the ignorance and shallow knowledge of writers and researchers. So, it is very difficult to examine exact numbers and spelling of Tanchangyas. According to census of 2001 the number of Tanchangya 31,164 in CHT (source: solidarity2002, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum).
Tanchangya community consists of about 12 Gasha (W.W. Hunter wrote: Goza or clan). But in Bangladesh there are seven Gosha. These are (1) Karua Gosha (2) Dunya Gosha (3) Mou Gosha (4) Mongla Gosha (5) Lambacha Gosha (6) Millong Gosha (7) Ongya Gosha (Hunter; 1876). Tanchangyas communicate each other by using their own language. Where as Tanchangya language consists of Pali, Prakrit and ancient Bengali. And Tanchangys also has their own alphabets.
The Mros (Mrus or Moorangs).
The Mros are considered the original inhabitants of the Chittagong Hills. They lived on valleys and often fortified their villages. They had no written language of their own, but some could read the Burmese and Bangla scripts. Most of them claimed to be Buddhists, but their religious practices were largely animistic.
There are some other tribal groups in other parts of the country. Santals are inhabitants of Rajshahi and Dinajpur. Khasis, Garos, and Khajons in Mymensingh and Sylhet regions.
Different tribal groups differed in their social organization, marriage customs, foods, birth and death and other social customs from the people of the rest of the country. They have somehow managed to resist centuries of colonization and in the process have retained their own customs, traditions and life. Bangladesh also has the Mughal Tribe. Some people of Chittagong have Arab, Afghan and Portuguese ancestry. They are known as Chittagongi people.
- This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2006 edition".
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State (Background Notes).