Marma girls in "water festival", during "Sangrai" (new year celebration)
Marma is one of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) ethnic communities. They are sometimes referred as Mogh/Magh and were known by that term for centuries until late 1940s. They are 2nd largest ethnic group in Bangladesh over 210,000 population just within Bangladesh. They share different language and culture from majority Bengalis and other ethnics in CHT. They are Buddhists and the three Hill Tracts (Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari) are their homes since 16th century. Bohmang chief and Mong chief are their heads in Bandarban and Khagrachari.
There are two opinions holding on the linage of Marma. Historically Marma is descendants of Arakanese while Bohmang family claimed the linage of Mon of Burmese. However the records of East India Company and others provide that Marmas migrated from Arakan kingdom of Burma to the Chittagong of Bangladesh in two phases of migrations during 14th to 17th centuries in the golden period of Mrauk U. In the first phase during the Mrauk U period Arakanese kingdom was expanded to even some parts of Chittagong and Dhaka. Secondly, they fled to Chittagong and settled down as the Arakanese kingdom was conquered and tortured by the Burmese king Bodawpaya. The Bohmang family might be descendant of Mon of Pegu but not the Marma or Magh.
According to some the term “Marma” derived from the term “Myanmar”. As there is another claim that Marmas are originally linage of Peguan/Mon and Burmese. So the term Marma was officially coined by Bohmong Maung Shwe Prue in late 1940s to people of his circle because the king was the descendant of Myanmar. The word of Myanmar changed phonetically as it is pronounced differently by Arakanese and Marma. Sometimes Arakanese pronounces “Ya” of Burmese pronunciation in “Ra” phones. For example Arakanese pronounces “Rangoon” for “Yangoon” of Burmese. So this is similar to above example of phonetic changes. He wanted to write Mranma (which is Myanmar) unfortunately it was eventually spelled Marma.
Another assumption is that the term “Marma” derived from the Chinese word “Meing” which means man. It denotes to call the people of Burma by the Chinese.
They were known as Mogh/Magh for centuries because they were called Mogh/Magh by Bengali for their evil works. They joined hands with Dutch and Portuguese pirates during their invasion in Chittagong. In latter period they do not want to be called by it. They felt offensive and insulting, because it means pirate. Therefore picking up new name Marma was necessary for people in Bangladesh while others in Tripura state of India kept the same name as Mogh/Magh. They have their own good reasons and they do not consider Mogh/Magh as offensive term but Mog/Magh as rulers and descendant of Magadhi. However they are not identified two from Marma in Bangladesh and Mogh in India.