Chakma people

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Total population
500,000[1][2][3] (2011)
Regions with significant populations
Bangladesh,[4] India[5] and Myanmar
Majority: Dharma Wheel Rotating.svg Theravada Buddhism
Minority: Christian cross.svg Christianity
Colour-coded map of the districts of Chittagong Division in Bangladesh, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts on the easternmost border to India and Myanmar.
Portuguese map of Chittagong Hill Tracts. Chacomas on the Eastern bank of the river Karnaphuli and Arracan (present Rakhine State of Myanmar) can be seen on the extreme right

The Chakma people (Chakma: 𑄌𑄋𑄴𑄟𑄳𑄦; Bengali: চাকমা) are a tribal group from the eastern-most regions of the Indian subcontinent. They are the largest ethnic group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of southeastern Bangladesh, and the second-largest in Mizoram, India (Chakma Autonomous District). Other places in Northeast India also have significant Chakma populations. Around 50,000 Chakmas live in Arunachal Pradesh, India; a first-generation migrated there in 1964 after the Kaptai Dam tragedy. Also, 40,000-50,000 Chakmas live in Tripura India, and 20,000-30,000 in Assam, India.

The Chakma are genetically and phenotypically linked with the peoples of East Asia, but the Chakma language is part of the Indo-Aryan language family of the Indian subcontinent, and closely related to the Bengali language predominant near the areas in which they live. Most Chakma people today adhere to Theravada Buddhism, due to 19th-century reforms and institutionalization by regent Queen Rani Kalindi. In Myanmar, Chakma people are known as Daingnet people. Some Bengalis with East Asian features will self-identify as having some Chakma heritage.

The Chakmas are divided into 46 clans or Gozas. The community is headed by the Chakma Raja, whose status as a tribal head has been historically recognized by the Government of British India and the Government of Bangladesh.

The relationships between Chakmas and their neighbors are complex. On one hand, many Chakmas are well-integrated in mainstream middle-class Bangladeshi and Indian society and are particularly notable for their service as officers and ambassadors in Bangladesh's military and diplomatic corps. Chakma politicians have served as ministers in the national ministry of Bangladesh and the state ministry of Tripura. However, the persecution of the indigenous tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, of which the Chakma are the predominant ethnicity, has been described as genocidal; since the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, violence in the area has been greatly reduced.[6][7]


The name Chakma derived from the Sanskrit word Sakthimaha, which means powerful and great.[8] This name was given to Chakmas by one of the Burmese kings during the Bagan Era. Burmese kings hired Chakmas as ministers, advisers, and translators of Buddhist Pali texts. As employees of the king, the Chakmas wielded power in the Burmese court disproportionate to their number. The Burmese people still refer to Chakmas as Sak(သက်) or Thit, which are shortened and corrupted forms of Sakthimaha. At one stage, the commonly accepted name of the tribe was Sakma. Later, when they came into contact with outsiders it was further corrupted to Chakma.[9]


The Chakma possess strong genetic affinities to Tibeto-Burman groups in Northeast India and East Asian and populations. They also have high frequencies of mainland Indian genetic ancestry.[10]


Chakma oral history says they migrated to Arakan[11] from the ancient kingdom of Magadha in the present Bihar state of India. They believe they are also part of Buddha's Sakya clan of the Himalayan tribes. After many struggles to survive, they gradually migrated to Arakan and extended their territory to the nearby hills of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The Arakanese people referred to the Chakmas as Saks, Theks, or Thaikhs. In 1546 CE, while the Arakanese king Min Bin was fighting a battle with the Burmese, the Sak king attacked Northern Arakan Roma and occupied the Arakanese-controlled Chacomas of the Northern Arakan Mountains.[12]

Diego de Astor created a map of Bengal, which was published as Descripção do Reino de Bengalla in the book Quarta decada da Asia (Fourth decade of Asia) by João de Barros in 1615.[13] The map shows a place called Chacomas on the Eastern bank of the Karnaphuli River in what is now Chittagong Bangladesh, suggesting the Chakmas inhabited this area during this time.

The Arakan king Min Razagyi (1593–1612) conquered these areas and styled himself as the highest and most powerful king of Arakan, Chacomas and Bengal in a 1607 letter to a Portuguese mercenary named Filipe de Brito e Nicote.[14] After the defeat by the Arakanese, the Chakmas migrated to the present Chittagong Hill Tracts and founded their capital city Alekyangdong (present-day Alikadam). From Alekyangdong, they continued north and settled in present-day Rangunia, Raozan, and Fatikchari Upazilas of Chittagong District.

In 1666, Mughal Governor of Bengal Shaista Khan defeated the Arakanese, conquered the northern bank of Kaladan river, and renamed it Islamabad.[15] Mughal rule, however, was confined to the plain areas of Chittagong early on, leaving the Chakmas largely unaffected. The Mughals eventually demanded tribute from the Chakmas after a trade dispute developed between the two groups.[16]

In 1713, the conflict was resolved and a stable relationship developed between the Chakmas and the Mughals; the latter never demanded complete subjugation from the former. The Mughals also rewarded the Chakma king Shukdev Roy; he established a new capital in his name in an area still known as Shukbilash. Ruins of the royal palace and other historic buildings still exist. Subsequently, the capital was shifted to Rajanagar, Ranirhat, Rangunia Upazila, Chittagong District.

The East India Company[edit]

The Mughals signed a treaty with Jallal Khan, Raja of the Chakma, in 1715. While the Mughals controlled significant amounts of yam and cotton crops in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), its independence from the Mughals was recognized.

The British government also received payment from the Chakmas and recognized their kingdom as an independent.[17] The CHT was guaranteed and delineated as their own tribal preserve area by the treaties between the King of the Chakma and the British.

A war was waged from 1777 to 1789 between the East India Company and the Chakmas. In exchange for leaving the Chakmas as tributaries and giving them autonomy, the British received an oath from Jan Baksh Khan, king of all Chakmas, in 1787.[18]

Three years after the Battle of Plassey, Mir Qasim the new Nawab of Murshidabad, rewarded the East India Company with Chittagong, Burdwan and Midnapur. On 5 January 1761, company representative Harry Verelst took charge of Chittagong from Subedar Mohammad Reza Khan but the Chakma king Sher Doulat Khan, who was practically independent though nominally paid tribute to the Mughals, did not accept the hegemony of the company and its demand of taxes at an enhanced rate. A protracted war started and continued until 1787. The East India Company launched four offensives against the Chakmas in 1770, 1780, 1782 and 1785. In 1785, the Company started peace negotiations with the Chakma king Jan Baksh Khan, son of Sher Doulat Khan. In 1787, the king accepted the sovereignty of the company and agreed to pay 500 Maunds of cotton annually. The peace treaty was signed in Calcutta.[19]

The main provisions of the treaty between Governor-General Lord Cornwallis and the Chakma king were as follows:[20]

  • The East India Company recognised Jan Baksh Khan as the Raja of the Chakmas;
  • It was agreed that the collection of revenue was the responsibility of the Raja;
  • The British Government would preserve the tribal autonomy and migration from the plains would be restricted;
  • Jan Baksh Khan was bound by the treaty to maintain peace in his territory;
  • British troops would remain in the Chakma territory, not to terrify the Chakmas but to protect the land from hostile tribes;

In 1829, Halhed, then Commissioner of Chittagong reaffirmed that:

The hill tribes were not British subjects but merely tributaries and we recognized no right on our part to interfere with their internal arrangements. The near neighbourhood of a powerful and stable government naturally brought the chiefs by degree under control and every leading chief paid to the Chittagong collector a certain tribute or yearly gifts. These sums were at first fluctuating in amount but gradually were brought to a specific and fixed limit, eventually taking the shape not of tribute but of revenue to the state.[21]

Jan Baksh Khan shifted his capital to a new place near present-day Rangunia, naming it Rajanagar. After Jan Baksh's death in 1800, his son Tabbar Khan became king but died shortly after. In 1802, Tabbar Khan's younger brother Jabbar Khan became king and ruled for ten years. After his death, his son Dharam Baksh Khan became king in 1812 and ruled until his death in 1832. Without any male heir, there was chaos; the government appointed Suklal Dewan as the Manager. Rani Kalindi, the widow of Dharam Baksh Khan, applied to the government to allow her to run state affairs. The government accepted her application and in 1844 issued an order to that effect.[22] In 1846, the annual revenue payable to the company was refixed at 11,803.00Rs.

After the great Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, the British government assumed direct control of the administration of India, including along with the Chittagong Hill Tracts, which was not yet formally separated from Chittagong, from the East India Company. The territorial jurisdiction of the Chakma Raja, however, was fixed by a proclamation dated 6th Shraavana 1170M.S (1763 CE) by the company as "All the hills from the Feni River to the Sangoo and from Nizampur Road in Chittagong to the hills of Kooki Raja".[23]

After Rani Kalindi's death in 1873, her grandson Harish Chandra became the Chakma Raja and was vested with the title Roy Bahadur.

British colonial rule[edit]

After the war with the British, the Chakmas became very weak militarily. The Lushai used to make frequent murderous raids on British subjects because their hunting ground was converted to a tea garden by the British in Cachar, Noakhali, Comilla and other neighbouring tracts under Rani Kalindi. They raided the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the neighbouring tracts in 1847, 1848, 1859 and 1860.[24] As a consequence, with a view to paying attention to the areas experiencing repeated raids and to protecting the people from the aggression of the independent tribes living further east but primarily to occupy the Chakma land, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal recommended the removal of the hill tracts from the regulation district and the appointment of a superintendent over the tribes. Both of these recommendations were adopted by Act XXII in 1860, which came into effect on 18 August of that year.[24] The Hill Tracts were separated from Chittagong district, a superintendent was appointed for the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and its headquarters were established at Chandraghona. The hills in his charge were henceforth known as the Hill Tracts of the Chittagong. For the next few years, attention focused on preserving peace on the frontier. In 1869, the headquarters were shifted to Rangamati. The official designation of the post of superintendent was changed to Deputy Commissioner and full control of matters about revenue and justice throughout the Hill Tracts was vested in his office.

The frontier situation put pressure on the Chakma chief to shift his capital, and in 1874, it was shifted from Rajanagar to Rangamati. At that time, cotton was grown in Chittagong Hill Tracts and was important to the British for their mills, so effective control of the Chittagong Hill Tracts was also important for them.

In 1881, the government divided the Chittagong Hill Tracts into Chakma Circle, Bohmong Circle, and Mong Circle. Each circle was headed by a chief.[25] Chakma circle was headed by a Chakma, Bohmong circle by a Bohmong and the Burmese circle by a Mong. The Chakma circle was centrally located and inhabited mainly by the Chakmas, the Bohmong circle was under the rule of a Bohmong chief of Arakanese extraction, and the Mong circle was also inhabited by Arakanese speaking clans with some Tripura immigrants and headed by another ruler of Arakanese extraction. The division occurred because the British government was not in favour of the strong power of the Chakma chief, who controlled these hill tribes. Further, the government was increasingly concerned about the political and administrative affairs of these tracts. Hence, they wished to lay the foundation of administration in a restricted manner with the following objectives:[25]

  • To supervise the rule of the Chakma chief and curtail some of his powers;
  • To protect British subjects from the Kuki (the name given to the Lushai by the British);
  • To preserve peace in the frontier areas so cotton could be grown and made available for British mills.

After the creation of a separate district and the three circles, the Kuki (Lushai) threat to the Chittagong Hill Tracts and other adjoining areas did not stop. The Shendus made occasional raids in the Hill Tracts between 1865 and 1888 and killed many people, including Lt. Steward and his survey party. In 1872, 1,890 military offensives were launched simultaneously into Lushai Hills (Mizoram) from Chittagong district and Burma in collaboration with the governments of Bengal, Assam and Burma, and the whole of the CHT was brought under British control.

Autonomous police forces were created from the Hill Tract tribes in 1881. Tribals complained to Britain after the Hill Tracts experienced attempts at penetration by lowlander Bengali Muslims.[18]

On 1 April 1900, the South and the North Lushai Hills (then a part of the Chittagong Hill Tracts) were merged to form the district of Assam province with headquarters at Aizawl.[26] The Lushai hills are now the Mizoram state of India.

Later, the British through the Deputy Commissioner took over absolute control in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (including the Chakma circle) after implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts manual. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (Lushai Hills) were again designated an "Excluded Area" under the Government of India Act 1935.[27]

Local tribes demanded an independent state for the Chittagong Hill Tract because Bengalis and the tribals did not share a religion, language, or ethnicity, and they asked for their own independent area in the 1930s when the Indian national movement was launched. In the event of Indian independence, Britain guaranteed the tribals that the Chittagong Hill Tracts would be split off separately, since World War II was happening and the Japanese were attacking.[18]

After independence[edit]

In British India, there was a measure of security and protection afforded for the non-Muslim and non-Bengali Chittagong Hill Tract Chakmas and other tribal people.[28] Bengal and Assam did not govern the CHT during this period. Rather the CHT was a distinct administrative unit that enjoyed a large degree of self-rule.[29]

Despite the CHT being 97.2%-98.5% non-Muslim, it was given to Pakistan by the Boundary Commission Chairman Sir Cyril Radcliffe in 1947 upon independence.[29] Native Chakmas made up most of the officials except for some British during British India rule.[30] Pakistan received the CHT from Radcliffe after the issue of Punjab districts and the CHT revised boundaries were pushed onto him by Lord Mountbatten on 17 August 1947.[17] The decision by Radcliffe to draw this boundary paved the way for future war, violence and conflict.[31] The British-awarded "Excluded area" status was downgraded to "Tribal Area" in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.[32] The Bangladeshi Constitution does not refer to any group (inclusive of Bengalis) as indigenous.[33]

As in India's Tripura State, the Chakmas lived in Bangladesh before it gained its independence. Recent migrations of ethnic Bengalis into traditionally Chakma regions of Bangladesh have raised tensions in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Successive governments have dealt forcefully with Chakma uprisings and finally ended the conflict with the 1997 peace treaty. This force and the construction of Kaptai Dam by the then-Pakistan government in Chakma areas which submerged cultivable lands and displaced thousands, resulted in the migration during 1964–1969 of a large population of Chakmas into Diyun, Arunachal Pradesh.[34]

Many Buddhist Chakmas migrated from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to India.[35] Projects for infrastructure development negatively impacted CHT tribals starting in the 1950s.[36] These included the Kaptai Dam hydro-electric project, built in 1959-1963 by the Pakistan government, with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development, to provide electricity for much of East Pakistan. The project flooded forty percent of the farmland in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and displaced nearly 100,000 Chakmas. About sixty percent were resettled, and forty percent fled to India.[37] Chakmas made up 90% of the 10,000 people whose 54,000 acres of farmland were flooded in 1962 by the Karnafuli power plant and Kaptai Dam. Inept relocation and insufficient compensation were offered to the Chakmas.[38]

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Chakma population was estimated at 250,000 in 1964. The CHT was described as being hilly, forested, a verdant green landscape filled with fountains of water[39] A deputy commissioner administered the Chittagong Hill Tracts Division under Pakistani rule.

Manabendra Narayan Larma requested autonomy in 1970. India used NEFA as a resettlement area for Chakma refugees.[40] The India Tripura state had to deal with the issue of Chakma families.[41] Agriculture, employment and education are dominated by Chakmas compared to Arunachal natives because they are more skilled and have a higher literacy rate.[42] The issue of returning Chakma refugees from India to Bangladesh was raised in 1995.[43] The hill tribes conflict with Bangladesh caused the exodus of 50,000 Chakmas to India from the Chittagong Hill Tracts. A 1992 deal between India and Bangladesh arranged that Bangladesh would take them back.[44] A March 1997 agreement between Chakma leaders and Bangladesh provided for the repatriation to Bangladesh of Chakma refugees in Tripura.[45] Both East Pakistan's partition and Bangladesh's independence caused an influx into India of Chakma refugees.[46] In the 1960s, hundreds of Muslim families from other parts of East Pakistan were resettled in the Matamuhuri Valley region of Alikadam, Feni Valley regions of Belchari and Tulanchari, and the regions of Lama, Bandarban, and Ramgarh.[47]

Tridev Roy continued to collaborate with Pakistani forces and declined to join the freedom movement of Bangladesh. Pakistani president Yahya Khan assigned a south-east Asian diplomatic post to Tridiv Roy during the war as a reward for his collaboration. Roy chose the Pakistani side, fearing that an independent Bangladesh would likely have democratic rule and he might lose his feudal interests. Pakistan retained his support and allegiance, Roy agreed on 25 March, and in exchange British artillery would refrain from shelling the CHT capital, Rangamati.[48] Roy believed Bangladesh would not award autonomy to CHT and the Chakmas, and earned the enmity of the Awami League by rejecting Sheikh Mujib's offer to stand as the Awami League candidate.[49] Autonomy was refused by the CHT tribals.[50] CHT hills people were enrolled as Mujahids and Razakars by the Pakistan army during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.[38]

The Bangladesh government provided financial support for thousands of Bengalis to settle in the tracts. By 1981, a third of the population of the tracts were Bengali migrants.[51][52] Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS; Chittagong Hill Tracts Peoples Solidarity Association), which was founded by Chakmas, demanded a halt to Bengali settlement, settlers returning lands to CHT natives, and autonomy.[52] On 7 January 1973, Shanti Bahini (Peace Force) was founded as the military army of PCJSS.[53] Shanti Bahini resisted the Bengali army in 1975, led by Manabendra Narayan Larma.[54] In an effort to win independence for the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Shanti Bahini launched guerrilla attacks against the government.[55] Jumma guerillas made up Shanti Bahini forces.[56] The party heads of PCJSS are mostly Chakma because of their 59% literacy rate, which is more than other CHT tribes, so they control the PCJSS.[57]

During the war, most of the Phadis remained passive, although the Mukti Bahini enrolled some and in 1971, the Pakistan army enrolled CHT hill men. After the war, Tridev Roy maintained his allegiance to Pakistan, which he supported in the war.[58] In 1970, he served as independent in the Parliament of Pakistan while serving as Raja of the Chakma.[59] The Awami League candidate Sheikh Mujibur Rahman lost the election to Roy.[60] Roy was in Southeast Asia when Bangladesh came under Indian army control in December 1971. Bhutto assigned the position of Minorities Affairs Minister to Roy and he helped lobby in the United Nations (UN) for Pakistan after the war. The post of ambassador and tourism were also awarded to Roy.[61] Roy represented Pakistan when it protested at the UN over Bangladesh.[62] Pakistan retained the allegiance of only Noor ul Amin and Tridiv Roy among their East Pakistan MPs.[63] Roy refused to join Bangladesh because the hill tracts were not granted autonomy and stayed on Pakistan's side despite Mujib trying to urge Tridiv to quit Pakistan.[63]

Refuge in India[edit]

Meghalaya and Tripura were destinations of Buddhist Chakma refugees fleeing from the war started by plains-dwelling Muslim Bangladeshis settling the CHT, as well as the government of Bangladesh implementing a military police force to expel Chittagong Hill Tracts natives.[64] "The Muslim World" complained about alleged immigration from Bangladesh to Arakan by Buddhists of Magh and Chakma background.[65]

In 1974, the Garo people were stripped of their property by the XLVI Vested and Non-President Property Act by Bangladesh and affected by the 1964 Enemy Property Ordinance.[66] Lands in CHT were taken by Bengali colonists; the hill peoples of the CHT were not afforded any cultural or ethnic recognition, and sympathy from successive Bangladesh governments, despite culture and ethnicity being used as an argument against Pakistan by Bengalis during the war.[28] A 1997 peace agreement ended the over twenty-year-long war on autonomy between Bangladesh and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Jumma inhabitants.[67] The Chittagong Hill Tracts showed that only Bengalis were to be beneficiaries of Bengali nationalism and its "liberalism", which was aimed against the hegemony of Pakistan. Even the "pro-minority" and participant of the CHT peace agreement, the Awami League, refused to grant the status of Adibashi, declaring that according to the constitution, Bengali is the nationality and Bangladeshi is the citizenship and refused to acknowledge that Bangladesh had indigenous peoples. Bengali nationalism is part of the BNP's ideology. Jumma nationalism was spawned from Bengali nationalism due to the hegemony exerted by the Bengalis.[68]

Because the Bangladesh independence movement received apathy from the CHT Jummas, they were deemed unfaithful by the Bengalis. The natives of CHT were ignored when the Rangmati Kaptai Dam was financed by the World Bank.[69] No autonomy was awarded to the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the Bangladesh Constitution of 1972.[70] The Chakma conflict is both a religious and ethnic problem in Bangladesh.[71][72] The Chittagong Hill Tracts saw tribal Chakma leave the area due to religious and ethnic strife caused by Bangladesh's Islamisation policy. The Chittagong Hill Tracts was colonized by Northern Burmese and Bangladeshi Muslims.[73] The label "genocidal" has been used to describe actions by the Bangladeshi government upon the non-Islamic Chittagong Hill Tracts Jumma natives.[74]

In February 1972, Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh issued a joint statement by virtue of which the Government of India decided to confer citizenship on the Chakmas under Section 5(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 but the state of Arunachal Pradesh had reservations. Chakmas were thus allowed to be rehabilitated. The Election Commission of India framed guidelines to enable Chakmas to have the right to vote by having their names enrolled in the electoral rolls of the constituency where they have been settled.[75]

Indian representation[edit]

The Chakmas now have representation in the Mizoram Legislative Assembly, Tripura Legislative Assembly[76] and Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.[77] The only seat of political power and identity is the Chakma Autonomous District Council in India, the legitimacy of which is questioned by the Mizo people. There are another 80,000 Chakmas in Rakhine state, Myanmar, who are known as Daingnet people.

In September 2015, the Supreme Court of India passed a judgment directing the Government of India and of Arunachal Pradesh to grant Indian citizenship rights to all of the Chakmas, holding that they cannot be discriminated against any other Indian.[75]


The vast majority of the Chakma are followers of Theravada Buddhism,[11] a religion that they have been practicing for a few centuries.[78] A minority of Chakmas practice Christianity.[79]

Almost every Chakma village has a Buddhist Vihar (Kiyong or Kaang). Buddhist monks are called Bhikhsu. They preside at religious festivals and ceremonies. The villagers support their monks with food, gifts, and offerings as representatives of the historical Buddha, Gautama or Gotama or Sakyamuni Buddha.

According to 2011 census report there are 93,411 people who follow Buddhism in Mizoram, India. 7.3% are Christians or followers of other religious beliefs.[80]


Originally speaking a language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman family, but at present days, it shares many common words or loan words or diverted words from the Hindi, Pali, Sanskrit, English, Assamese and Bengali languages. Many linguists now consider the modern Chakma language (known as Changma Bhach or Changma Hodha) part of the Eastern Indo-Aryan language. Changma Bhach is written in its own script, the Chakma script, also known as Ojhapath/Awjhapat. Chakma is written in an alphabet which allowing for its cursive form, is almost identical with the Khmer and the Lanna (Chiangmai) characters, which was formerly in use in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and southern parts of Burma.[81]


The Chakmas are people with their own culture, folklore, literature and traditions. Chakma women wear an ankle length cloth around the waist called a Phinon and also a Haadi wrapped above the waist as well as silver ornaments. The Phinon and the Haadi are colourfully handwoven with various designs. The design is first embroidered on a piece of cloth known as Alaam. The first Bangladeshi Chakma language film, Mor Thengari, was directed by Aung Rakhine and was banned by Bangladesh's Censor Board.[82][83]

In the past, most Chakmas practiced slash-and-burn cultivation as their main occupation. However, many Chakmas today have adopted plow cultivation and some have taken up poultry farming.[84]

Traditional temporary homes of the Chakma are called monoghara. A monoghara is constructed with bamboo and thatch that's supported on wooden logs.[84]

The Chakma tend to mainly cook over an open fire. They eat many types of food (including meats) with rice being a staple, but they usually don't eat beef.[84]


The most important festivals celebrated by the Chakmas are Bizu, Alphaloni, Buddha Purnima and Kathin Civar Dan.

Chakmas celebrate various Buddhist festivals. The most important is Buddha Purnima[85] or internationally known as Vesak. It's also known Buddha Birthday worldwide. This is the anniversary of three important events in Buddha's life—his birth, his attainment of enlightenment, and his death. It is observed on the full moon day of the month of Vaisakha (usually in May).

On this and other festival days, Chakmas put on their best clothes and visit the temple. There, they offer flowers to the image of Buddha, light candles, and listen to sermons from the priests. Alms (offerings) are given to the poor, and feasts are held for the priests.

The three-day festival known as Biju/Bizu or Chakma New Year,[86] celebrated with much enthusiasm. This Chakma New Year followed same Indian calendar that shares the same date of the New Year. This Biju also celebrated on same date by various Buddhist countries such as Myanmar Sangrai, Thailand Songkran, Cambodia, Laos, India, Bangladesh, Sinhalese New Year and few other Asian countries.Houses are decorated with flowers, young children pay special attention to the elderly to win their blessings, visiting Buddhist monasteries, and preparing festive and traditional Chakma dishes for guests are some of important things.


Bizhu[86] is the most important socio-religious festival of the Chakma. Bizu is a Buddhist festival and public holiday in Tripura.[87][88] This festival gave birth to the Bizu dance. The festival lasts for three days and begins one day before the last day of the month of Chaitra, falling in the month of April.[89] The first day is known as Phool Bizu. On this day, household items, clothes are cleaned and washed, food items are collected to give the house a new look with the veil of different flowers. The second day is known as Mul Bizu. This day starts with the bath in the river. People wear new clothes and make rounds of the village. Women wear phinon and Haadi while men wear silum and dhudi. They also enjoy specially made vegetable curry known as "Pazon ton", different homemade sweets and take part in different traditional sports. The day ends with the Bizu dance.

The last day, which is known as Gojjepojje din involves the performances of different socio-religious activities. In the context of its nature, some say that Bizu is a festival, which revolves around agricultural activities because it is celebrated in mid-April when the earth is just drenched with the first rain and the jum sowing is taken up. And it is believed that with the objective of getting a rich harvest, worship of the earth was arranged, which later on took the form of a festival. However, of late it has lost its agricultural character.


Alphaloni[90] is a most important day for Chakma people. During Alphaloni everyone takes a break from farming because it is harvest season. In Alphaloni all farmers take rest and also give rest to all animals, weapons of farmers. In this day they eat new food, fruits from jum (harvest), offer and share with each other. This day all people feel happy and enjoy with family, neighbors, relatives, etc. to offering new fruits from jum. It is a historical day for Chakma people; they have celebrated this festival for 2500 years.

It is an old tradition from the reign of King Śuddhodana, father of Siddhartha (Buddha). This is an old festival of 2500 years ago, when the prince Siddharta was meditating under a tree, while on the other side a celebration of the plough festival (Alphaloni) was being conducted by their farmer parents and relatives, etc.

During that time he was practicing meditation and seeking an end to all suffering.

Buddha Purnima[edit]

It is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Vaisakha.[91] It encompasses the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and passing away (Parinirvāna) of Buddha. On the day of the worship, devotees go to the monastery with Siyong (offerings of rice, vegetable and other fruits and confectioneries). The Buddhist monks known as Bhikkhu lead the devotees for the chanting of verses composed in Pali[92] in praise of the holy triple gem:[93] the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings), and the Sangha (his disciples). Apart from this, other practices such as lighting thousands of lamps and releasing Phanuch Batti (an auspicious lamp made of paper in the form of a balloon) are also done as and when possible.


Bamboo shoot is a traditional dish for the Chakma people. They call it "Bajchuri".[94] Shrimp paste and Fish paste are their traditional ingredient for cooking. They call these "Sidol".

The staple food of the Chakmas is rice, supplemented by millet, corn (maize), vegetables, and mustard. Vegetables include yams, pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers. Vegetables and fruit gathered from the forest may be added to the diet. Fish, poultry, and meat are eaten, despite the fact that many Buddhists are vegetarians.

Traditional diets have slowly been abandoned. Some typical Chakma dishes include fish, vegetables, and spices stuffed into a length of bamboo and cooked in a low fire; foods wrapped in banana leaves and placed beside a fire; and eggs that are aged until they are rotten.

Sports and games[edit]

Gudu hara, or Ha-do-do,[95] is a game played throughout the Chakma region. Two teams stand on either side of a central line. They take turns sending a player into opposing territory to touch as many people as he or she can during the space of one breath, while at the same time saying "Ha-do-do." If the player runs out of breath or is caught by his or her opponents, he or she is out. On the other hand, if the player successfully returns to his or her own territory, the players he or she has tagged must leave the game.

Ghilay Hara[citation needed] is a game that can be played between two teams or two individuals. A special type of seed called ghilay is used to play this game. Ghilay seeds are found and grown in wild forests of hills and are similar to bean seeds but bigger in size. When the time comes, the large beans dry out and the seeds known as ghilay are ready to be collected for use in the game.

Other pastimes include Nadeng Hara,[96] played with a spinning top, and various wrestling games. Potti Hara is a complex traditional game that is played by two teams. Due to how sophisticated its rules are, it's becoming less and less common.

These games are enjoyed by girls and boys alike, but in recent times their popularity among the young Chakma peoples has declined.

Notable people[edit]


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  2. ^ Islam, M Ataharul; Karmaker, Shamal Chandra (2012). "Population". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. The tribal population [of Bangladesh] in 2001 was 1.4 million, which was about 1.13% of the total population. The figure was 1.2 million in 1991, of which chakma population was 252,258 If the Chakma population grew at the same rate as the tribal population overall, their 2001 population in Bangladesh would have been about 288,300.
  3. ^ "Statistical Profile of Scheduled Tribes in India 2013" (PDF). Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Government of India. Mizoram: 19,554 ... Tripura: 18,014 ... Meghalaya: 44 ... Assam: 430 ... West Bengal: 211 Total population in India: 38,253.
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  5. ^ Library of Congress Subject Headings. Library of Congress. 1992. pp. 769–.
  6. ^ O'Brien, Sharon (2004). "The Chittagong Hill Tracts". In Dinah Shelton (ed.). Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity. Macmillan Library Reference. pp. 176–177.
  7. ^ "Hidden Bangladesh: Violence and Brutality in the Chittagong Hill Tracts". Amnesty International UK. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  8. ^ Gutman, Pamela (1976). Ancient Arakan. Australian National University Press. p. 14.
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  10. ^ Gazi NN, Tamang R, Singh VK, Ferdous A, Pathak AK, Singh M, Anugula S, Veeraiah P, Kadarkaraisamy S, Yadav BK, Reddy AG, Rani DS, Qadri SS, Singh L, Chaubey G, Thangaraj K (2013). "Genetic structure of Tibeto-Burman populations of Bangladesh: evaluating the gene flow along the sides of Bay-of-Bengal". PLOS ONE. 8 (10): e75064. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...875064G. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075064. PMC 3794028. PMID 24130682.
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  12. ^ Sir Arthur P.Phayre, Chief Commissioner of Burma. History of Burma. p. 79.
  13. ^ Astor, Diego de. "Descripção do Reino de Bengalla". Retrieved 24 August 2016 – via Library Catalog.
  14. ^ Sugata Chakma. Parbattya Chattagramer Upajati O Sangskriti. pp. 19–20.
  15. ^ Majumdar, R.C. (ed.) (2007). The Mughul Empire, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, ISBN 81-7276-407-1, p.230
  16. ^ Saradindu Shekhar Chakma. Ethnic Cleansing in Chittagong Hill Tracts. p. 23.
  17. ^ a b Earth Touch. Society for Environment & Human Development. 1998. p. 12.
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  19. ^ Government of Bangladesh. The District Gazetteer of Chittagong Hill Tracts. p. 35.
  20. ^ Suniti Bhushan Qanungo (1998). Chakma Resistance to British Domination 1772–1798. Chittagong: Suniti Bhushan Qanungo. p. 52. OCLC 54822598.
  21. ^ S. P. Talukder (1988). The Chakmas, Life and Struggle. Gian Publishing House. p. 36. ISBN 978-81-212-0212-1.
  22. ^ Biraj Mohan Dewan. Chakma Jatir Itibritto. p. 195.
  23. ^ S. P. Talukder (1988). The Chakmas, Life and Struggle. Gian Publishing House. p. 35. ISBN 978-81-212-0212-1.
  24. ^ a b Saradindu Shekhar Chakma. Ethnic Cleansing in Chittagong Hill Tracts. p. 29.
  25. ^ a b Saradindu Shekhar Chakma. Ethnic Cleansing in Chittagong Hill Tracts. p. 30.
  26. ^ The Weekly Kagoj, 9 May 1995
  27. ^ Saradindu Shekhar Chakma. Ethnic Cleansing in Chittagong Hill Tracts. p. 35.
  28. ^ a b Burjor Avari (2012). Islamic Civilization in South Asia: A History of Muslim Power and Presence in the Indian Subcontinent. Routledge. p. 245. ISBN 978-1-136-21226-0.
  29. ^ a b Bhumitra Chakma (2016). "The CHT and the Peace Process". In Ali Riaz; Mohammad Sajjadur Rahman (eds.). Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Bangladesh. Routledge. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-317-30877-5.
  30. ^ S. P. Talukdar (1988). The Chakmas, Life and Struggle. Gian Publishing House. p. 190. ISBN 978-81-212-0212-1.
  31. ^ Willem van Schendel (2005). The Bengal Borderland: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia. Anthem Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-1-84331-145-4.
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  33. ^ Jyrki Käkönen; Sanjay Chaturvedi (2005). Globalization: Spaces, Identities and (In)securities. New Delhi: South Asian Publishers. p. 239. ISBN 978-81-7003-284-7. The indigenous Jumma peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) consisting of Chakmas, Marmas, Tripuras, Khiyangs, Lushais, Khumis, Chaks, Murungs, Bowms and Pankoos, are not recongised by the Constitution of Bangladesh.
  34. ^ Chakma, Mahendra. "Open letter: Dear Rajnath Singh, the 'limited citizenship' for Chakmas is too little, too late". Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  35. ^ Satchidananda Dhar (1989). Religion in Socio Economic Life of India. Chatterjee Publisher. p. 107. ISBN 978-81-85089-00-3. After the partition of India in 1947, many Bengali Buddhists have migrated from the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) [to India] ... including the migration of the tribal Chakma Buddhists.
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  41. ^ Dipannita Chakraborty (2004). Land question in Tripura. New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House. p. 42. ISBN 978-81-87606-57-4. Religious persecution, ethnic violence which had its roots in economic reasons forced the Chakmas to enter India en masse ... 50,000 Chakma refugees entered Tripura in April, 1986 ... by July, 1989 their number rose to 67,000.
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  44. ^ Swan Sik (31 January 1994). Asian Yearbook of International Law: 1992. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 366–. ISBN 978-0-7923-2239-9.
  45. ^ Prithvi Ram Mudiam (2001). "Security in South Asia: Need for a New Definition". In Sudhir Jacob George (ed.). Intra and inter-state conflicts in South Asia. South Asian Publishers. p. 54. ISBN 978-81-7003-249-6. India's ... concession to Bangladesh over the sharing of the Ganga waters (12 December 1996) was reciprocated by the latter in signing an agreement with Chakma leaders (9 March 1997). It provided for the return of the Chakma refugees sheltered in Tripura to Bangladesh.
  46. ^ Chunnu Prasad (2010). "Refugees and Human Rights: Comparative Studies between Chakmas in India and Biharis in Bangladesh". In M. R. Biju (ed.). Developmental Issues in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Concept Publishing. p. 240. ISBN 978-81-8069-714-2.
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  48. ^ Salil Tripathi (2016). The Colonel Who Would Not Repent: The Bangladesh War and Its Unquiet Legacy. Yale University Press. pp. 280–281. ISBN 978-0-300-22102-2.
  49. ^ "The Raja who gave away his kingdom". The Express Tribune. 18 September 2012.
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  51. ^ Myron Weiner (1993). International Migration and Security. Westview Press. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-8133-8774-1. [The] Bangladesh government allocated funds to thousands of Bengali families to settle in the tracts, arguing that the area was less crowded than the rest of densely populated Bangladesh. By 1981 Bengali migrants constituted a third of the population of the tracts.
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  55. ^ Timothy L. Gall; Susan B. Gall, eds. (2012). Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1 (2nd ed.). UXL. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-4144-8671-0. In 1973, the Shanti Bahini (Peace Force) began to stage violent attacks against the government to try to win independence for the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
  56. ^ Willem van Schendel (2005). The Bengal Borderland: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia. Anthem Press. pp. 269–. ISBN 978-1-84331-145-4.
  57. ^ Girin Phukon (2002). Ethnicity and polity in South Asia. South Asian Publishers. p. 85.
  58. ^ "Remove name of Chakma king Tridib from structures". The Daily Star. 22 May 2017.
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Further reading[edit]

  • van Schendel, Willem (2002). "Bengalis, Bangladeshis, and Others: Chakma Visions of a Pluralist Bangladesh". In Jahan, Rounaq (ed.). Bangladesh: Promise and Performance. Dhaka: University Press. pp. 65–106. ISBN 978-984-05-1542-4.

External links[edit]