Tanchangya people

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Tanchangya women.jpg
Total population
51,773 [1]
Regions with significant populations

Majority populations in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh the Tanchangya reside in the Chittagong Hill Tracts area and also in India and Mayanmar
Theravada Buddhism

The Tanchangya 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 Swidden n cultivation). So, the word Tanchangya means Hill Swidden farmer. Arakanese Tanchangyas are also known as “Doingnak”. Tanchangyas are the 5th largest indigenous ethnic community in CHT. In 1869 DC of CHT Mr. Lewin renamed Tanchangyas and he wrote spelling “Toungjynya”. The Tanchangya living in the present Cox’s Bazar district. 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 (DU)]. 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 a 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 is 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). According to the report of Daily Prothom-alo the number of Tanchangya is 51,773 in CHT (Published on 3 February, 2012).

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.

Traditionally a Tanchangya woman wears colourful dresses and ornaments. The full dresses of Tanchangya women are known as “Paiet kapor”. That means the total dresses consists of five parts. These five parts are:

  • (1) “Pinon” which is seven colours with stripes.
  • (2) “Fadhuri” which used as belt.
  • (3) “Mada-kobong” which wearing upon head.
  • (4) “Khadi” as scarf.
  • (5) “Shaloom” just like blouse.

Tanchangya women also wear various ornaments. These are “Rajjur & Jhanga” for ears, “Baghor & Kuchikharu” for Wrists and “Tajjur” for arms, “Chandrahar, hachuli & Sikchara” for neck. These ornaments are made by mainly silver. Tanchangya men generally wear loincloth and long sleeve shirts.

Day by day Tanchangya songs and dance becomes famous. There are many Tanchangya musical instruments such as Bashi, Kengkrong, Chobuk, duduk etc.

Agriculture is the main occupation of Tanchangya peoples. Even today they do jhum cultivation and they cultivate paddy, ginger, garlic, bagurpada (e.g.coriander) etc. on hill slopes. Literacy among Tanchangyas is low. A few of them serve in government and non-government organizations.

Tanchangyas celebrate 'Bishu' as a main enjoyable festival on the end and beginning of the Bengali new year. “Pachon” is a special item for Bishu. “Pachon” is a mixed vegetable with dried fishes etc. Now-a-days “Bishu mela” were organized in Tanchangyas localities. “Ghila kala”, “Nahdeng kala” “Gudhu kala” etc. are the Tanchangyas Traditional sports.

Tanchangya peoples are religiously Buddhists and observe religious rites such they worshipping Gautom Buddha and listening Buddha sermons. Tanchangyas also maintains the kathino chivar dan, Buddha purnima, maghi purnima etc. They have at least one Buddhist viharas in their own localities.

Upon the death of an individual, the body is bathed and covered with a white cloth. People pray for the departed soul in presence of monks. The eldest son or a close relative of the deceased then shifts the body to the funeral pyre. The next day, they collect the burnt bones in a pot and cover it with a piece of cloth. Then they throw the burnt bones into a river.

The male children of a deceased Tanchangya father divide the property equally among themselves. The daughters cannot claim any share of the property except when they have no brothers. If the deceased father has no children, an adopted son inherits all the property. If a wife is separated when she is pregnant and if she gives birth to a male child, he will inherit her ex-husband's property. If someone dies as a bachelor or without any children, his property will go to his brothers.

Today, Tanchangya is a developing ethnic community on the international level. Nowadays many Tanchangyas are service people and professionals such as doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers etc. They also are trying hard to become retail traders. To get more information about the Tanchangya peoples, Alphabets & Language please visit http://www.utacf.org/


  1. ^ Prothom Alo 3rd Feb, 2012 Newspaper [1]

Tanchangya Academic & Cultural Forum (UTACF)