Meet the ethnic communities of Chittagong Hill Tracts
It is not only the landscapes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts that are dramatically different from the plains, but the original inhabitants are also spectacularly different from the overwhelming majority of Bengali folks. A dozen or so mongoloid races (known as Adivasi) are the original inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari.
The lifestyle and culture of the ethnic communities are very different from that of the Bangladeshi people of the plains. Some tribal groups are matriarchal, and most make their homes from bamboo and raw wood, covered by thatched roofs of dried straw and leaves. Most tribes are Buddhist, Animist, or Hindu, though small numbers have embraced Christianity.
Ethnic communities are different from each other, having their own distinctive rituals, rites, languages, and dress. Tribal women are exceptionally skilled in making handicrafts, while some men take pride in hunting with bows and arrows.
The earliest ethnic people to move into the Hill Tracts were the Kuki group – that is Lushai, Pankhu, Mro, Kyang, Khumi, and Bawms. A second migration was made by the Tripura group formed by Murung and Tripura. The last group was of Arakan origin: Ryang, Chakma, and Marma. (Source: Haque, 2001; p 50) As a result of Burmese invasions, by the end of the 18th century two-thirds population of Arakan fled to the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Comparatively, the Chakmas and Marmas came in recent times. (As Haque states, 2001, p 50): “The Chakmas were ousted by the Marmas from Arakan and entered into the Chittagong Hills. The Kuki tribes yielded to the Chakmas and went to the northeast. The Chakmas finally settled in the central and northeastern parts of the hills while their former territory was occupied by the Marmas.
Chakma or Changma Tribe
The Chakma are the largest and more than half the combined tribal population in Bangladesh. They are scattered around the three hill districts of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). They anthropologically belong to the Mongolian race having identical reflection on their appearance; round shape face, rosy lips, black eyeballs, yellow skin tone and straight hair with fewer beards and moustache. There are 450000 Chakma inhabitants within the hilly area of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and Cox's Bazar of Bangladesh. An estimated 250000 Chakma spread over the states of Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh in India. And a small number in Burma (Myanmar).
The Chakma language belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages family. Some important old puthis (a writing or book of poetic fairy tales and religious stories) are surviving in this language. ‘Chadigang’ Chara Pala is one of them, was written on palm leaf. The local Chittagonian dialect has influenced the Chakma language. They have their own alphabets for writing, similar to the alphabets of Thailand’s Ksmer, Syam, Cambodia, Annam Laos, South Burma and south India (of the sixth and seventh centuries). There are many songs written and composed in colloquial Chakma language. Chakma folk literature is also very rich, ‘ubhagit’ is the famous traditional Chakma folk song.
Bijhu is the main socio-religious festival, the Chakmas celebrate Bijhu festival with great fanfare during the last two days of the outgoing year and the first day of the Bengali new year. The first day is phul bijhu, the second day is mul bijhu, and the New Year’s Eve is gojyai pojya. They wear new dresses and visit each other’s houses and feast, wish their seniors by bowing heads to senior’s feet to seek blessings, peace and prosperity. The Chakma people also celebrate Nuavat, Chamn Ona, Fanach Batti Orana, Ahjar Batti Jalana, Ahl Paloni, Byuha Chakra, Kathin Chiber Dan, Garitana, Maghi Purnima, Madhu Purnima, Boishakhi Purnima festivals throughout the year.
The Chakmas are Theravada Buddhism for a few centuries. They are nature-worshiper and also believes in the power of nature, ghosts and evil spirits. They also believe in rebirth; all humans, sub humans, animals, birds and insects are born according to their past life activities. The Chakma tribe burns the death on all days except Wednesday. The family members of the deceased gifts some money on the chests of the dead body because he/ she would need this money for ferry crossing on the way to heaven. After returning home from the pyre, they prepare some foods of bitter taste so that they do not face such bitter incidents in future.
Marma Tribe (also known as Mag, Mogh, Mug)
The Marma Tribe are the second largest tribal community. About 350,000 Marma people live in Bangladesh; Khagrachhari, Rangamati and Bandarban are the primary residing area, and a small number lives around Cox's Bazar and Patuakhali coastal region. In contrast, some others groups live in the Tripura state of India and Myanmar.
Marmas are Mongoloid and culturally very close to the Rakhine communities in the Arakan State of Myanmar; relatively shorter in heights, they have prominent cheekbones, yellow skin tone, black hair, small eyes and snub noses. They have been practising Buddhism and Animism for ages. The Marma owe loyalty to the Bohmong Chief – Bohmongri, who traces his lineage from Burmese generals (Prue, U Tun.1994 as in Poingjra; p 28 and Appendix-1).
The Marma language is Sino-Tibetan or Trans-Himalayan language family, and have their own alphabets to write. Marmas are mostly bilingual, fluent in standard and Chittagonian Bangla dialects. However, Marma maintains their language strictly but is inclined to mainstream Bangla-medium schools for their children to enjoy the higher social status, smarter communication in offices and other essential places. They are highly fond of music and literature in their own language.
Marma people are pretty simple on their food habit; rice and boiled vegetables are major food items; dried fish paste (Nappi) is also a favourite. They love homemade rice beer and smoking their self-grown special tobacco. Monogamy and cross-cousin marriages are a predominant feature of Marmar society.
Swidden or shifting agriculture is the primary way of living. Home gardening, fruit and wood tree plantation, horticulture is also typical besides hand weaving, beautiful Basketry, Wag labour and brewing. Marma family is patriarchal, and the family bonding is pretty strong. The century-old Sangrai festival is the most important four days event. They believe that the holy water takes away all the illness, sorrows and pure up the body and soul. The Marma would greet even strangers with a splash of holy water. The culture of Marma is unique and fascinating.
Tripura Tribe, also known as Tipra, Tripuri
The Tripura are the third largest tribal community in Bangladesh, with 61129 people (census of 1991). The Tripur Tribes are scattered in different regions of Bangladesh, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Sitakunda, Mirsarai, Bilonia of Noakhali, Comilla, Chandpur, Srimangol, Moulavibazar, Faridpur, Rajbari and in Dhaka. There are thirty-six clans or groups in the Tripura society.
The Tripura language is called ‘Kokborok’ belongs to the ‘Bodo’ and ‘Kukichin’ language of the Assamese-Burmese branch of the Tibetan-Burmese language family of the Mongolian race. Tripuras are originally Hindu by religion. Recently, a group has embraced Christianity (Roman Catholic). The Hindu branch of Tripura worships all typical Hindu goddess and also worship the Gomoti River, known as Tripura Sundari or daughter of the hills.
Shifting cultivation (Jhum) is dominant hill farming to support their livelihood. They have also adopted wage labour, animal husbandry, cultivation of annual monocrops and extraction and selling of forest products.
The Tripura social structure is patriarchal, and they use their mother’s family titles. The father is usually the head of the family, and the eldest son takes it over in his absence. Music, dance and songs are an essential part of Tripura culture. Dance performance, vocal and instrumental music is a common ritual for any ceremony in Tripura culture. They slaughter a cock near the deceased’s feet, and after a holy bath, the body is carried to the funeral ground by hand made bamboo coffin, and a thin white thread is stretched from the house to the pyre ground. In case of any diseases or accidental death, the body is buried. The dead body of a child is often buried; in some cases, the body is kept in a cage and hung at the top of a tree into the deep forest.
Tanchangya Tribe, a branch of Chakma
The Tangchangyas are Mongoloid origin and culturally closely related to the Chakma. They live in the hilly forest of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and they are about 31,164 people in Bangladesh (census of 2001). Tanchangyas are scattered around the Arakan Province of Myanmar; in Arunachal, Mizoram and Tripura states of India; in the Ukhia and Teknaf area of Cox's Bazar, in the Rashyabili (Rangunia Upazila) of Chittagong and in Bandarban, Khagrachhari, Rangamati areas of Bangladesh.
It is said that the Chakma King Arunyug (Iongya) was defeated by the Arakan Mengodi King Rajangyachhangrai in 1333-1334 A.D., corresponding to 695 Moghabda (The Moghi era), and was arrested with ten thousand soldiers, including his family. The tenants of the defeated Chakma King left the place and proceeded towards the Chittagong hill tracts. These ten thousand soldiers were acquainted as ‘Doingnag’ (Shield bearers/ fighters) in Arakan. These Doingnags are now known as Tanchangya. There are twelve clans or gachcha in Tanchangyas society.
The Tanchangya language is rooted in Indo-Aryan languages, with a mixture of Pali, Sanskrit, Prakrit closely related to Chakma and Chittagonian local Bangla. They have their own alphabets, which is the southern Brahmic family of scripts and known as Ka-Pat. They are Theravada Buddhism and believe in the existence of god and goddesses. Still, elements of Hinduism and animism can be found in their religious thoughts.
Tanchangya womenfolk can be easily distinguished because of their unique dress and hairstyle. The Tanchangya lady wears long-sleeved shirts/blows called Keboi with colourful stitched motifs of foliage at the edges of sleeves and on shoulder plates. The lower part of their body is wrapped with hand-woven seven coloured fabric called Pinuen or Pinon with floral decoration white belt (faduri).
They have a customary wedding system and are solemnized in their society in three different ways. (1) the bright groom goes to the bride’s house, which is the traditional way of a wedding. They are primarily farmers, cultivate the highest parts of the hills. Rice is the main crop, although pumpkins, cotton, maize, cucumbers, yams, and many tropical fruits are also grown. Almost every family has a dog as a family friend and security. The women also help the men in the fields, and the men assist in caring for children.
Chak Tribe, also spelt as Sak, Tsak, Thak, Asak
Not much research has been done on the Chak livelihood. The Chak people of western Myanmar and southeast Bangladesh comprise one of the globally least known Buddhist Tribal communities. A few centuries ago, they came to the Chittagong Hill Tracts from the upper regions of the Irrawaddy River of Myanmar through Arakan. The Chak people in both CHT and Arakan also identify themselves as SAK or ASAK. According to the census of 1991, there were only 2000 Chak population within Bandarban and Rangamati. They are sometimes confused with the Chakma. The Chak people live their life from simple agriculture and hunting. They rarely go outside their territory because of the political instability outside. The Chak community prefer calmness and living in the remote area, and they do not like to be associated with settlers from outside their community.
The Ethnology lists the Chak community but does not identify the linguistic family of the language. It can be a part of the Tibeto-Burman family, related to other minor languages such as Thet and Dainet. The Chak Tribes are not the same as the largest Chakma Buddhist Tribe, who speak from the Indo-European language family. The Chak ladies wear two inches diameter silver earrings called ‘Natong’. It is one of their most crucial traditional heritage for thousands of years. The Chak community is divided into two clans; 1. Ando and 2. Ngarek.
They marry between Marma and Chakma tribes. The Chak community have a vast knowledge of natural medicine resources. They only depend on nature for their traditional medicine to cure any diseases. To know about the medicinal plants of this tribe, an expert team had recently conducted an ethnobotanical survey. Interviews of Chak traditional healers were conducted in the Chak language, and detailed information on the usage of medicinal plant species to treat various diseases was noted. Plant specimens were photographed, collected and identified at the Bangladesh National Herbarium. A total of 47 plants belonging to 31 families were recorded. The diseases for which the various plants or plant parts were used included eczema, scabies, abscess, boils, ear disorders, ringworm, jaundice, intestinal worms, stomach pain, dysentery, constipation, bloating, throat ache, acidity, pneumonia, cough, fevers and pains, mucus, tonsillitis, urinary disorders like burning sensation during urination and frequent urination, as well as rheumatism, menstrual pain, vomiting, vertigo, wounds, toothache, bone fractures, tumour, cancer, impotency, snake, animal and insect bites, frequent thirsts, malaria, kidney stones, oedema, allergy and elephantids.
Khumi Tribe also spelt as Khami, Kami
These marginalized indigenous communities live on the mountainsides of Ruma, Rowangchhari and Thanchi area of Bandarban in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Khumi tribe are Mongoloid race and migrated to Karpas Mahal (old name for the Chittagong Hill Tracts) from Arakan by the end of the 17th century. Still, there are many Khumis in Burma (Myanmar). They are also called Khami, which means the best race. Kha means 'man' and mi means 'best'. The Arakanese call Khumi Khemi, which indicates a race of very low social status. Khe means dog, and mi expresses 'race' - in the Arakanese language. There are about 1241 Khum people in Bangladesh, according to the 1991 census. The Khumi tribes are respectful to the state laws and the Bomong King, who rules Bandarban. This minority tribal group is very independent, predatory and love wars. Their weapons are daos, guns, javelins and similar types of arms.
They have an oral dialect of the Kuki Chin language family. They do not want any non-khumi people to learn their dialect. Neither they want to learn any other language. The Khumi social structure is patriarchal, and they have two clans; Awa Khumi, and Aphya Khumi. Marring within the same clan is prohibited. Premarital sex among young people is accepted, but they have to marry if their premarital intercourse resulted in a pregnancy.
Khumi male wears long narrow buttocks clothes (lengti). They keep a part of the lengti hanging in the back and front sides below the waist. They also wear white turbans and bear long hair. Khumi women wear a 9 – 14 inches wide piece of cloth, known as wanglai. Women usually do not cover the upper part of their body but hang ornaments of puti and silver from the neck.
The Khumi people believe in Buddhism, Karma, Christianity and nature-worshipping. They pay respect to Pathian, the master of the universe. The other two gods they honour are Bogley, the god of water and Nadag, the household deity. A boar, a dog, and an odd number of hens and cocks are offered as a sacrifice on the riverbank and ceremonially sing and dance during Nadag festival, before Jhum cultivation and harvest. A small portion of sacrificial stewed meat is placed on the riverbank before they consume.
They like building houses on top of trees into the deep forest. Rice is their staple food, and wine is an essential part of Khumi culture. They use wine for household affairs, worship and as occasional drinks. They eat the meat of any domestic and wild animals within their reach.
Khyang Tribe also spelt as Khyen
Their number in Bangladesh was 1950, according to the 1991 census. At present, the Khyang population in Bangladesh would be between 2500-4500 only. Some hundred years ago, the defeated Khyang king fled to the Chittagong Hill Tracts from Arakan along with his two queens, among whom the younger queen was pregnant. Three or four months later, the King went back to Burma and left behind his younger queen in this land. The troops/followers stayed behind with the younger queen called 'Moo - Jookhiang' or Khyang'. However, the literature of the Burmese history tells that the Kachin or Kakhyang clan migrated here from Kachin hill areas in the late eighteenth century.
Burmese pronunciation of the word ‘Khyang’, appears to be “Chhyang’. Therefore, the British people have documented them as ‘Chin’. They are a Mongoloyed race, has got a charming appearance. The beautiful Khyang ladies used to be kidnapped by Burmese and other tribal men in the past. Therefore, the Khyang ladies used to make various kind of tattoos on the face to camouflage their beauty.
The Khyang tribe has a spoken language belonging to the Kuki-Chin race of the Tibeto Brahma branch of the China-Tibetian language family. With the variation of pronunciation, a single word of the Khyang language can communicate a different meaning, i.e. ‘Chee’ means elder sister, and ‘Chi’ means filter or salt.
The Kheyang were nature worshippers, and later they have converted to Buddhism. During the British colonial period, a group of Khyang tribe have converted to Christianity. Sanglan is the significant religious festival of this tribe, and the celebration begins with the offering of worship for Gautam Buddha. They like to live near streams or fountains and on open hilltops. They are Jhum (Swidden) farmer by profession. Men wear a shirt and a short Lengti; they also use silver made bungles and earrings. Khyang men like to keep long hair and maintain it like women. Khyang women wear blouse and lungi for clothing and use various traditional jewelries. The Khyang society is patriarchal. They cremate the dead bodies through some customary rites.
Lushai Tribe also known as Kuki, Mizo
Lu means 'head', and Shai means 'Cut'. The Lushai tribes were ferocious, and they used to hunt for human skulls. Therefore, they were dreaded by other tribal groups. Lushai ethnic community belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group of the Cino-Tibetan community, speaks the Kuki-Chin family language, and uses the roman alphabets for writings. They are living in the hilly regions of Bandarban and Rangamati hill districts. Lushai population was 1098 according to the 1981 census, but the number showed as 622 on the 1991 census of 124 households in Bangladesh. Their population went down in Bangladesh due to migrating to their ancestors in the neighbouring Mizoram State of India.
Many Lushei tribes have also fled to Myanmar (Burma) to settle there and hunt. Many people regard Lushei and Lushai as the same, but Lushei is the name of a tribal community, while Lushai means a group of tribal communities living in Mizoram. Lushai lives on Jhum (Swidden) cultivation and hunting animal and consumes meats of any kind.
They believed in the creator or ‘Pathien’ but never believed in hell or heaven. They always had a belief after death, a person is possessed by an incorporeal evil spirit or ghost and uses him/ her the way the evil spirit wishes. At present, they are Christians and are no longer the head hunters. Early 19th century, the Lushei groups used to raid villages in Sylhet, Kachar, Noakhali, Chittagong and CHT and kidnap other people and force them to work for Lushei tribes in their farms. The two British generals led an expedition against the Lushei communities in 1871. The Lushei tribe have a patriarchal society. They never had a king of their own in the past. Every village has a chief, and he is known as Lal.
In case of natural death, the body would be buried in the village. The death by fatal disease would be buried outside the village. In case of accidental death, the body is taken to a distant jungle to suppress. This death customary is maintained so that the deceased’s spirit would not bring any harm to villagers. While an honourable person or Sarder (leader) dies, a coffin would be made out of a large tree and keep the body for one or several months. After a month, they would open the coffin to collect the skull, arms and backbones and preserved them in the house as a token of the family with sufficient respect. These customs have been gradually disappearing from society.
Mro Tribe also called Mru or Mrbo
Mros were driven out from Arakan by powerful Khumi tribes in the 14th century. The Mro population in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in 1956 was 17000 and 20,000 in the 1981 census. They mainly depend on hunting, but some are engaged in Jhum cultivation, jautha khamar (collective farming) and gardening. Migratory instincts have prevented this community from developments in their daily life. Mro women are very strong and active in economic activities.
Mro men wear lengti – a strip of cloth around the waist, passed between the legs. The Mro females use a small (6 inches wide and hand-embroidered in the centre) piece of dark blue cloth to cover the lower private part of the body. The women hardly cover their upper part. They bind their hairs on the left – backside of the head. Mro tribe use different natural colours to decorate their body; both young male and female colour their lips.
Mro language is Tibeto-Burman language family. The Mro vocabulary, grammar, and syntax match the Kuki-Chin languages of northwestern Myanmar (Burma) and northeastern India. Nowadays, some Mro people are receiving modern education at government and NGO schools. The Mro society is patriarchal, but women play a dominant role. The youngest son inherits a significant portion of his parent’s property because the parent will be living with him at their old age, and he has to look after all their needs.
Mro mythology explains, the religious book that their god sent to their forefathers was in the form of scriptures inscribed on banana leaves. A messenger was given the holy book and some clothes for Mro women to wear. During his journey, the messenger took a break on a riverbank and went for a bath leaving the clothes and holy book on the shore. He found a cow had eaten up the entire holy book and swallowed the clothe’s major portion. That is why the Mro people were left without a formal religion, and their ladies got to wear only a few clothes.
Therefore, Mro people ceremoniously punish a cow every year for his mistake. They hit the cow with painted bamboo sticks till blood flows and dies. Gradually all the meats are cut off and cooked, and then the villagers sit in a circle for a big feast. Mros dispose of the dead body by burning and burying both, according to ability. The Mro community pay tribute to the Bohmong chief.
Pankho Tribe also spelt as Pangkhu, Pangkhua or Pankhoa
'Pang' means 'Silk – cotton flower' and 'Khoa' means 'Village', the word ``Pankhoa' stands for ``A village of silk - cotton flower' in Pankho Language, as they lived and economy base on the silk - cotton hills. They are a sub-branch of the Mongoloid race and have many similarities with Banajogi tribe in social lifestyle and language. Several hundred years ago, Pankhos had driven out from their original home Myanmar (Burma) and settled in the CHT region. They live in Sajek Hills, Baraharina, Kolabanya, Dumdamya, Shaichal or Borkol, Fakirachhara, and Shublong reserve forest of Jurachhari, Shakrachhari and Faroa areas of Bilaichhari in the CHT.
The Pankho have their own language, belongs to the South Kuki-China group, one of the Tibetan-Burmese group of languages family. There are no writing scripts, but there is no deficiency of poems and songs in these languages, incredibly romantic songs.
The Pankho tribe claim to be Buddhists and nature worshipper. They pay homage to Patyen, the creator of the Universe and their main god. They also worship Khojing – the god of the forest, who look after Jhum agriculture. The Pankho tribes are farmers by profession; Jhum (Swidden) cultivation is still widely practised. Pankho women are very hardworking and take equal part in all family and agricultural works. Wine is an integral part of Pankho culture. The flesh of the Tiger and Chitah is forbidden because they are the pets of ‘Khojing’.
The Pankho men wear a long piece of fabric similar to the dhuti, and the women wear pirhan or piran, which is identical to the dress of Chakma ladies. They have different distinctive styles of hair-dressing. Pankho society is patriarchal, and women play an essential role in society. Marriage between the same clans is not accepted, and a parent’s permission is always necessary for a wedding.
Murong Tribe also spelt as, Mrong, Murang, Mrung
The two Murong kings, A-Mya-Thu (957) and Pai-Phyu (964), ruled Arakan in the tenth century when Wathaly was the capital city of Arakan. After a bloody war with the Khumis on the bank of the Koladain. Defeated Murong was ousted to CHT sometime between the 17th and 18th centuries. They now live in Ruma, Lama, Thanchi, Alikadam, near Chimbuk Mountain of Bandarban hill district. They were 22,041 (Census 1991) in CHT.
Murong society is patriarchal. They have few clans and many sub-clans. Marriage between the same clan is not allowed. A young couple may not be allowed to marry from two different clans involved in war even after entering into a peace agreement and becoming friends; such a situation has driven them to brotherhood in practice. Therefore, their children are not allowed to marry each other. Once a couple is selected to unite, they would slaughter a cock in the couple’s presence. Someone would dip his middle finger into the blood flow and anoints the forehead of the groom and bride, and the couple is declared as husband and wife. Divorce is allowed, but the husband cannot divorce without a genuine reason. A man divorcing his wife without any valid reason would leave him alone in a deep jungle only with an axe to guard himself against wild animals.
Most of the Murongs are Buddhists, and recently some group has converted to Christianity. However, in general, they are still animists and nature worshipper. They pay homage to ‘Thurai’ as the founder of this Universe. All their pujas (prayers) are directed to Oreng, the God of household and day-to-day business. The Murong tribe observe ‘Kumlang’ puja (prayer) by ceremonially killing a cow before the Jhum harvest. Jhum cultivation and wood lumbering from the jungle is their main professions. The Murong women work harder than the men. They have an oral language but no written scripts. They love dances and songs.
Murong uses and makes their musical instruments from bamboo and wood. The flute is the dominant instrument. Murong dances have four classes: Chat Chet Plee, Plees Pleesing, Rowlata Ting Plee and Dengram Tek Plee. Rice dishes and homemade beer are their main food and drink. They eat almost any living things, but Nappi is a delicacy; made of fermented fat of frog, fish, boar or deer mixed with fermented rice. Murong women wear a handwoven short skirt, and men wear lengti.
Bawm Tribe also Spelt as Bom, Bum, Baum, Bam
Bawm tribes are Mongolian stock and have a similar appearance to the Marma and the Chakma. The word 'Bawm' means ties. The concept of such tie or bonding has developed from their culture of doing all collective things of life, including eating - drinking, singing - dancing, hunting and offering homage to gods and goddesses. Under the leadership of a Bawm leader named Liankong during 1838-1839 A.D, the Bawms entered into the CHT with the permission of the ten Bohmang Kings. There are 1,349 Bawm families in CHT with a total population of 6,978, according to the census of 1991. Naturally, they are very gentle. They do not like to go to court or to any government agency to settle their disputes. They regulate their life and privacy according to their own customary laws.
The Arakanese and Marmas of the Bandarban district call the Bawms Langay or Langi. They have little more interaction with Bangalis than any other hill tribes. Jhum (Swidden) cultivation on the slopes of hills is the primary profession for their lifestyle. They are proud of their hunting skill, their second profession, and the Bawm tribe eats anything that has a soul. They grow various rice, papaya, banana, seasonal vegetables and some tropical fruits.
Bawm tribe love to live in dense forests and seldom come to the plain land area. The lack of land for Jhum (slash-and-burn agriculture) cultivation and continuous deforestation has affected their lifestyle to a great extent. New generations of the Bawm tribes are attending schools. The Bawm have been converting to Christianity since the middle of the 19th century, and now almost all of them have become Christians.
Bawm society is patriarchal. They speak their own language belongs to the Kuki-chin group of a language family. The bamboo dance is a significant component in Bawm culture, only performed when there is a tragedy in the family, especially in the case of unnatural death. Through this dance, they console their families.
Rakhain or Rakhaine tribe - a branch of Marma
The Rakhain tribes are Arakan origin ethnic group belonging to the Bhotbarmi community of the Mongoloid race. The word 'Rakhain' is originated from the Pali word arakhah, which means 'protector' (Rakshok or Rok-khok). Many consider that Rakhain and Marmas are in fact, have the exact ethnic origin. A group of Rakhains started living in Ramu and its adjacent areas in CHT in the 15th century. In the 18th century, Many Rakhain people migrated from Arakan because of political turbulence and gradually settled in CHT and Patuakhali. There were 4,049 Rakhain tribes in the Patuakhali in 1872. The population increased to 16,394 in 1951 but decreased to 3,713 in 1979. According to the census of 1991, the number of Rakhain people in Bangladesh was about 7,000. More than 80% of them live in Ramu, Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Manikchhari and Teknaf.
The Rakhain spoken language belongs to the Bhotbarmi group of Indo-Mongoloid language family. Rakhain scripts have a recorded history of about six thousand years. A stone inscription with Rakhain alphabets kept at an archaeological site in east Arakan. Rakhain children receive linguistic and religious education at Khyangs (monastery) or Buddhist Patshalas (community pre-primary school). The literacy rate of the Rakhain community is very high, and many of them are highly educated and are involved in various professions.
Rakhain men wear fatua (shirt) and lungi (a fabric tube) while the women wear hand-embroidered lungis and blouses and use various types of ornaments and flowers. Marriage is a social and religious obligation, and guardians used to arrange marriages in the past. Nowadays, love marriages are widespread and well-accepted. Rakhain society is Patriarchal.
Farming is the primary profession of Rakhain community. The Male and female take part in agricultural work. They also make salt and molasses and are very good at weaving and sewing. Women take the leading role in poultry and animal husbandry. Rice, fish, daal (lentils) and vegetables are the essential food. They consume all commonly found meats; dried fish and pork are special and occasional.
Rakhains are Buddhists by religious faith, believe in magic, supernatural powers and superstitions. They live a simple lifestyle. The birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha is their main religious festival. They also celebrate the Maghi Purnima, Prabarana Purnima, Baishakhi and the spring festival.