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Indigenous Communities in Bangladesh

Indigenous Communities in Bangladesh

Different ethnic groups of Bangladesh and their colorful lifestyles have significantly enriched the entire culture of Bangladesh. For centuries, Bangladesh has been the dwelling place of different ethnic groups. In fact, 35 smaller groups of indigenous people covering about two percent of the total population have been living in different pockets of the hilly zones and some areas of the plain lands of the country. Their historical background, economic activities, social structure, religious beliefs and festivals make them distinctive.

The beauty of the hilly zones as well as the plain areas has been enhanced by the rich culture and traditional practices of different ethnic groups, like the Mandi & Hajong in the northern part, the Manipuri & Khasia in the northeast, the Chakma, Tripura, Marma, Rakhain, Mru, Tanchyanga, Murong in the eastern & southeastern parts, the Santal & Rajbangshi in the western part of the country.

Almost all tribal languages have rich folk literatures, consisting of poems, songs, fairy tales and legends relating to their past nomadic life. There are plenty of narratives, similar to the Maimensingha Gitika, in the Mogh, Chakma, Khasia and Garo languages.The folk tales of the tribal languages have similarities with those in Bangla.The ballads in some of the languages of the Himalayan foothills are similar to those in Bangla folk literature. Their linguistic aspects are similar to those of early Bangla. The rhymes in Bangla and the tribal languages are similar in subject, rhythm and vocabulary.


The Chakma:

Chakmas are found in Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. They are also found in North east India. The Chakmas are the largest ethnic group in Chittagong Hill Tracts. They are Buddhist in religion. They have their own language which is Chakma Language. The language is closely related to Bengali. The Chakma's are a people with their own culture, folklore, literature and traditions. The Chakma women wear an ankle length cloth around the waist which is a called Finon and a Hadi, wrapped above the waist as well as silver ornaments. Bizu is the main festival of The Chakmas. It’s a three days long festival. It’s a public holiday in Chittagong hill tracks.


The Marmas:

The Marmas are the second largest ethnic minority in Bangladesh. Most Marmas live in the three hill districts of Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari. Some Marmas, however, live in the coastal districts of Cox's Bazar and Patuakhali.



Oraon, the Proto-Australian origin. The Oraon people are short and black in complexion. Their noses are flat and their hair black and curled. In the subcontinent, they live mostly in Orissa, Chotonagpur, Rajmahal & the adjoining areas of Bihar. According to anthropologists, Oraons, mundas, Malpaharis and santals belong to the same group of aborigine people. From the point of view of language too, they belong to the same Austric family. Many specialists consider that the word Oraon is a distorted form of a totem in the ancient Kurukh language. There is no concrete evidence on how and since when Oraons have settled in the Bangladesh territory. At present, they live in North Bengal. Population census conducted later did not treat the Oraons as a separate tribe & therefore it was difficult to ascertain their number. The 1991 census however, recorded their number in Bangladesh at about six thousand.


The Garos:

According to one such oral tradition, the Garos first came to Meghalaya from Tibet about 400 (BC) years ago under the leadership of Jappa Jalimpa, crossing the Brahmaputra River and tentatively settling in the river valley. It is said that they were later driven up into the hills by other groups in and around the Brahmaputra River. Various records of the tribe by invading Mughal armies and by British observers in what is now Bangladesh wrote of the brutality of the people.

They are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world. Most of the Garos are Christian in religion. They use a native language which is the Garo language. Both men and women wear ornaments likely Nadongbi, Nadirong, Natapsi, Jaksan ect. Wangala is the main festival of them. Most of the Garo architectures are of similar type. They normally use locally available building materials like timbers, bamboo, cane and thatch. A Garo village is a well-knit unit, the population consisting of one domiciled Ma’chong or lineage of a Chatchi or clan, which has proprietary rights over the entire land of the village or A’king, as it is called.


The Murongs:

Murongs are one of the famous tribes of aborigines of Arakan and two Murong Kings ruled Arakan in the tenth century AD. Murongs live in Lama, Ruma, Alikadam and Thanchi upazilas near Chimbuk Mountain of Bandarban district. They speak in their own Mru Language.


The Tanchangya:

Tanchangya people are found in Rangamati district in Chittagong-Hill tracks. They are Buddhist in religion. Tanchangya is used as their language. Traditionally a Tanchangya woman wears colourful dresses and ornaments. The full dresses of Tanchangya women are known as “Paiet kapor”, which consists of five parts. Tanchangya women also wear various ornaments. Tanchangya has their own music, day by day it is getting famous in modern world. There are many Tanchangya musical instruments such as Bashi, Kengkrong, Chobuk, Duduk etc. Bishu the Bengali new year and the Buddha Purnima are the main festival of these people.


The Rakhain:

The Rakhain, belonging to the Bhotbarmi community of the Mongoloids, came from the land Rakhain Pre, which is now known as Arakan in Myanmar. The word Rakhain originates from the word Rakshan, which means the people who preserve and safeguard their heritage and culture.


The Manipuris:

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.


The Boms:

The Tribal peoples have their individual language & unique traditions. The Bom is one of the prominent ethnic tribes . This image is captured from Munlai Para a Tribal Village situated 2-3 hrs. walking distance from Ruma Bazar, Bandarban. this Indigenous women provides for her family by selling woven cloths. Handicraft & cottage industries play a vital role in sustaining the cultural heritage of Bangladesh.


The Khasia:

'Better the dance, better the crop...' a saying of the Khasias, one of the ethnic groups of Bangladesh. Earlier, Khasia people used to live along the northeast border of Sunamganj district. At present they are spread over Bishwamvarpur, Tahirpur and Chhatak in Sunamganj. Most Khasias live in the border region. Many Khasia children are found working in the tea gardens in Kulaura.


The Tripuras:

The Tripuras are another large ethnic group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region. At present they live in CHT, especially in Ramgarh and Khagrachhari. It is also believed that Tripuras currently living in Bangladesh originally came from the Indian state of Tripura. The number of Tripuras in Chittagong Hill Tracts areas was close to 80,000 in 1991, and it has no doubt increased considerably by this time.


The Mandis:

Mandis are short but usually have stout bodies with wide chest and thick arms and legs. They live in different areas of Bangladesh and in the adjacent parts of India. Their faces are round, black hair and eyes, deep eyebrows, small eyes, flat noses and high jaws. Beards rarely grow on their cheeks and they have almost no hair on their body. Their skin is yellow and smooth.


The Santals or Saontals:

Santals are one of the most known tribal & largely seen in the northern districts of Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Naogaon, Thakurgaon, Panchagar in Bangladesh. Santals believe in supernatural beings and ancestral spirits. Santali rituals consist mainly of sacrificial offerings and invocations to the spirits. They use the language is the Santal language. The Santals have their own music style which one differs from Indian Classical and Western music. For example Sohrai tunes, which is sung at the Sohrai festival.


Contributed By Messbaul Alam

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Contributed By Messbaul Alam