Tribal life in Bangladesh.

Tribal life in Bangladesh.


The tribes of Bangladesh live in the Chittagong hill tracts region mostly, but they are also found in different parts of the country. The life of the tribal people is very authentic. Buddhists are the majority and the rest are Hindus, Christian, and Animists. The uniqueness of lifestyle, elements of primitiveness, strong bondage of religion that reflects in their rites, rituals and day to day life. Generally, in Bangladesh the tribal families are matriarchal. The history of women is more hard-working than males and they are the main driving force of society.  

The is one of the specialties of the Bangladesh tribe community is they are very much self-depended., the tribal girls weave their own clothes, grow their own food and mostly speaking in their own language. They try to live a simple life and each tribe has its own dialects, font, own way of writing, distinguishing dress, and rites and rituals. Their way of life is the most highlighting pint and some of them are still habituated to hunt with bows and arrows like a medieval period. Women are very expert in making beautiful handicrafts that they export to the main city and earn a big amount of remittance. They are generally peace-loving, honest, and hospitable in nature and always greet a tourist with a smile. The worldly material does not attract them that much. 


Manipuri tribe

The fire-worship of Manipuri tribe Photo Credit: Daiyan Mahmood (Flicker)

According to the Population Census in1991, there are about 25,000 Manipuris in Bangladesh. About 13,000 of them are in Maulvi Bazar and 7,000 in Sylhet and other 4,000 in Habiganj. Manipuris are in Bangladesh are grouped into seven yek or salais.  Ningthauja, Luwang, Khuman, Moirang, Angom, Chenglei and Khaba-Nganba and their spoken language are “Meitei language”. 


Chakma tribe

Children of Chakma tribe Photo Credit Tazbir Bhuiyan @ Flicker

According to the Population Census of 1991 Chakma is the largest ethnic group in Bangladesh and the total number of Chakma in the Chittagong hill tract area was 239,417. An estimated 150,000 Chakma live in a dispersed way in different states of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in India. There is also a small community of Chakma in Cox’s Bazar district and further to in Myanmar (Burma). The origin of the Chakma language is the Indo-European family of languages and has close relations with Pali, Assamese, and Bengali.

They have their own calligraphy and the ancient religious poetry is preserved in palm leaves even in the present time. The script has got the similarities with Mon Khmer and Burmese though many elderly Chakma still signs their names in the Chakma script and unfortunately most of the young Chakma no longer use the script. At the present time in the school, Chakma children study in Bengali and English. 

 By nature, most Chakma is down-to-earth and socially shy and have maybe proved to be the most adaptive and innovative of all the tribal people of Bangladesh but nevertheless romantic, but they will seldom disclose it. The Chakma tribes are almost 100% Theravada Buddhists though The Chakma have been followers of Gautama Buddha for centuries. The head of Chakma society is descended from the general who led the resistance movement, in the 1770s, against the British East India Company’s forces


Marma Tribe

Marma woman smoking cheerot Bangladesh, Photo Credit Philippe Guy @ Flicker

Marma is the 2nd largest indigenous ethnic group in Bangladesh and it was found in the 1991 Census that the total number of Marma in the Chittagong Hill Tract region is 142,334. They are the Theravadan Buddhists likewise Burmese, Thai, and Srilankan. Traditionally they owe loyalty to the Bohmong Chief, Bohmongri, who traces his ancestry from Burmese generals.

The Marma have their own script and speak a language which is similar to that of the Rakhine or Rakhaing of Cox’s Bazar and Patuakhali districts in Bangladesh. Their language is softer and more poetic and the song of the Marma tribe is very popular with the people who even do not understand Marma and love to hear Marma Song. The introduction of primary education in the Marma language is a necessity to step for the continuation of their own language among the Marma young students. Marma language deserves official recognition because of its uniqueness. 

 Before the arrival of cinema and television, throngs of Marma youth with their traditional attire would pass the better part of a night watching folk dances. Traditionally, great lovers of music and drama, both men and women are fond of locally made smoking pipes and cigars. Rice beer or distilled rice spirits are also very popular among men.


Tripura tribe

Tripura tribal children Bandarban Photo Credit wifeybutler @ Flicker

 The total number of Tripura in Chittagong was 61,129 and more than three-quarters of them lived in the Khagrachari district alone according to the Population Census of 1991. There are more than half a million Tripura in the Tripura state of India and a few numbers of Tripura also live in the Bangladeshi districts including Chittagong, Comilla, and Noakhali.

The most well-known of which are the Fatung, Jamatia, Nantong, Noatia, Ryang, and Usui are the subgroup of Tripura and they have about 36 sub-groups. The Tripura language derived from the Bodo branch of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages although many Tripura follows their own gods, they also worship such Hindu gods and idols as Lakshmi, Ganga, Saraswati, Kali, and Shiva. 

 Traditionally, the Tripura were swidden cultivators but at present time they have diversified into many occupations. The Tripura are very much educated and in their society, they have many university graduates, but due to their language is so different from Bengali that they often face disadvantages in studying in Bengali from the early age of their lives. 


Tanchangya tribe

Tanchangya Indigenous people community in Bangladesh Photo Credit Hashinur Reza Chanchal @ Flicker

According to the Census report of 1991, The Tanchangya tribe number is 19,221 in the Chittagong. Most of the Tanchangya live on the borders between the Rangamati and Bandarban districts and a small number of Tanchangya also live in Cox’s Bazar district. The word “Taung” or “Tong” means hill and “Taungya” means hilltop, In Arakanese, swidden cultivation known locally as Jum. The word Tanchangya or Tongtongya is a hill swidden farmer.

The Tanchangya are traditionally Buddhist and they are one of the first of the Chittagong Hill tract people to take up wet-rice cultivation by the plow in lieu of swidden cultivation. At the present day, there are many Tanchangya graduates, both men, and women having private and government jobs.

The Tanchangya are known to be very romantic and artistic and traditionally the Tanchangya groom is younger than the bride. This was common until about a few decades ago but at present, it is hardly seen. The Tanchangya are very fond of music. Traditionally, the attired Tanchangya women will always dress her turban what Chakma women used until a generation or two before. The pattern on the boundary or her homespun skirt will typically be far more elaborate than the Chakma skirt.


Khumi tribe

KHUMI Women,  A small tribe of Chittagong hill tracts Photo Credit: Shovon _amethyst @ Flicker

The Khumi that in the Arakanese language “Khe” means “dog” and “mi” in the race. The Khumis means the dog race. The dog is a favorite item of food of Khumis as derived this name from this perhaps. According to their oral tradition humankind be obligated to its creation to a dog and they believe that the dog was the first creation and it had saved humans from total extinction, they pay homage to it accordingly.

The Khumis claim to be Buddhists but their beliefs and religious rituals are mostly animists. Their chief god is Pathian and they also pay homage to “Nadog” the household deity, and “Bogley” the water divinity. They are divided into “wife-giving” and “wife-taking” clans and the eldest son inherits all the property in their society. They have an oral linguistic which belongs to the southern branch of the Kukish section. 

The Khumis came to the hills of Chittagong from the hills of Arakan and Akyab in the 17th century and they live on the ridges of hills and they make their houses on treetops. Their villages are surrounded by bamboo walls to protect themselves from wild animals. They were a ferocious race who was mostly engaged in warfare and they are famous for their faithfulness to their rulers. They owed their allegiance to the Marma Bohmang chief and paid a yearly honor to him through their village chief. 


Mro tribe

Mro Tribe and hunting Photo Credit Fayed Khan @ Flicker

According to the Population Census In 1869 the Mro population was 1,500. They did not have any chief of their own and owed their allegiance to the Marma Bohmang chief of Bandarban hill tract. Every chief of the village generally procured the tributes from each of the family for the Bohmang chief and the village chief’s position was inherited.

The Mros are animists and their creator is “Turai”.they also have two other gods such as “Oreng” and “Sungtiang”. They do not have any vocation or spiritual books of their own. They have a belief that a bull that was sent by God Turai to transport the religious book for them had eaten up the book on the way and because of this, they hold a special ritual called “Nasyat pa” or “Kumlang” in which a bull is ceremoniously killed. They have an oral language that belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese dialectal family.


Lushai tribe

Lushai Tribe people in Bangladesh  Photo Credit Hashinur Reza Chanchal @ Flicker

Before the British conquest of the Lushai hills in 1892, the Lushai traveled into Chittagong hill tracts from the Lushai hills of India about 150 years ago. The Lushais tribes were extremely ferocious. The mountain tops they choose as their abodes and the entrance to a village was sritctly guarded. They are animists. And the “Pathian” is their main god who does no harm to people. The Lushais are divided into different sects and It is always a society dominated by the father.

The youngest son receives all the stuff of his father. They neither burn nor bury their dead body and the body is clad in beautiful clothes and placed in a sitting position inside a bamboo cage. There is a fire is lit just beside the body for a period of about three months. Then, the bones are removed from the body and then buried.

Their language is known as “Lushai” or “Dolne”. Their linguistic can be inscribed in Latin script. During the British administration and most of them took Christianity as missionaries were active among them.


Khaiang tribe

House of Khiang Tribe Photo Credit: Amparo Servicios Turisticos @ Flicker

The society Khiangs was similar to the Mros and Khumi and they are owing their loyalty to chiefs in Burma. “Hyou” is another name of Khiangs. They have the belief that about 200 years ago there was a big war and their chief sought shelter from war in Burma in the hills of Chittagong and the chief was accompanied by his younger wife who was pregnant the then time. But he left behind this wife and some soldiers and moved back to Burma.

The Khiangs consider that they are offspring of those militaries left behind in the Chittagong. They have no other sub-castes and they are Buddhists, but they also do the worship to “Nada Ga” (household deity) and “Bogley” (water deity). Their linguistic belongs to the Kuki-Chin group.


Bawm and pankhu tribe

the Bawm tribe in the Chittagong Hill Tracts Phtot Creidt joannakakissis @ Flicker

The Bawm and Pankhu groups were the branches of two brothers who belonged to a Lushai group and the population of Bawm and Pankhu tribes in 1869 was about 3,000 in total. They owed their loyalty to the Bohmang chief and rewarded tribute to him through their elected headman of the villages. The Bawms and Pankhus believe that they are descendants of the “Shan” nation of Burma and previously they were ferocious in nature who built their houses on mountain tops always. Their living area was very fortified and guarded. They lost their military skills after they were taken over by the British during the colonial period.

They were animists and their main gods were “Pathian” and “khozing”but due to missionary activities during the British period, most of them took to Christianity. Their philological has a stout similarity to Lushai. They are part of the “Kuki-Chin” group. One can differentiate between the Pankhus and Bawms by the uniqueness of their hairstyle. Both men and women of the Bawms tie up their hair in the center of the head and on the other hand Pankhu tribe tie up their hair at the backside of their head.


Chak tribe

The Chak is a subdivision of Chakma Tribe. But Loffler maintains that the Saks living in Arakan and the Chaks in Chittagong originated from the same people as the Chakmas. The Chaks tribe know themselves as “Asak”, the Sak population in Arakan also call themselves as “Asak”. Their language be similar to Kadu which is spoken in Myitkhyina district of northern Burma and also Andro and Sengmai tongues of Manipur region in India. The Chaks are separated into 2 sects: Ando and Ngarek. Both of them are Buddhists.


Check out our Trip to the Hill Tract Region and the Package Tours that give you an opportunity to discover the authentic lives of our indigenous people in Bangladesh. 


=>Chittagong and It's Tribal people

=>Chittagong Hill Tracks and Cox's Bazar Tour

=>Destination Bangladesh

=>Bangladesh and it's best


Our Day Tours

Full-Day Tour At Sonargoan (Old Capital)

National Parliament Building Tour

Full-Day Photography Tour

Tour To Old Dhaka and Sonargoan

Brass and pottery tour

Excursion to ManikGanj Baliati palace

Full-Day River Cruise