Culture & Heritage

Culture & Heritage of the Tribal People in Bangladesh

The Chakmas

The Chakmas are the largest tribe of Bangladesh. Buddhism is the most common religion within the tribe. They refer to their tribal chief as Chakma Raja. Chakmas are considered more privileged than most other indigenous Bangladeshi tribes. They have their own language, culture, tradition, and history. Women wear pinon and khadi[Handmade] and men wear dhuti. They grow crops via a special eco-friendly method called "Jhum cultivation". They migrated to Bangladesh in the 15th century.

The Marmas

Marmas are the second largest ethnic group in Bangladesh and they are of Burmese (Myanmar) ancestry. The Marmas regarded Burma (Myanmar) as the centre of their cultural life. Historically it is believed that the Arakanese emperor has invaded the south-eastern region of the current Bangladesh. Since then the region was ruled under the Burmese emperor and Marma ethnic groups were established from that period. Their cultural traits are connected to their ancestral heritage, including dress (which is called thumbui—the lower part, and angi—the upper part), food (mostly spicy, sour, and hot), writing (Burmese script), traditional songs and musical instruments (for example, kappya, jjea, and kharra). They speak Marma, and the majority are Theravada Buddhist. They have many festivals during the year, but Sangrai is regarded as the biggest celebration among them. It is a tradition to welcome the new year according to the Buddhist lunar calendar. This festival held for three days, and the popular ritual during the second and third day of the festival is to splash water on each other. They believe that the water takes away all the sorrow and pure up our soul and body, so one must to greet others (even strangers) by splashing water on them. But the culture of marma is unique. It has also their own language, tradition, culture etc.

The Tripuras

The Tripuras are one of the indigenous peoples living both in the plains and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. During the partition of the Indian subcontinent, the princely state of Tripura were merged neither into India nor Pakistan. However, Tripura Kingdom was merged in 1949 with India through a merger agreement. The peoples of Tripura, both in Bangladesh and the Indian State of Tripura, shared common culture, history, tradition, and way of life. Their languages are called Kokborok, of which there are more than one million speakers. Tripura's main festival is boishu.

The Tanchangya

The Tanchangya people are one of 13 indigenous ethnic communities living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). 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 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 on 10 April 2000 the government declared a new law entitled "The Forest (Amendment) Act; 2000." According to this act, cultivation and preparation of cultivation on reserve forest land are illegal, and as a result the survival of these groups in the area becomes more difficult. Due to lack of research, there is also confusion about the numbers of Tanchangyas. According to census of 2001 there are 31,164 Tanchangya in CHT (source: solidarity2002, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum).

The Mros (Mrus or Moorangs)

The Mro people are considered the original inhabitants of the Chittagong Hills where they migrated from Arakan of Burma from the 14th–15th century. They lived on valleys and often fortified their villages. They had no written language of their own, but some could read the Burmese and Bangla scripts. Most of them claimed to be Buddhists, but their religious practices were largely animistic.


The Santals are known as one of the oldest and largest indigenous communities in the northwestern belt of Bangladesh. They have been living in the pristine natural surroundings of the area for thousands of years. They might be described as children of nature who are nurtured and reared by its bounty. Santals are largely seen in the northern districts of Dinajpur, Naogaon, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh, etc. They have actively participated in the Tebhaga movement led by Ila Mitra in 1950, the Santal revolt, Birsa Munda Uprising, Kol revolt, Jitu Samur Rebellion, Pandu Raja Insurgency, Swadeshi Movement and the War of Liberation in 1971. Santal women, especially young girls, are by nature very beauty-conscious. Santal women wear ornaments on their hands, feet, nose, ears and neck and also wear peculiarly shaped ornaments on their ankles. They fix flowers on their heads and hair-buns, and make themselves graceful with simple ornaments.