Tanchangya, The a small ethnic community living in the chittagong hill tracts. In terms of population they rank 5th among ethnic communities of Bangladesh. According to the 1991 census, their number was 21,057 and the number of Tanchangya households was 4,043. Tanchangyas live in the Hill districts ofrangamati, bandarban and khagrachhari, Boisyabili area of rangunia upazila inchittagong district, and in ukhia and teknaf areas of cox’s bazar district. Like other tribals, Tanchangyas build their habitation in forested slopes of hills. Tanchangyas also live in the southeastern regions of Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur States of India, as well as in the arakan region of Myanmar. In Arakan they are known as ‘dounnak‘. Anthropologically, they belong to the Mongoloid group. They speak pali, prakrit and ancient Bengali, all part of the Aryan group of languages. Tanchangyas are modest in nature.
Agriculture is their main occupation. They cultivate crops and carry out horticulture on hill slopes. Even today they do jhum cultivation, but not to the extent they used to do before. Literacy among Tanchangyas is low. A few of them serve in government and non-government organisations.
Tanchangyas wear traditional costumes. Their women look very attractive in their own costumes. Tanchangya women excel all other hilly women in wearing colourful dresses and ornaments. For the lower part of their body they wear pinon, which has 7 colours and a variety of stripes. Among the variety of their ornaments are Rajjurand jhanga for ears, baghors and kuchikhadu for wrists, tajjur for arms,chandrahar, hachuli and sikichada for neck. Usually these ornaments are made of silver.
Tanchangya men usually wear loincloth and long-sleeve shirts. However, there have been changes in their dresses and ornaments in recent years. They now use the dresses of men and women of other communities of Bangladesh. For instance, their women wear sari, blouse, salwar and kameez and their men wear shirt, trouser andlungi.
There are 3 types of marriages among Tanchangyas – the groom is taken to the bride’s house, the lovers elope and marry, and widows remarry. They call wedding ‘sanga‘. The wedding practices of the mugcha group of Tanchangyas are very colourful.
Tanchangyas are Buddhists and observe religious rites such as worshipping gautam buddha, listening to sermons, kathin chibar dan, maghi purnima etc. They havebuddhist viharas in their localities. They celebrate ‘biju‘ to mark the end and beginning of the Bengali year.
Their laws of inheritance are similar to those of chakmas. The male children of a deceased Tanchangya father divide the property equally among themselves, including furniture and cattle. The daughters cannot claim any share of the property except when they have no brothers. The children of a father who is mad or who becomes an ascetic get equal share of his property. 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.
[Sadat Ullah Khan]