Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 25, Tuesday, December 21, 2004




knowing the rakhain community

YOU want to see the unknown, explore the unexplored, this romantic notion of discovering and understanding what's not part of you is strong in us. We are mystified about people who come from different cultural backgrounds, we are awed with their lifestyle and their norms.

In Bangladesh we have quite a few indigenous ethnic cultures, the Rakhain being one of them.

To introduce the magnificent Rakhain culture in other parts of Bangladesh a three-day function on indigenous cultural diversity exchange programme was arranged by Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) at Manikganj.

The Rakhain community, which is of the Buddhist faith, resides in the southern districts of Cox's Bazar, Patuakhali, and in Borguna. This community originated from a big ethnic group called "Magh". The first of the Rakhains arrived in Bangladesh from the Arakan kingdom of Myanmar (Burma) around 1784. Approximately two lakh Rakhains now live in the country. Rich in culture the Rakhains are Mongoloid in origin. The Rakhain society of Cox's Bazar consists mainly of fishermen. Rakhains living in other areas are farmers. Some of them are involved in small business and handicrafts. Most Bangalis know very little about this community.

The evening of 12 December, the final day of the programme started with Rakhain girls clad in their traditional outfits' thabe, anji and posubai staging Buddho Puja. It is a custom amongst the Rakhain people to honour their parents, elders and the Buddha dev at the beginning of any special occasion. Bearing lighted candles the artists of Rakhain Development Foundation performed the age-old rituals of Buddho Puja to the rhythms of traditional instruments krimong, boon, laang khoa and cheh.

The tranquil spirit of Buddhism has its mark in all the songs, beats of the instruments and dance expressions. The artist of RDF also showcased Rakhain pilgrimage songs, which invites everyone to visit the hill top temple in the holy Urei tong jadi. This holy place is situated in Arakan and highly respected by the Rakhains of both Bangladesh and Myanmar.

After staging Buddho puja the performers demonstrated Rakhain worship rituals with sombre prayer chants followed by taat bunan nritto.

Rakhain women are very skilled weavers. In the old days, the women most skilled in weaving were respected by every one. The kings and queens preferred their weaving work. Taat bunan nritto is based on this tradition of weaving. The dance portrayed the art of weaving, the colours, composition and design patterns.

Dolna nritto concluded this fascinating dance programme. While putting their babies in to sleep, Rakhain mothers swing the cradle and sing lullabies. These lullabies are mostly tales of the times gone by and about the responsibilities towards parents and society.

27 Rakhain girls participated in the programme, some of them never set foot beyond Chittagong region.

"Dancing in front of a completely different audience is a new experience. It feels good," tells us jovial U Sen Pru, a 20 year old dancer from Choufaldandi Modhyam Rakhain para, Cox's Bazar.
"People are curious about us. They always wonder about our way of life. This type of programme will help them understand our culture better and bring about amity," added another young dancer Unu Sen Pru.

The locals were equally enchanted and entertained to see a cultural programme so different from their own.

By Shahnaz Parveen


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