The CHAK

Long-cherished, extraordinary cultural features of the ethnic groups living in Bangladesh have made the mainstream national culture of Bangladesh multifarious and rich. The Chak community is one of the almost-destroyed ethnic groups of Bangladesh. Their clan-based culture and some other diversified lifestyles have enriched the national culture of Bangladesh.

In course of time, there is a lack of adequate information about them. Because their traditional culture is somehow mixed with the original culture" Bangladesh and the culture of some other ethnic groups as well. In spite of that, the Chak community is carrying their traditional multifarious culture till today. In this way, their traditional culture has opened a new arena in the field of the cultural heritage of Bangladesh.

Habitation

The people of the Chak community are mainly scattered in the southern areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts, especially at Byshari of Naikhongchhari upazilla in the district of Bandarban, Kamichara, Krokhong, Bakkhali, Aleknyong, Kroangjhidi and Duchhdi of the same district. Their social and cultural life styles are also noticed at the time of visiting these areas from Ramu by-pass of Chittagong-Cox's Bazaar highway to Naikhongchhari, Middle Chackpara and the adjacent areas.

Population

The Chak community is one of the smallest ethnic group of Bangladesh. They have been living in Chittagong Hill Tracts for a long time. According to the 1981 census of Bangladesh, Chak population was only nine hundred sixty and the number of families was only one hundred sixty-seven. But according to the 1991 census, their population increased to two thousand and the number of families reached three hundred seventy-two. At present, on the basis of mouzas (jurisdiction list), the ratio of male and female population is fifty five percent and forty five percent respectively. On the other hand, the ratio of male and female population is the same on the basis of clan.

CHAK Women A CHAK Women carrying her child. All Rights Reserved.

Nomenclature

The Chak community identify themselves as ‘Achak’ although the people of other ethnic groups call them Chak. The Arakans call them 'Suckh' or 'Mingsuckh'. A number of Chak people also identify themselves as 'Suckh' and they are living in the district of Akiar of Arakan. Two parallel communities named 'Kadu' and 'Ganan' of the Chak are living in Myanmar now. The Chak are enlisted as 'Mingsuchk' in the books and the documents of Bomang dynasty of Bomang circle of Banderban. They are also identified as 'Thet' in the essay, ['Note on peoples of Burma' published in the Journal of Burma Research Society edited by G. H. Luce in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.]

Physical Shape

They are thought to be a particular section of the mongoloid people in terms of racial entity. Their complexion is yellow, the noses are heavy and snubbed, the face is medium shaped, and the eyelids are folding. They have a well-built body with thick and folding at the back hair. The males have reduced amount of beards and moustaches. They are habituated to living silently although they are carrying the heredity of the mongoloid people.

Clan-Based Division

The daily life of the Chak is controlled by the rules and regulations to the clan. The clans play a very important and significant role on different types of social, religious and cultural occasions. They are mainly divided into two clans. These two clans are divided into several sub-clans too. The divisions are shown in the chart below according to Tripura (1994):

The Chak
Ando Ngarek
  1. Anang Ando
  2. Ara Ando
Anang Ando
  1. Tabangdeng
  2. Pemu
  1. Upaba Utalu
  2. Uchichha
  3. Kengkazi
  4. Kengkabeng

There is no difference in maintaining their overall traditions and customs in respect of different clans. But there is a bit difference in the observance of various types of religious festivals. The participation of the people belonging to the same clan is prohibited in birth ceremonies, sraddha, (Hindu ceremony in honor, and for the benefit, of dead relatives) and marriage ceremonies. For this reason, they have no parents-in-law or aunts-in-law of a son or daughter and maternal uncles or nephews within the same clan.

CHAK Old Women A CHAK Old Women. All Rights Reserved.

Symbol of Clan

Poitta (a kind of sacred thread or cord worn by the first three classes of Hindus) was the symbol of the clan 'Chak'. This poitta was called 'zaloa' in the Chak language. It is known that their forefathers wore this piece of thread from the left neck to right waist of their bodies crosswise. At present they use kafeg rahu (a type of sacred thread or cord) instead of zaloa poitta round the waist. As a custom of this community, an aged man selected by the parents of the baby before s/he is shifted to the oscillator puts the baby on a piece of thread. This custom is still prevailing in this community.

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