Chakma are the largest ethnic group in Bangladesh (BBS 2003). They call themselves Chagmas or Changma. The Burmese and the Arkanies called them 'Sak', 'Thak' or Thek (Chakma 2007). They are short statured. They bear the mongoloid features in their appearance. According to Risely, the chakmas bear 84.5% Mongolian characteristics in their bodily feature. They are round-faced and thin-lipped. Their hair is straight and black, eye-ball black and moustache and beard sparse. Flat nosed Chakmas are comparatively fair in complexion.
When Franchis Buchanon came to CHT on an official visit in 1775 he also meant the fairness of the complexion of the Chakmas while saying that the Chakmas were fair (Schendal 1992). In the past English writer divided the Chakmas into three class- a. Chakma b. Tanchanga and c. Doinnak (Lewin 1869). H.H. Risely mentioned 44 sects in the sense of 'gujha' (means group in Chakma language). The sects of Chakma that mentined by him included 7 'guja' which is also included in Tanchangya (Chakma 1993). The Chakmas claim to be the descendents of Lord Buddha, whom they call. 'Shak'(Shakyamumi).
The Chakmas are the followers of Buddhism since distant past. In almost every Chakma village in CHT there is a 'kyang' (Buddhist temple). During the Mughal rule in India the Chakmas used to be followers of Muslims and their chiefs used to adopt Muslim names. (CDRB 1992). Captain T.H. Lewin also mentioned this and listed a list of their names during the mughal periods and show how they converted to Buddhism. Though from very ancient times the Chakmas had been the followers of Buddhism, some influence of Hinduism and they follow Buddhism not in pure form; they maintain their tradition during the time of performing the religious festival.
The language of Chakma community belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the greater Indo-European family. The languages and dialects of other Indigenous community of CHT belong to Tibeto-Burman branch of Sino-Tibetan family (Chakma 2007). In 1903, Dr. G.A. Grierson commented, "… it deserves to be classified with dignity as a separate language."(Dewan 1993). The language of Chakma was classified as a synthetic language for the first time in a research work done on "The primary Classification of the languages and dialects of CHT" for M. Phil degree (Chakma 1983). A note work aspect of the language of the Chakmas is that in it the stress is used as phonetic element (Dewan 1993).
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The Chakmas have their own traditional dress and clothes. Traditionally the women wear pinons and use khadi for binding their breasts. Both men and women bound a type of white cloth twisting round their head which is called 'khabang' The Chakma women wear shorts, trousers, pajamas and the women wear Sari, Shalwar, Kamiz. (Chakma 2007)
Chakmas live in an agrarian, self reliant society. They do all their day to day work themselves from agriculture to weaving clothes. Their staple foods include rice and alcohol. Apart from these their delicacies include purled poultry, birds, fish and dear.
They grow different types of vegetables in the jhum along with different types of cereals. They also collect different foods from the forest.
According to the census carried out by the Bangladesh Government in 1991 the total population of Chakmas living in the three hill-districts of Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban under the greater CHT in 2,39,417 (BBS 1991). The current estimated number of Chakmas is about three hundred thousand. They also spread to the neighboring countries out side the CHT. Some of them also live in Teknaf under Cox's Bazar district.
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Both the society and the family of the Chakmas are patriarchal. In society the 'gojha'(group) and 'guthi'(Clan) of a child are determined according to the fathers line. Girls are considered as belonging to their husbands clans after their marriage. Intra 'gujha's marriage is prohibited in Chakmas society. At present this custom has been some what relaxed. They have to complete many traditional system before the marriage. Wine is a common material in every programme in the society. Some rituals related to marriage are 'Mod pilang; Agpanlkum Tulana and pandpada vajey Dena, Boutulana, Jora Banana, Chungulang and Visut vangena. One of their annual highlights is the Bizu festival held in Chaitra (March-April), the last month of the Bengali year.
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