The KHUMI

Khumi is a small tribe of Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Khumis, as per their physical structure, are of the Mongoloid origin. They have snub noses and small eyes with fair complexion. Their thighs are heavy and ankles thick. Men grow thin-set beard. They were by nature violent and revengeful in the past. The Khumis believe that their ancestors lived in the area where rivers originated. This is one of the reasons why they like to dwell on riverbanks and on high mountains. They prefer building house on top of trees in the deep forest. This ethnic tribe is independent, predatory and ferocious, and war loving. Most Khumis are farmers by profession. They practice Jhum cultivation. They weave their own dresses, the lengti and wanglai.

Geographical Distribution and Population Size:

In Bangladesh Khumi live in Ruma, Rowangchari and Thanchi upazilas of Bandarban district. A Para consists of several families (12-15). Some Khumi para are mentioned here: Mongow para, Ongtong para, Sangking para, Longthang para in Rowangchari; Kholain para, Profumong para, Rutong para, Keteye para, Sushon para, Litong para, Mrokkhong para, Syron para, Giting para, Khimpai para in Ruma and Seore para, Sikadoy para, Kamshe para, Malung headman para, Moi para, Kowng para, Fyfey moi para, Aeosing para, Onghla para, Chyong para, Kuhoy para, Aeokri para, Sanglang para, Tlapabai para in Thanchi.

Total population of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) enumerated in the 1991 census was 1.042 million of which 562,597 were male and 479,776 female. The number of Khumi in the CHT area was 1241. This figure accounts for 0.119%. (Banglapedia, 2006)

Origin and Migration:

According to the historian Dr Romesh Chandra Majumder, the Khumis, who now live in Thanchhi, Roangchhari and Lama of the hill district Bandarban and Myanmar's Arakan, are Mongoloid in origin.

The Khumis are also called Khami, which means the best of human race. 'Kha' in the Khumi dialect means 'human being' and 'Mi' means the best. The Arakanese call Khumis Khemi, which implies a race of very low social hierarchy. Khe in the Arakanese language means dog and mi denotes race. Khumis have Mongoloid features.

Khumis are patriarchal. They have two clans. One is known as Awa Khumi and the other is Aphya Khumi. Both the clans once lived on the bank of the Koladain River.

W.W. Hunter says that the Khumis, like other ethnic people, settled down in the region at the end of the seventeenth century (Cultural Survey of Bangladesh, Series- 5). They migrated from Arakan.

Language:

They have a language, but no alphabet of their own. The Khumi language they have used to communicate from generation to generation has only a spoken form. It originates from the Tibetan-Brahma language that is spoken in the southern areas. They do not want any non-khumi person to learn their dialect. Neither do they wish to learn the language of any other people. The ethnic Khumi people have inherited their language and take pride of it. They consider it a property from their ancestors. It still remains intact and is in its original form.

Social Condition and Sects:

The Khumis have strong social ties and live in a band under the leadership a headman they select themselves. Everyone is bound to pay loyalty to the headman. The Khumis have a quality of maintaining secrecy on different sensational issues. If the Khumis make a vow, they do not hesitate to die for it. They are well-known as law-abiding and live under the administration of the Bomang Cercal king. They regularly pay jhum-tax to the king during a festival called 'Rajpunyah.' A king-appointed judge, who is called 'Roazer,' settles public disputes. The Khumis, however, are very enthusiastic to take part in social functions.

Two sects exist in Khumi society. One sect, which lives on an estuary, is called Awa and the other that lives near a spring from where a river starts to flow is called Aphi-ya. Khumi society is based on a patriarchal structure. The eldest son succeeds his father, inherits all assets and becomes the head of the family. The identity of a clan is important to them, and Khumi house marriage is forbidden within the same clan. The Khumis pay honour to the elderly people and maintain the social class structure.

Matrimonial Relation:

Khumi society is patriarchal. They give much importance to the identity of the clan, and marrying within the same clan is strictly prohibited. However, their society is not that much rigid over intimacy of a young man and woman without marriage. However, if such intimacy results in pregnancy, their traditions dictate that the man concerned has to marry the respective woman. A function to examine good and evil marks usually takes place by slaughtering a cock before a wedding ceremony. The tongue of the dead cock is pulled out after it is boiled. If the veins on either side of the tongue run straight, the marriage is considered as auspicious and if not the marriage is thought to be ominous. Although the marriage takes place without a ceremony, a grand bridal feast is arranged. There is no system to dissolve a marriage in Khumi society.

Dwelling Houses:

The Khumis, who prefer to live in a group, build houses with bamboos and gulpata (leaves of a small tree akin to the fan palm) on hilltops. Houses are also set up on the branches of trees in some places. They fortify their village with hard fences or barricades to resist intrusion by others. In the past, they even had sentries posted around the village. However, this practice of posting sentries is now rarely found.

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