The MARMA

The Marmas sometimes referred as Mogh and live mostly in the CHT. They call themselves “Marma lumya” (Nue 2007). According to Marma writer Kya Shai Pro the word “Marma” is derived from “mryma” carrying the concept of Myanmer's nationalism. They are the second largest ethnic group in Bangladesh. According to the National Census 1991 Bangladesh has a Marma population of 1,57,301.

They are called in different name by the different ethnic groups living around them e.g. 'Mran' by the Mrora tribe, 'Mrang' by the Lusai and the Pangkhua Indigenous community, 'Mraing' to the Chakma tribe, 'Mukhu' to the Tripura tribe, 'Kramo' to the Khumi tribe and 'Ooa' to the Khyang Indigenous community (Ching 1998). Marmas are divided into several clans. Each clan is named after the place from where it migrated. The Marmas are fair complexioned and nose is slightly flat. They show similarities with the Burmese. They also belong to the Mongoloid. The material culture of the Marma society includes many basic tools and weapons of primitive societies.

Language

According to the philologists, the Marma language belongs to the Burmese group of Tibeto-Burman language family (Nue 2007). The Marma alphabet 'Marmaza' or 'Marimacha' originates from the 'ancient sub-continental Brahmin alphabet that had left-to-right writing style. It is known from a book on the ancient history of Burma, entitled, Mraina Samoing Rajwong that the people of Krishna and Godabar' areas of south India migrated to several areas of southeast Burma in the sixth century.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Marma tongue is a dialect descended from the Burmese language. It is because a language is always like a flowing river. Therefore, as the word 'Marma' is derived from the Burman word 'Mraima'. The Marma language, which has become a dialect, has been obtained from the Burmese language, one of the branches of Tibeto-Burman tongue (Shoi Pro 2002). There are 45 letters in the Marma alphabet, of them 33 consonants and 12 vowels.

Marma Family

A Marma Family. All Rights Reserved.

Lewin has divided the whole of hill populations into two groups: one is 'Khyoung tha' or 'Khyoungsa' meaning sons of a river and the others 'Toungtha' or 'Toungsa' meaning sons of a hill. About their language, he says, 'The khyoung the Mugh (Marma) speaks provincial dialect of the Arakanese Language, which tongue was also parent stock of the modern Burmese language. The language has the strong affinities with the Himalayan and Tibetan dialects' (Lewin 1869).

Dresses

Both Marma men and women like to be cleanly dressed and the women are comparatively more fashionable. Marma men used to wear a kind of loincloth called 'Deyah' It is a dress which covered the body from waist to the knee. Some wear 'Khyok' which cover the part from waist to ankle. They also wear collarless jacket called 'Barista' and a turban in head named 'Gobong'. The Marma women wear a blouse called 'Bedai ungi' and a type of brassiere called 'Rangkai' to cover their breast. They wear 'Thobing' or 'Thami' to cover their lower organs. Now a days both men and women wear Lungi.

Religion

They follow Buddhism. But a common section still practices Animism. Their religious book is called 'Khaduttiang'

Marma Couple

Habitation and Population

According to the National Census 1991, Bangladesh has a Marma population of 1,57,301. Most of them live in the three hill district of the CHT. A few settle down in the coastal area of Cox's Bazar and Patuakhali. They usually choose plain lands on the bank of a river to settle down. They build their house on a platform raised four to six feet above the ground.

Family Structure; Marriage and Ritual

They are Patriarchal. Though brother and sister have blood relationship between them but their hereditary identity is quite different. Brothers carry the identity of paternal line while sister carry the maternal. This society strictly maintains several customs and restrictions to keep up their century old traditions, norms and administration. The Marmas are an amusement loving race. They are socialized in three occasion-Birth, Death and Marriage. After 7 days of the birth of a baby they invited their relatives to a feast to name the new born baby; this ritual is called 'Modetongpoeya' (Nue 2007).

A dance party called 'Saing' carries the coffin (falah) to the crematorium at the death of a men in this society. They arrange a feast called 'Lakaprecgckuai' after 7 days of death. Marriage is a very important part of the social life of Marmas. Living conjugal life without marriage is a social crime in this society. There are five types of marriage in this society –

  1. Settled Marriage
  2. Irregular Marriage
  3. Forbidden
  4. Widow or Widowes Marriage
  5. Polygamy. 'Sungrai' which is held in complainee with the Burmese lunar calendar is the main social festival to the marma society. There reknown religious festivals are Buddha Purnima (Kachanglaprye). Ashari Purnima (Wachhoo). 'Probaroan Purnima (Wagoai).
Marma Dance

Marma Dance. All Rights Reserved.

Food Habits

The marmas take fish, meat and variety of vegetables with rice. They prepare a delicious soup of chiken and Dillenia indica [chalta (Su mar)]. Boiled vegetables mixed with chillies called Tohza are a favorable menu to them. They use nappi/awangpi made from dried fish to cook curries. They also supplement their food requirement by gathering tree leaves, roots, and tubers from the forests.

Economic Condition

Agriculture is the main occupation of Marmas. Jhum cultivation is their primary agricultural pursuit. Small-scale homestead gardening is also common among them. Other important economic activities of Marmas include basketry, brewing and wage labor. Weaving is a very common activity of Marma women. Marmas were not market oriented in the past. Their economic activities and production system were geared to their subsistence. Recently they have become involved in trade and commerce. Produces of the Marma people are sold mostly through middlemen. Some Marma families now operate small retail stores.

Return from Marma to Ethnobotany Database Homepage


Like This Page