The exact history of the migration into the Bandarban area varies according to the different sources. Not much appears to be
certain before the 1600s. At that time the area was disputed between the Arakanese (from Burma) and the Tripura from the North. The Tripura had a kingdom to the north of the CHT in the current Indian state of Tripura. They are still the largest group in Khagrachuri,
the most northern of the 3 hill districts. When and why the Usoi clan of the Tripura moved to the Bandarban area is not known.
The Marma are the largest group
in the Bandarban area. They come from Burma. The name Marma has the same derivation as “Myanmar”. The Marma must not be called Mogh (or Mugh), which is the term for the pirates who plundered the Bengali coast all the way to Calcutta with the help
of the Portuguese.
Accounts of the history of the Marma people are usually dominated by the history of its royal family. The Marma royal family descend from
the Mon people of central and Eastern Burma, who are called Toloing by the Burmese. In 1599 the Arakanese King defeated the Mon king of Pegu, but subsequently appointed his son Prince Mong-Cha-Paying Governor of Chittagong. The reason for the son of a prisoner
of war being given such an important role is unclear. He was given the title ‘Bohmong’ for his success at keeping the Portuguese out of Chittagong. Mong-Cha-Paying’s descendent Harri-Pru first defeated the Moghul invaders, but they were subsequently
defeated by the Moghul and subjected to atrocities. Consequently they moved out of Chittagong town and gradually up into the hills. The British arrived in the late 18th century and from 1804 they gave the Bohmong the authority to collect taxes for the
area now known as the Bandarban Hill District. In 1822 Bohmong Sathangpro established the ‘capital’ in Bandarban.
However the history of the royal
family does not explain the history of the Marma people. Their language mainly derives from Arakanese, a Tibeto-Burmese language, which is very similar to Rakhain and Burmese. Their customary law derive from the book of Manu an Indian text. It is difficult
to say when they first migrated into the Chittagong area, however as that area was part of Arakan, it can be assumed that is was several centuries ago. Chittagong is an Arakanese name, which implies that people from the south established it. There were certainly
Marma people in the Bandarban area prior to 1600 and well before the Bohmong’s family arrived.
The biggest migration of Marma and other indigenous groups
people into Bandarban occurred during the last half of the 18th century, as a result of the Burmese invasion of Arakan. This mass migration is known to have caused a big problem to the British. At that time the Marma people and Rakhain people dominated the
planes south of Chittagong as well as the hills.
This presents the Marma as peace loving people who escaped from war, rather than the descendants of Toloing
warriors and it matches my impression of these gentle people.
The British method of colonial rule in South Asia was to delegate security and tax collecting
responsibility. In order to achieve this ‘rajas’ were promoted, flattered and given military support. In return the rajas were responsible for collecting taxes and keeping the peace. The rajas were allowed to keep a proportion of the taxes and
their power grew. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts the British chose the groups who were at the gateways (i.e. along the main rivers) to the 3 hill areas. Thus the Marma were chosen in the south (Bandarban) and in the north (Ramgor), instead of the more dominant
The Kuki-Chin peoples include the Bawm-Zo, Lushai, Pangkhua, Khumi, Mro and Khyang. Kuki is the Bengali term for this group and Chin is the Burmese
The Chin people seem to have originated in northern China, the exact area cannot be confirmed. They probably migrated from China into to Tibet and into
Burma in successive waves. The largest wave was at the fall of the Chin Dynasty in about 200BC. They had settled in the Chin Hills of Burma by the 16th century.
is also easy to understand why the indigenous people of Bandarban realise the true value of land and of nature. This approach to land and nature is demonstrated in the customary law and is far more suited to the problems of the modern world than the exploitative
approach taken by governments and business.
edited by Richie Aung