Hill Tribes

A dozen or so different Adivasi groups live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and make up about half the total population. Major groups include the Chakma, the Marma and the Tripuri. Collectively, they are known as the Jumma people.

About half of Bangladesh’s Adivasi population is Chakma (roughly 240,000 people), while roughly one-third is Marma. Among the many much smaller groups, the Mru (called Murung by Bangladeshis) stand out as the most ancient inhabitants of the area.

The culture and lifestyle of the Adivasis are very different from that of the Bangladeshi farmers of the plains. Some tribes are matriarchal, for example, and most make their homes from bamboo, covered by thatched roofs of dried leaves. Most Jumma are Buddhist or Hindu, though small numbers have converted to Islam or Christianity.

Adivasi groups are quite different from each other, each having their own distinctive rites, rituals, dialect and dress. Chakma women, for example, wear indigo-and-red-striped sarongs. Adivasi women are particularly skilled in making handicrafts, while some of the men take pride in hunting with bows and arrows.

Adivasi people you’re mostly likely to meet in this region are the Chakma, in Rangamati, and the Marma, Tripuri and Bawm in and around Bandarban. Most of the Bawm people have converted to Christianity and you’ll find a handful who speak decent English in Bandarban. The last time we visited, all of the guides at Hillside Resort in Bandarban were Bawm.