Indigenous Communities and their Colourful Culture
Different ethnic groups of Bangladesh and their colourful lifestyles have significantly enriched the entire culture of Bangladesh. For centuries, Bangladesh has been the dwelling place of different ethnic groups. In fact, 35 smaller groups of indigenous people covering about two percent of the total population have been living in different pockets of the hilly zones and some areas of the plain lands of the country. Their historical background, economic activities, social structure, religious beliefs and festivals make them distinctive.
The beauty of the hilly zones as well as the plain areas has been enhanced by the colourful culture and traditional practices of different ethnic groups, like the Mandi and Hajong in the northern part, the Manipuri and Khasia in the northeast, the Chakma, Tripura, Marma, Rakhain, Mru, Tanchyanga, Murong in the eastern and southeastern parts and the Santal and Rajbangshi in the western part of the country.
Almost all tribal languages have rich folk literatures, consisting of poems, songs, fairy tales and legends relating to their past nomadic life. There are plenty of narratives, similar to the Maimensingha Gitika, in the Mogh, Chakma, Khasia and Garo languages.The folk tales of the tribal languages have similarities with those in Bangla.The ballads in some of the languages of the Himalayan foothills are similar to those in Bangla folk literature. Their linguistic aspects are similar to those of early Bangla. The rhymes in Bangla and the tribal languages are similar in subject, rhythm and vocabulary.
The people of different tribes have been using musical instruments fromtime immemorial. These instruments are all closely linked with their feelings and emotions, lifestyle, economy and, above all, their philosophy and earthly and spiritual aspirations. Tribal dances are based on the customs and beliefs of the tribal people. Tribal dance evolved through the experience of the aborigines.
They had to fight ferocious, beasts of the jungle and hunt animals and birds for food. Before going out for a hunt, hunters would draw pictures of their prey and dance in a body, imitating a hunt. People danced to placate or defeat evil spirits, to prevent decay and disease, to cause rainfall to help the production of crops, or to prevent drought or famine.
With the evolution of society, human activities have undergone many changes resulting in differences in dance styles. Most tribes perform dances, songs and music on religious festivals, births, deaths, marriage ceremonies and other occasions. They perform dances individually or collectively, in traditional dress accompanied by their own songs. They make their own musical instruments. Their dances are named after their tribes, e. g. Santhal dance, Garo dance, Manipuri dance, etc. They perform dances not only on such occasions as the construction of houses, cultivation and fishing, but also to celebrate the creation of man. They also perform dances to pray for rainfall in time of drought. Most tribal dances are traditionally performed without any stage, make-up room, lighting, etc. There are no elaborate arrangements for music or singing.
The dancers themselves sing. As in the bamboo dance, the musical instruments can simply be a pair of bamboos. Television and tourism have had an impact on tribal dancing, and stage, musical instruments, lighting, make-up, and decoration have all become more elaborate.