This is a small ethnic group that lives in the Chittagong Hill Tract. According to the 2001 census, they are the fifth largest tribal group in Bangladesh (with 35,000k plus tribespeople). The Tanchangya tribe live in the Rangamati, Khagrachhari, and Bandarban districts specifically. The tribe’s people are closely similar to the Chakma tribe in terms of language, customs, and norms, and has often labeled as a sub-tribe of the Chakma tribe.
The tribe’s language is a mixture of Pali, Sanskrit, Prakit, and Bengali with some English terms included.
In Arakanese, the word “Taung” or “Tong” means hill and “Taungya” means hilltop swidden cultivation known locally as Jum. Tanchangya means hill swidden farmer. Traditionally they are Buddhist. The tribe celebrates and observes religious rites such as worshipping Gautom Buddha and celebrates Buddha Purnima. The tribe have at least one Buddhist viharas in their own localities. They welcome the new year and bid farewell to the past year in a festival called bishu which has three parts called phool bishu, mul bishu and gujja bishu.
The family structure is patriarchal in which daughters cannot claim any share of her paternal property but only male children can, unless there is no male family.
Marriage in the tribe is typically arranged and takes place in the bride’s father’s house. Weddings are typically colorful and attractive. In traditional wear, ladies of the tribe wear long sleeved shirts with colorful stitched motifs on shoulder plates or the edges of the sleeves. The tribeswomen do their hair in fancy decorated hair pins and chains in a way that resembles a turban. The males wear a traditional dhuti and long-sleeved shirt. According to their folklore the Tanchangya belonged to the powerful Champak-nagar kingdom which was ruled by a king named Bijoy-giri/Vijaya-giri (winner of hills).
The tribe migrated to Hill Tracts around 13th century, and at the time the region was an independent Buddhist kingdom ruled by a king of the Chakma dynasty. However, the king didn’t want them to settle in the region. So the tribespeople leaders pledged their allegiance to the king with sum of money and jewelries, but were only allowed to settle in the Rangamati district. But as time passed, their tribes spread throughout the other districts.
The name of the tribe appeared only during the British colonial period who used this name for record keeping. It was also a policy of the British government to divide and rule for Chakma king.
Like other tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Tanchangya face persecution and loss of homeland as Bengali Muslims continue to strategically colonize the region displacing the people in the thousands. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International continuously reported accounts of torture and executions by BD security forces, and colonizers.