The Mru of South Asia
A cluster of 3 Mru groups is 3 countries.
The native language of the Mru is also called Mru. The Mru of Bangladesh believe that Torai ("the great spirit") gave all peoples—except the Mru—a written language and rules to guide their social lives. They believe that by some accident, they themselves were excluded.
The tribal Mru are a very isolated people, mainly because of a national policy restricting visitors in the strategic border areas and prohibiting outsiders from obtaining land there. However, since last year, there have been reports in Bangladesh of armed Bengali farmers backed by a large army, who have moved into the surrounding hills. The Mru have taken up arms to fight against them.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Mru are a very poor people. Although they inhabit a region that is rich in lumber and hydroelectric potential, the villagers lack the technology and knowledge to improve their economic conditions. For this reason, they continue to live as poor farmers.
The Mru excuse their poverty because they believe that Torai intended them to live this way. At the same time, they pride themselves in their self-sufficiency. Each household produces its own goods. They also travel to the lowlands to visit the weekly markets where they exchange cotton for items such as cloth, salt, knives, and pottery.
The Mru typically live in houses made of timber or bamboo. The roofs are either made of thatch or tiles. Some of the homes are built on stilts to give protection from wild animals or floods. The farm animals live under the houses at night. In some small towns in Myanmar, a few Mru live in brick homes with concrete floors.
The Mru society is divided into clans, phratries (related clans), and kinship groups. They may marry outside their clans, and maybe even outside the phratries. Politically, the village community is democratic. Though there is a village headman, he has only nominal authority. There are no educational facilities among the Mru.
When a young Mru man reaches the age of 16, he begins seeking attention by arranging his hair in braids on the top of his head. He also puts floral headpieces as adornments on his turban. The young people are generally free to choose their own marriage partners. They need only parental permission. Promiscuity before marriage is freely tolerated, although accidental pregnancy leads to immediate marriage. Young married couples usually live with the bride or groom's family after marriage. Once the couple has several children of their own, they build a separate home.
In addition to farming, many of the Mru men are skilled in producing bamboo items. Mru women are especially fond of wearing jewelry and other ornaments made by local craftsmen.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Mru of Myanmar have been heavily influenced by Buddhism. Although they are 95% Buddhist, animism (belief that non-living objects have spirits) is still practiced to some degree.
What Are Their Needs?
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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