The Bengali tribes of South Asia
A cluster of 6 tribes closely related to the Bengali.
The Hajong originated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, then migrated north. Today, most of them live in east central Bangladesh, primarily in the northern part of the Mymensingh district, which lies on the southern slopes of the Garo Hills. From there, some immigrated into India and now live in the states of Assam, West Bengal, and Arunachal Pradesh. Unfortunately, many of those who now live in Arunachal Pradesh are under consideration of eviction, even though they have been settled there for 30 years. The Tajpuri live in the plains of Rangpur, which is located in northern Bangladesh near the border of India.
What are their lives like?
Muslim invaders began conquering the Hindu regions of Bangladesh in the twelfth century. When many of the Bengali tribes were overrun in 1600-1700 A.D. by Muslims, they took refuge in the hills. They later returned and settled in the adjoining plains where most have continued to live.
The "clan system" was formerly unknown to the Tribal Bengali communities. However, when these tribes embraced Hinduism, they accepted the twelve clans associated with the Hindu castes.
The various Bengali tribes, like most other people groups of South Asia, have a clear division of labor. Regardless of a family's occupational specialty, the men do jobs that take place outside of the home, while the women are responsible for the tasks that can be performed inside the home. Among these tribes, land has always been individually owned. Small family farms, which are usually about one hectare in size (about 2.5 acres), are often sub-divided.
Most marriages in Bengali society are arranged. However, there are marked differences between the Hindu and Muslim wedding ceremonies. When mates are being chosen, caste and social rank are very important considerations. In rural areas, married couples almost always live with or near the groom's parents. The only exception to this practice is among the Tajpuri; and even they are gradually conforming. Most of the tribal Bengali communities have special dormitories where single young men live. This "house" is also used as a meeting place for the village elders.
The racial origin of one Bengali tribe, the Tajpuri, is surrounded by much controversy. Although they claim to be the descendants of great kings, they belong to a matriarchal (female-dominated) society.
What are their beliefs?
The Bengali's tribal religions are based on the belief in a variety of village and household gods. The people also believe in life after death. Village elders are responsible for conducting the religious ceremonies.
Like other tribal groups, the Bengali are animists, believing that the spirits of the gods live inside the mountains, the rivers, and the forests. Therefore, many objects in nature are worshipped. However, as they are becoming more and more educated, many are coming out of their world of superstition, animism, and magic.
What are their needs?
Because most of the tribal Bengali are Hindu, they have been subject to much persecution and religious conflict. The groups living in Bangladesh comprise only a minority of the population (11.3%), and have also experienced great rejection and religious persecution. Those in India are viewed as refugees and are therefore treated as outcasts. These groups need to know the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ.
The Bengali Cluster; The Sylhetti Bengali of Bangladesh; and
The Hindu Bengali of Bangladesh.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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