Been is one of the smallest indigenous communities in Bangladesh. Their original home was the border region of the West Bengal state of India. They came to Sylhet in search of livelihood and started working for the tea gardens there. At present, they are mainly based in Srimangal Upazila in the district of Moulvibazar where they work as tea garden workers. The size of their population is about 5,000.
The Beens use the Hindu language among themselves, but they speak Bangla while communicating with others in Bangladesh. Their children receive education through Bangla.
Been people are non-vegetarian; rice and bread are their staple food. They also eat different types of vegetables, fish and meat, eggs, lentils and similar items. However, they do not eat pork or beef. They are very fond of wild potatoes and fruits, as they like tea, cigarettes, bidis, betel leaves and nuts, alcohol etc.
Literacy rate among the Been community is very low; only 10% of their population is literate. Their community is divided into few clans. Marriage with low caste people is strictly prohibited in Been society. Although theirs is a patriarchal society, Been women play important roles in family life. Upon the death of father, sons inherit family property. One feature of their community life is that they are very united and accomplish all their social functions collectively. Disputes among them are settled through social intervention, so they generally do not have to go to law courts for such matters.
The Been community follows the Hindu religion. They worship various gods and goddesses, such as: Durga, Kali, Laxmi, Sani, Kartik, Ganesh, Biswakarma and others. They observe janmashtami to commemorate the Janma Tithi (birthday) of Sri Krishna on the eight lunar day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadra (Bengali month). They also celebrate some other festivals, such as: Ramonbami, Holi Khela, Dipannita, etc.
When children reach the age of marriage, parents and guardians send marriage proposals and take all necessary preparations to solemnise marriage. Their marriage ceremony has different rites: sogon, kohorbhat, solemnisation of marriage, porchabon, manana, duar longai, muhdehai, nauroton etc. Married women apply vermilion in the parting of their hair and wear conch-bracelets on their wrists. Both dowry and dower money are common in their society.
People in the Been community cremate dead bodies. Mukhagni (the rite of setting fire in the mouth of the dead body while it is on funeral pyre) is performed by the deceased's eldest son, or by any other son in his absence. Family members and the near ones of the deceased observe mourning for a period of sixteen days. During the first ten days of this period, they offer food and drink for the departed soul of the dead person, which they call daguwa khana. On the sixteenth day, they perform the sraddha rite or obsequies, which they call shorohaiya sraddha. [Subhas Jengcham]