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Bhumij


Bhumij is an indigenous community in Bangladesh. They had left their original home in Bihar in search of land and chose agriculture as their occupation. This is how they had this new name, Bhumij, that is, children of land. In the twentieth century, the Bhumij came to Sylhet area and started working in tea gardens. At present, they work as tea-lobourers in Srimangal in Moulvibazar. Currently, the size of their population is roughly three thousand.

Along with working in tea gardens, the Bhumij earn extra money by cultivating betel-leaf. Their main language is Bangla, and the use of the Mundari language among them is very limited.

The Bhumij are non-vegetarian though beef is prohibited to them. Rice is their staple food, and they eat it with vegetables, fish, eggs, lentils and other items. They also eat different types of wild potatoes. They are fond of milk and milk-products and are in the habit of taking tea, betel leaves and nuts. Drinking alcohol among them is especially noticeable.

The Bhumij are traditional Hindus in religious belief. They still preserve some of the customs of their ancient religion. Some of their primeval deities are Deota, Daram Deota, Singbonga and Jahubora; and some of their traditional festivals are Bandana, Tushu and Karam. During pujas, they invite Hindu Brahmans to act as priests. However, while worshipping their ancient deities, they use their own priests who are called lavas.

The Bhumij are divided into different clans, such as: Ban, Baundra, Bhugal, Garur, Kasim, Kaitra, Nag, Shar, Shona, Tresha, etc. Marriage within the same gotra (clan or lineage) is forbidden. The Bhumij regard them as Kshatriya (the warrior caste, the second highest of the four main Hindu castes). Among the Bhumij only sons inherit parental property. They have the system of the dissolution of marriage between husband and wife. Small social and familial disputes are settled with the intervention of the veteran elders.

The Bhumij cremate their dead bodies. However, they bury the corpse of children aged less then six months. The nearest kith and kin of the dead observe the ashoucha-kal (the impurity period observed to mourn the dead) for eleven days. During pujas and other festivals, they perform ballads, in which men and women take part equally. [Subhas Jengcham]