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Dalu


Dalu a small indigenous community of Bangladesh living in the northern border area of the greater Mymensingh district. Ethnically they belong to the Indo-mongoloid race. They trace their descent from Bobhrubahan, son of Arjun of the Mahabharata. Tradition goes that Bobhrubahan's descendant Subala Singh or Dalji having been ousted from Manipur marched along with his followers through the midland of Assam and inaccessible Garo hills and ultimately settled in a place called Barengapara on the bank of the river Bhogai near the Bangladesh border. Dalji and his people settled down there, the place was later named after him as Dalukilla what is now Dalubazar. Later on, they spread from Dalubazar or Dalugaon to neighbouring places such as, Hatipagra, Kumargati, Songra, Jugli and the wide expanse on the bank of the river Kongsa. At present, Dalu population in Bangladesh is about 1,500 and they are mainly based in Haluaghat in Mymensingh and Nalitabari in Sherpur.

The Dalus live on agriculture. literacy is very low, only 10%. This farming community has now been turned into a class of landless labourers. About 90% of them are now landless. Dalus are generally peace-loving people.

Their dress is similar to that of the hajongs and Banais. The dress worn by Dalu women is called Pathani, 63 inches long and 45 inches wide. In the past, Dalu women used to weave their own pathani. Nowadays, influenced by the Bangali women, they tend to use saris. Dalu men wear dhoti like the Hindu males. Manipuri was their mother tongue before, but now they speak Bangla.

Rice is their staple food. Their culinary specificity and practice is in most cases like the Garos'. Fish preserved and seasoned by drying in the sun is the main ingredient of their curry. They are very fond of bamboo shoots and cones of banana tree. They eat fish of all species including turtles, meat of pig, goat, sheep, goose and other animals. They consider beef and buffalo meat as forbidden. Homemade rice-fermented alcohol is their most favourite drink.

Dalus are divided into a few clans, which they call dopfa. The main dopfas are Chikang, Pira and Mashi. Beside these three dopfas, there are seven other minor clans or dopfas, such as: Dorung, Nengma, Kara, Mybara, Bapar, Kona and Gandhi. The main role of each dopfa is to establish marital relationships. Intra-clan marriage is prohibited among the Dalus. If anyone violates this norm, the community imposed severe punishment on him or her. Although it is not a matriarchal society, the Dalus adopt the dopfa or the clan-name of their mothers. Nowadays, the Dalus do not use their traditional dopfa names; rather they seem to be eager to follow the caste Hindus and use their clan titles instead.

At present, the Dalu follow the traditional Hindu religion. Their main deities are: Gaur, Nitai, Monsa, etc. Their ancient deities such as Kereng-kuri, Path-khauri, Hoidev and similar gods and goddesses are being lost and forgotten. In every village, the Dalu maintain a guardian deity, which they regard as the protector of the entire village. Almost in every homestead, they make a raised platform for holy basil where Dalu women light candles everyday in the evening to invoke the impending night. [Subhas Jengcham]