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Patra, The

Patra, The is a small tribe lives in Sylhet region of Bangladesh. They were mentioned as chutiya in RN Nath's book Background of Assamese Culture published in 1948. The real name o f this ethnic group is Laleng which means pathor (stone). So they are also known as Pathor or Pator. Patra obviously comes from 'pator'. The Patra community is divided into 12 clans of equal states.

In 1971, some Patras migrated to Assam, Meghalaya and Kachar of India. At present (2011), only 402 Patra families live in Sylhet region of Bangladesh and their number is three thousand. There is a remarkable gap between the male-female ratio in the Patra population. Of them, 54.11% are male and 45.89% are female. The average family size of the Patra is 4.86 persons. In the ancient period, the Patras was believer to the creator of life, but later they embraced the faith of Hinduism. They worship the following goddesses in assembly: Kali, Bishahari Mansa, Laxmi and saraswati. They do not keep any idol of these goddesses in their homes. The religious rites of Patras are as like as Hindus, which require a sacrificial he-goat, a pair of pigeon and a fish of Chitol, Ruhi or Gojar variety. A big pot of indigenous wine, betel leafs, nuts, coconuts, bananas, sugar or mollases and seasonal crops are also offered on the alter at the time of worship to satisfy the concerned gods or goddess. Although the Puin (Durga) worship is offered collectively in a common place, but some Patra families hold this worship in their houses. The Pailungiong (Bishahari or Monsa puja) worship is offered during the Bangali month of Sravana (mid July-mid August) to the goddess Manasa seeking her blessings for the protection from snakebite during the rainy season. The Kartain worship is offered to gods, Kartick-Ganesh brothers and the Molmothoyong and Ekoin worships are devoted to god Shiva and goddess Kali respectively.

Perforation of ear of the Patra males was a conventional ritual earlier. Every male child aged between eight and ten had to perforate the lobe of both the ears. The perforation is done by a throne in a ceremony, which is held to purify the males. Without this purification ceremony or the ear perforation ritual no male belong to Patra community is allowed to marry. If anybody escaped earlier had to complete the ritual of ear-perforation on the wedding day.

Marriage between close relations including the cousins is fully forbidden in Patra society. Even it is applicable for the forcible marriage called Sitkoi. Patras follow two conventions of marriage: settled marriage, rituals of which are almost similar to those of mainstream Hindus and the forcible marriage of Sitkoi which is also regarded as a disgraceful act. As a part of the ritual of settled marriage, the groom's family hosts a dinner on the wedding day seeking divine blessing for the departed souls of their ancestors and introduce the bride to the guests as the new member of their family.

The religious rites and rituals of Patras reflect a combination of tribal and Hindu beliefs. They observe vivid rituals in their ceremonies that mark births and deaths. Their rituals relating to birth of a baby are more comprehensive than those of Hindus, but the rituals relating to death of a family member are very close to Hindus rites. The Patra society is fully patriarchal. Only sons inherit father's property. Daughters have no right to inherit those property. If a Patra does not have son then his brothers or sons of his brothers inherited his family property. [Sadat Ullah Khan]