Jaintia an ethnic group living in Sylhet region and also known as Synteng. Once they lived in the northern area of Sylhet. But after the partition of bengal in 1947, majority of them migrated to the Jaintia Hills in Assam where most of them are now settled. A small section of them are now living in Jaintapur upazila in Sylhet. The Jaintias in Bangladesh constitute an ethic group numbering about twenty thousand. According to the Anthropologists, Jaintia is one of the ancient original groups who migrated to the North Eastern region of the sub-continent and settled down there. There is a view holding that the Jaintia is a branch of the Khasi community. The Khasi is a branch of the Mon-khem race while Jaintia belongs to the Mongoloids. The similarity is consequent upon their co-existence for a long time and that similarity is confined in physical features only. No documentary evidences are available regarding the naming of the community. Some are of opinion that they are named after their principal goddess Joyanti. Devi Joyanti is an incarnation of Hindu goddess Durga. Jaintias also introduce themselves as Pnar.
Jaintias have their own language, but no alphabets. The Jaintias in Bangladesh get education in the schools through the medium of Bangla. The literacy rate of the Jaintia is 60%, the highest among all tribes living in greater Sylhet region. At present many of them are serving in different government and private organisations. A number of children from Jaintia families are getting education at Shillong in Meghalaya. Though they use their mother tongue in conversation with their tribal people they speak in Bangla to communicate with others.
The dress of the male members of both Jaintia and Khasi tribes is similar. However, the male members of Jaintia tribe living in Bangladesh wear same kind of dresses with the mainstream Bangali males. But the women wear the traditional Jaintia dresses. Like hajong and Kooch women, they cover the upper portion of the body with a piece of colourful decorated cloth. But the Jaintia ladies wear another piece of cloth as a modesty scarf knotted on the shoulder like Khasi women. Most of the Jaintia women are now accustomed to wear sari-blouses, although they prefer traditional attires at home. They are also fond of ornaments made of gold and silver.
Agriculture is the main occupation of the Jaintias. They cultivate betel leaves and various nuts, which are used in local trading. The Jaintia society is matriarchal. Mothers dominate their respective families and children adopt the title of mother's clan. The women exclusively inherit the family property. The Jaintia society is divided into a number of tribes, such as Lamin, Langdo, Nayang, Sarthi, Kayang, Lanong etc. Inspite of the existence of tribal system in the Jaintia society, caste discrimination is totally absent there. The tribal system is followed only to maintain matrimonial and social order. Intra tribal marriage is prohibited in Jaintia society. A social panchayet system settles disputes through arbitration. The arbitration is conducted under the chief panchayet and supported by the elders in the society. The decision of the panchayet is final in respect of any social problems. The chief of the panchayet is elected by the community.
Rice is the staple food of the Jayantias and they take it with various vegetables, fish and meat. Pork is their favourite dish. They also like mutton, chicken, milk and milk products. They are also used to drink tea, and they entertain guests with betel leaf and nuts. Locally brewed wine, known as kiad is popular among them. They like all the seasonal vegetables, especially bulbous plants and esculent roots. They consider dried fish as a delicacy. They cook their food like the Bangalis.
Though pantheist in belief the Janitias are much influenced by Hinduism. Their main deity is goddess Jayanti, an incarnation of Hindu goddess Durga. They worship their traditional gods and goddesses along with the Hindu gods and goddesses. But it is an exception that they don't have any specific temple or place of worship. They believe that their deities exist in nature and they offer their prayer in open air. They also believe in the eternal existence of a creator with whom the human being had a direct link at an initial stage. But when they started to be driven by selfish motives, they could not see God with their eyes as He disappeared. Thus the human being became busy with their families and worldly affairs so much that they started forgetting God gradually as the relationship weakens. So God advised them to follow a few moral sayings to live in the world in a modest way. The directives of God were: (a) earn honestly (Kamai ya ka haq), (b) know the people, understand God (Thipbru Thipblai) and (c) know both the lineages of your parents (Thipkur-Thipkhar). Jaintias also believe that God had sent some gods and goddesses on earth to control the indisciplined human being. They keep them in their control by imposing illness and diseases. Jaintias also worship those gods and goddesses in order to mitigate their rage. They have their own conception of sins and piety, heaven and hell, crime and punishment. However, many of them have embraced Christianity. [Subhash Jengcham]