Kharia a small ethnic community in Bangladesh. Kharias and Mundas belong to the same ethnic group. Their original homes were in Chhota Nagpur, Rohtasghar and in mountaneous region of Oudh in India. Under British rule, the Kharias settled down in Sylhet as tea garden workers and ultimately turned into permanent resident of the region.
The Kharias now constitute a population numbering five thousand and most of them now work labours in different tea garden in Srimangal thana of Moulvibazar district.
The Kharia community is divided into four clans such as Dudh-Kharia, Dhelki-Kharia, Erenga-Kharia and Munda-Kharia. Besides, there are a number of non-caste clans in Kharia community such as Indoar, Baghoar, Bilunga, Dalmaria, Dhanoar, Dungdung, Kerketta, Keshwar, Khat-Kharia, Surujpuria, Henthetu, Toporia, Dhurbungia etc. The Kharias constitute a patriarchal society where the sons inherit the entire family property. However, the Kharia women are self-reliant. In order to maintain law and order, the Kharias maintain the panchayat system. The head of the Panchayat is called Pahan or Dehuri. Bangla is their main language which they use as the medium of instruction in school and also in communicating with others. However, among themselves they use the vernacular of the Mundas known as sadari. At present, literacy rate among the Kharias is nearly ten percent.
The Kharias are non-vegetarian. They eat rice and bread with vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, lentils, etc. However, they do not eat beef and meat of buffalo. They also like seasonal fruits and wild potatoes. They are especially fond of milk and milk products. They also have a liking for tea, bidi, cigarette, betel leaves and nuts, and alcohol (hanria).
The Kharias believe in the traditional Hindu religion, but they also perform rituals of their own pristine religion. They worship the deities like Durga, Saraswati, Kali and Shitla Devi including the deities of their pristine religion such as Bana Devota, Buraburi, Duradhulu, Raksadhulu and Dharam Devota. Some Kharias have now converted to Christianity.
Marriage within the same clan is prohibited among the Kharias. Generally, a man attaining the age of twenty and a woman having sixteen years of age are regarded eligible for marriage. Monogamy is the norm among them; divorce and widow remarriage are also prevalent. Married women of the Kharias use vermilion on the parting of their head and iron bangles on their wrists. After marriage, the bride and the groom permanently settle down in the paternal house of the bridegroom. Dowry is common among them and is paid in cash or kind. Marriage is solemnised in the paternal house of the bridegroom. On the day preceding the marriage ceremony, the bride and her kith and kin come to the paternal residence of the groom. Groom's father conducts the wedding ceremony and arranges a feast.
The Kharias are accustomed to the burial of dead bodies. The dead body is properly washed and wrapped in white clothes before burial. If they can afford, they bury the dad body covered by wooden coffin. After the burial, the funeral party comes back to the bereaved house together, has their bath in a nearby reservoir and inhales from the smoke of a fire in the verandah. This ritual as considered as the process of their purification. The kith and kin of the deceased observe the ashoucha-kal (impurity period) for ten days and then entertain the people of the neighbourhood with a feast. [Subhash Jengcham]