Kurmi one of the smallest ethnic groups. They identify themselves as Skhatrio and descendants of Kashyap Muni. They are black and their physical features are very similar to the Dravidian people. British tea growers and traders brought them from Bihar, Purulia and Hajaribagh of India in the late 19th century to engage in tea plantation in Sylhet region of Bangladesh. At present, there are seven thousand Kurmis who live in Rakhalgul under Sadar upazila and Radhanagar under Goainghat upazila of Sylhet district, Kulaura and Srimangal upazila of Moulavibazar district and Bahubol upazila of Habigonj district. Kurmis of Radhanagar are known as Mahato Kurmi and they claim higher social status over other Kurmis.
Kurmis are basically tea garden labourers. However, some of them recently engaged in small trading, low salaried services and tea factory workers. They speak a mixed language comprised of Bangla and Hindi.
The Kurmi society is headed by a leader called Morol or Chowdhury. A leader administers the order of the society developed in a village. Above the Morol has a Chowdhury or Samajpati leading a string of villages. Generally a Samajpati leads the affairs of fourteen villages. Morols and Chowdhuries are selected from the intelligent villagers. Although the Kurmi society is patriarchal, the male-female discrimination is negligible. Both men and women work together for the good of the family.
There are 25 to 30 family lines among the Kurmi society. The major lines include: Kanuar, Madrasi, Kashiar, Kathia, Kadia, Basuar, Joshohori, Mashto, Toluar, Jal Bakuar, Borokushi, Mahato and Boro Kurmi.
Intra-line marriage is not allowed among the Kurmis. Once a relationship is finalised, the wedding ceremony is held at the residence of Bride's father. The time and date of marriage are fixed after consulting an almanac with the help of a priest. The father and uncles of bridegroom along with the elder villagers and male and female neighbours of the groom join the bridal party. They bring ceremonial dresses, ornaments, mango leaves and sweetmeats, curd, milk etc for the bride. The custom of dowry is still there among the Kurmis.
When the bridal party leaves, the parent of bride bid them and their daughter a hearty farewell. The clothes to be attired by the bride, her ornaments and all the gifts received so far are given alongwith her. Close relations and neighbours of the bride accompanied her to the groom's house. When the bride reaches there, the female members of the groom's family receive the new wife by washing her foot and performing songs and dances. A feast in hounour of the bride, boubhat (feast) is arranged from the next day for a period of five to six days depending on the financial ability and the status of the groom's family during the period. The bride's parents could not go to the groom's house with the bride. If the boubhat was not organised timely, they do not drink even water there.
TheKurmis drink wine brewed by themselves during festivals and functions. They also drink country made liqueur. Kurmi males wear dhuti and panjabi and the women sari and blouse. But now, many male also wear pant, shirt and lungi. Even the elders put turban on heads.
Kurmis belong to Hinduism and offer various worships to their gods and goddesses throughout the year. Major worships (puja) performed by them are: Bishohori or Manosha puja in the Bengali month of Bhadra (August-September), Durga puja in Ashwin (September-October), Kali puja in Kartik (October-November), Saraswati puja in Magh (January-February) and Charak puja in the month of Choitra (March-April). Kurmis do not have their own priest. They consider Narayana as the most powerful god. During the Durga puja they organise overnight programmes of traditional drama, jatra and kirton, a session of devotional songs. They play different types of drums called Dhak, Khol and Kartal and instrument like, Flute, Kanshi, Mandira and Kunjari during the musical performance. Dhak leads the all. [Subhash Jengcham]