Kanda1 a small ethnic community in Bangladesh. They migrated from the Indian state of Orissa in the mid 19th century as tea planters and railway workers. After the completion of railway construction they settled here permanently as tea garden workers. At present, nearly five thousand Kandas are found working in the tea gardens of Harinchhara, Udnachhara, Putia and Lakhaura in Sreemangal upazila and in Kurmachhara tea garden in Kamalganj upazila of Moulvibazar district. People from other ethnic groups locally denote them as 'Kui' or 'Oria'. The physical features of the Kandas are similar to various other small ethnic groups of central India like Bheel, Kole and Munda. Kandas are divided into five groups and are sub-divided into different clans. They consider Brahman, Kayastha, goala (milkman), teli (oilman), barai (betel planter) and karmakar (blacksmith) as higher castes and consider themselves as lower caste like kahar, malakar and sudra. In Kanda society, both joint and single families exist. The Kanda society is male dominated. So, only the male children inherit family property. The elders in society voluntarily come forward to solve both family and social problems of the Kandas. An elected council with its chief called 'Behera' maintains the social discipline through the village panchayet system.
The Kandas are non-vegetarians and rice is their staple food. They take rice with fish, meat, egg and various types of vegetables. They are fond of wild potatoes, milk and milk-made dishes. Chewing betel leaf and nuts, and smoking are very frequent among them. Both male and female are habituated to take pork and hard liquor. On the last day of the Bangla month of Pausha they celebrate the cake festival. Kandas have their own language. The elderly members of their community are still found talking in their old native language, which does not have any alphabets. The new generation of the Kandas speaks in Bangla. The literacy rate in the Kandas is very low.
Like the Hindus, Kandas worship various gods and goddesses although they denote them in their own language. For example, Moimurubbi and Trinath are the names of their family deity. Each Kanda family sets up an alter in their house in the name of their family deity Moimurubbi and offer food and lighting at night fall. On every Thursday they worship their family deity Trinath. They believe in rebirth and consequence of act of previous life. They also have a traditional belief that the pious people will have salvation hereafter and the sinners will be sent to hell. Intra-tribal marriage is prohibited in the Kanda society. Generally males and females attaining twenty and fifteen years of age respectively are considered eligible for marriage. Once a marriage contact is settled, it is announced through uludhani (a sound made by women by moving their tongue within their month). The bridegroom is placed on an elevated seat and the bride circumbulates around the bridegroom for seven times. The bride and groom then exchange garlands. The priest administers the wedding formalities beside the sacred fire. Divorce is not prevalent in Kanda society, but there are instances of the marriage of widows. They cremate corpse on fire and the body-ash within an earthen pot is buried underground on the bank of a river. The family of a deceased person observes post-death rituals for eleven days. They take rice without salt and with raw banana as vegetable, avoid oil, wear a single piece of cloth and move bare footed. On the eleventh day, they shave their hair and observe sraddha (a funeral rite) seeking eternal peace for the departed soul.
Kandas are very skilled in bamboo and cane craftsmanship. At leisure time, they make household goods like basket, winnowing fan etc with bamboo and cane and earn money by selling those products. Kanda women are expert in fine arts. They draw alpana, a design on the floor and courtyard of their houses of highly aesthetic value on various social, religious and festive occasions. They also display songs and dances on the occasion of childbirth and in wedding ceremony. They sing in their own mother tongue called Kui or Kanda. Verbal literature of the Kandas is very rich. [Subhash Jengcham]