A diverse hill village community: Pankhwa Tribe

Pankhwa Pankhwa is one of the thirteen tribal communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The Pankhwa people live in various border regions, ranging from the Sajek Valley in the hilly Rangamati district to Ruma in Bandarban, extending across the border with the state of Mizoram in western India.

The Pankhwa people identify themselves as Buddhists in terms of their religious beliefs. Like many other indigenous peoples, the Pankhwa society also strongly believes in nature worship. Their creator’s name is ‘Patien’, similar to the ‘Puthian’ of the Luceis. In their society, numerous mythological stories exist regarding the world’s creation. The main deity of the creator, ‘Patyen’, is known as ‘Khojing’. This deity, being the master of the forest, has control over the positive and negative aspects of jumchasha.

Therefore, devotees perform many pujaparbans and vows to seek their influence. The tiger held a high place in the eyes of the Pankhwas because it was the pet of the Khojing deity. Dances are customary at the beginning of Baisakh to honour and please Khojing. Pankhwas believe that the searching god is located deep within the forest. Pankhwas conduct the primary Khozing Puja during the month of Shravana. The Pankhwa society widely regards the puja as its most significant festival.

Their livelihood relied on farming in the mountains and hunting in the forest. The Jumchasha system is still widely practiced among them. The primary focus of agriculture in Pankhwas is the cultivation of paddy and other crops. However, they also engage in tree-cutting activities within the forest and extract wood as a resource. Women participate in these activities on an equal basis with men. The hat bazaar is primarily organised and run by women. Throughout ancient times, Pankhwa women have skillfully woven their essential clothing using waist looms. Once they have met the needs of their own family, they either sell their excess goods to the neighbourhood and neighbours or gather the necessary materials for their family from sources outside of the exchange system.

In Pankhwa society, the father holds the position of authority as the head of the family. Following the father’s passing, the sons become the rightful heirs of the family property. The Pankhwa people divide into two tribes: Pankhwa and Bhanjang. There are no restrictions or prohibitions on inter-caste marriage. Marriages between boys and girls typically occur when they mature, based on their parents’ opinions. Child marriage is not common among the Pankhwas. Divorce and remarriage after the death of a spouse are common in their society.

The Pankhwas possess their own language, albeit primarily spoken rather than written. Their language does not have a written form. However, songs are abundant in that language, particularly love songs. Their folk music is excellent in its unwritten forms.

Pankhwas have developed a unique culture encompassing religious beliefs, social rituals, and worship practices. Dance and song were integral to their culture’s nourishment. They are skilled in various traditional dances, including bamboo dance, flower dance, and other unique performances. The Pankhwa people commonly practice the burial of deceased individuals.

Enchanting village of Pankhwaa

Travelling by engine boat from Rangamati Ghat typically takes approximately three hours. The destination is Pankhowa, which is a tribal village located near Bilaichhari. Experiencing the breathtaking scenery along this route is the only way to truly appreciate it. As I ventured deeper, I noticed that the picture on both sides underwent more noticeable changes. The density of the trees is increasing.

The number of houses decreased and eventually vanished entirely. The branches of large trees extend from both sides and converge into the river. The boat appeared to have reached its limit and could not proceed further.

However, the sailor moved without hesitation. The water is evident in specific locations, allowing for the distinct visibility of the shadows cast by the nearby mountains, trees, and wildflowers. What is the colour of the sky?

Additionally, he emits a blue glow. As I walked along this path, I couldn’t help but hum and sing. Is there a country anywhere that can be considered the queen of all countries? That country is my native land.

To cross the waterway, you must obtain permission from the security post. Typically, the boatman or local guide is responsible for getting that permission.

After walking for approximately two hours, we noticed signs of human habitation on the hill. There are tiny houses and boats moored at the pier. Some ships have come to fetch water, while others have gone to Nai. Occasionally, a couple of vessels carrying passengers pass by. Various tribes reside in this area. There are Bengalis who have settled deeply as well.

However, the most astonishing aspect of this place is the absolute silence that permeates the surroundings. You can experience the feeling of solitude when you come here and hear the sound.

 The solitude remained unbroken, undisturbed even by the continuous sound of the boat’s engine. The Riangkhong River flows directly in front of the hills where the Pankhwa tribals have made their settlement. The school and community building for Pankhwa children are easily visible. Guests are welcome to stay here if they make contact.

Many people visit Rangamati but end up returning without waiting for long. In addition, speedboats are also available for transportation on this route. The road offers a long stretch to enjoy the beautiful scenery on both sides.

The Pankhwa tribe consists of a small population residing in extremely isolated regions. While they identify as Christians, they adhere to the prevailing customs of their society. Their use is genuine, even if it doesn’t convey status. The houses are neat and spotless.

If individuals are interested in staying in Pankhwadar village, they can arrange accommodation and meals by contacting a private organisation called Greenhill in Rangamati. You can find some ‘ta’ in small tea shops to accompany your tea. With a little effort, it is possible to prepare authentic mountain food. Despite being located next to the river, accessing water in this village is quite challenging due to its elevated position on the hill.

The Riangkhong River, a winding mountain river, flowed directly in front of our location. If I hadn’t been there, I would have never realised how beautiful the night can be. In the pitch-black night sky, a fair number of stars twinkle

above. The open desert stretches out before me while the sound of a flowing river fills the air. Dark mountains stand tall beside the river, creating a striking contrast. The scent of winter lingers in the spring air, adding a unique touch to the atmosphere. From a distance, I can hear the distant calls of one or two nocturnal animals, adding to the enchantment of the scene. We are a group of individuals positioned in the middle.

However, to my surprise, nobody uttered a word. I ventured deeper into the area the following day to glimpse the magnificent stone mountain. The nature here is incredible! We need more greenery and an abundance of mountain flowers.

The late afternoon casts a vibrant purple light, illuminating the surroundings. Look at this! We can see underwater aquatic plants from the boat! The Rocky Mountains stand in serene silence. If you want to spend two nights surrounded by lush greenery and tranquilly, I recommend visiting that village.

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