Diversity Traditions: Pankhwa


The Pankhwaras, a relatively small community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, take pride in their ancestral settlement, “Pankhwa,” in the Lusai highlands. This settlement is culturally significant because “Khwa” represents a metropolis and “Pang” represents a flower in their language. They disperse across various locations, such as the Sajek Valley in the Rangamati district and Ruma in Bandarban, near the border with the Indian state of Mizoram. Despite their remote locations, they have adapted constructively and do not face significant hardships.

Different authors have referred to the Pankhwa community by various names such as “Pangkhwi,” “Panghoy,” “Pangkua,” “Pankhua,” and “Pangkhua.” Individuals from the Pankhwa community can identify themselves as either “Pankhwa” or “Pangkhu.” Pankhwaras are an essential part of the Mongolian ethnic group. H. S. Hutchinson suggests that the Pankhwa and the Bam share common ethnic origins based on their similarities in physical characteristics, dietary habits, clothing choices, religious beliefs, and cultural customs. T. H. Lewin asserts that they are members of a sub-caste within the Lusai and Kukis, contributing to our understanding of their cultural and social connections. According to J. Shakespeare, the Mongolian people are widely believed to have Mongolian ancestry, highlighting the importance of ancestral heritage in the community.

Tribes: The Pankhwas consist of 25 distinct tribes, each with its own unique cultural and social characteristics. However, identifying the specific tribe to which an individual belongs is challenging due to the lack of information regarding the name of the tribe preceding or following theirs. This absence of identifiable markers makes it difficult to establish the precise tribal affiliation of the Pankhwas.


Pankhwa is unequivocally a member of the Kuki-Chinese language family and exclusively uses the Roman alphabet for writing in the absence of their own alphabet. Notably, the Pankhwa people have assimilated a substantial amount of vocabulary from other languages, particularly Bengali, into their linguistic repertoire.


In Pankhwa, up to 90 percent of the population still relies primarily on subsistence agriculture, despite the diminishing land area. Pankhwa’s cuisine is diverse, including game meat captured using snares and devices. Common food items in Pankhwa include boiled food, rancid fat, and grains. Pankhwa women are highly skilled in cloth weaving, creating fabric with captivating floral patterns and a variety of adornments, including mi-si flowers with ivory projections. The Pankhwa people are well-known for their expertise in crafting bamboo and cane materials used to make various household items. However, their modest ambitions and limited resources limit their business activity.


In the Pankhwa civilisation, traditional norms dictate that only male offspring inherit property, while daughters do not have any entitlements to the family’s property. However, there is an opportunity to reassess these practices and consider more equitable ways for property inheritance. Currently, the widow’s role involves managing her deceased husband’s estate, which includes the authority to sell the land if the children require it. It may be beneficial to explore ways to empower women in property ownership and decision-making, even in the event of a second marriage.


The name is Pakhwara Prakriti Pujara. In ancient times, the Pankhwas expressed their devotion to Shiva by conducting rituals under banyan trees. Currently, the Pankhwas follow the Christian religion. In his 1869 publication, T.H. Lewin portrays the Pankhwas as having numerous charming qualities. They possess a direct, truthful, and enthusiastic nature.The Stoic philosophy advocates for living by nature, which can profoundly influence one’s way of life due to a lack of understanding of concepts such as mind, imagination, thoughts, feelings, and other similar aspects.

social festival

Vow festivals and festivals honoring children’s dedication are two types of social festivals that are universally celebrated. The children’s festival takes place annually, where both male and female children and adult males come together in the presence of esteemed individuals. You can celebrate the Manat festival at any time of the year.

Cultural activities

People from all walks of life, regardless of their educational background, embrace the Pankhwaras’ remarkable natural musical talent and their cultural customs. Their diverse dances, including Lamdep, Salu Malam, Jama Lam, Cham Rapal Deng, and others, provide a wonderful opportunity for cultural celebration. Generations lovingly pass down prevalent folk stories and fairy tales from the Pankhwa civilisation, enriching their heritage.


As members of a vibrant and close-knit community, Pankhwa women actively participate in a traditional system of exchanging goods with their neighbouring families to ensure their households receive the necessary items. This time-honoured practice not only serves as a means of obtaining essential supplies but also fosters strong social bonds within the community.

In addition to the bartering system, these industrious women capitalise on their skills by selling intricately crafted items made using waist looms to meet their own needs. They actively contribute to the local economy while simultaneously working towards fulfilling their own requirements, demonstrating a spirit of entrepreneurship within the community.

The community is renowned for its adeptness in producing bamboo and rattan crafts, which have garnered widespread recognition for their exquisite craftsmanship. These artisanal pursuits not only uphold cultural traditions but also serve as a source of pride for the community.

While they may not aspire to grand achievements, these women prioritize their contentment and well-being by ensuring they have the essential materials for survival. They firmly direct their activities towards sustaining their households, demonstrating their practical and resourceful approach to ensuring their livelihoods.


The Pankhwa community strictly adheres to a thousand-year-old tradition regarding marriage. Throughout history, the community has staunchly upheld its traditional norms and practices for conducting marriages. When the guardians approve, they unquestionably regard a marriage as the most optimal union. Guests of all genders and age groups, including males, females, boys, and girls, are emphatically welcome to participate in the wedding festival and celebrate happiness. Throughout history, Pankhwa women have unequivocally married males from the Bom and Lusai communities without forming marital unions with individuals from other tribes.


The food service industry is experiencing a significant shift towards replacing alcoholic beverages with tea, coffee, and other non-alcoholic drinks during social functions.

In social justice adjudication, Pankhwads appoint Karbari (village-level administrators) and headmen (Mauza-level administrators) to oversee social institutions. They have firmly agreed to acknowledge the Chakma king’s allegiance, and they have actively sought his assistance in social and land administration matters.

Individuals have the right to appeal to the Headman if they find the Karbari’s decision on the resolution of a dispute to be unsatisfactory.


In the event of a community member’s passing, it is customary for the entire community to assemble at the deceased individual’s home. After this, the community places the deceased person’s remains in a casket in a remote area for a year. Following this period, we meticulously cleanse each bone, carefully wrap it in pristine fabric, and then bury it. We arrange a commemorative banquet to honour the spirit of the deceased, bringing together the local community and relatives.

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