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The Khasia PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 27 March 2008

'Better the dance, better the crop...' a saying of the Khasias, one of the ethnic groups of Bangladesh. Earlier, Khasia people used to live along the northeast border of Sunamganj district. At present they are spread over Bishwamvarpur, Tahirpur and Chhatak in Sunamganj. Most Khasias live in the border region. Many Khasia children are found working in the tea gardens in Kulaura. 

According to the census in 1991, the total number of Khasias in Bangladesh was 12,300; but the Bangladesh Khasia Society claims the number to be around 30,000. In fact, the birth rate is very high among the Khasias. Khasias are short people with flat noses, high jaws and small slanting black eyes. They are fond of hills, mounds, bushes and forests.

Khasias are very hard working, and neat and clean. They have healthy dieting habits but they don't eat beef.

Usually they build their cottages with a balcony and on stilts made of wood and bamboo. Recently, they have begun to build houses like the Bangalis. Their kitchen is attached to the bedroom and almost every Khasia house has a pig-shed near it. The Khasia houses are clustered and hence they call their villages Punji. The villages are clusters of houses within the cultural boundary of their own community.

At present, more than 80% of these communities are Christians and almost every punji has its own church. But they also maintain their age-old customs and traditions. Khasias are always on the look-out for danger. They believe that the spirits of dead children and of one's ancestors may visit a house and therefore they erect a stone platform to propitiate these spirits.

The Khasia language does not have an alphabet. Tradition has it that once upon a time they had a written script, which was destroyed by a calamity. They are bilingual and can speak Khasia as well as Bangla.

Because of the existence of a social system based on matriarchy, Khasia girls choose their own bridegrooms from tribes other than their own. Men live in their wives' houses and their offspring are known by their maternal names. A Khasia woman cannot marry someone from another tribe. After being blessed by his mother and elders, the Khasia groom leaves his mother's house wearing dhuti & turban and accompanied by the bridal party.

Khasia wedding feasts consist of rice and dry fish followed by alcohol. As with other indigenous people, dance is the most vital part of their festivals. Dance is also included in all their ceremonies. The Khasias believe that a better harvest can be obtained if they perform more dances.

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