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

Mandis are short but usually have stout bodies with wide chest and thick arms and legs. They live in different areas of Bangladesh and in the adjacent parts of India. Their faces are round, black hair and eyes , deep eyebrows, small eyes, flat noses and high jaws. Beards rarely grow on their cheeks and they have almost no hair on their body. Their skin is yellow and smooth.

Mandis are said to have an ancestral relationship with China. There are some similarities between the Chinese and Mandis in language as well as folk culture. The Mandi language is called Achichik Katha (spoken language of the hill people). It does not have any written alphabet. It is rich in proverbs, legends, rhymes and folk tales.

The Mandi songs are similar in melody to Bangla folk songs. Mandis dance and sing in groups and have their own musical instruments. Mandi dances and songs are very similar to those of the Malaysian hill tribe Orang Achlis. Mandis speak in both Mandi and Bangla.

Christian missionaries tried to introduce the Latin letters into the Mandi language, but the effort proved unsuccessful. However, the Mandi language can now be easily written in Bangla alphabet. Many Mandis perform Bangla dances very well and are good at singing Bangla songs.

In the past Mandis used to put on barks of trees. The common dress of modern- day Mandi males is Jana or nengti (a narrow piece of cloth worn around the waist), although the Mandi people of a relatively higher status wear short skirts woven by themselves. The women cover their breasts by a short piece of cloth and knotting it on their backs. The males also wear gamcha or dhuti and many women put on saris, shirts and trousers.

Mandis are very conservative in their outlook. At present almost all Mandis are Christians and only a few are Muslims. However, Mandis have retained their traditional culture and customs even after being converted to Christianity.

Besides traditional beliefs, Mandis follow their own religion, Sangshareq, which has roots in agriculture. They are not concerned about worshipping idols and do not bother about virtue, gods and goddesses or heaven and hell. They observe thirteen or more brata (vows) and festivals in a year and pray for the fertility of the soil, safety for the harvests and protection from evil spirits, diseases and epidemics.

When someone dies, Mandis sacrifice animals, offer food to guests and observe different vows before and after the funeral rites, so that the soul of the deceased cannot do them any harm. Their funeral ceremonies are observed in prolonged rituals, where the dead body is bathed and then thoroughly anointed with oil by a woman while other women sing traditional mourning songs. The last offering of food to the dead is marked by a feast with plenty of wine. The celebration includes dances, songs and rhythmic beating of drums.

The rate of literacy in the Mandi community is higher among the women than among the men. The reason is the matriarchal system. This imbalance makes it difficult for a girl to find a husband of equal standing. While working or walking, mothers carry their babies on their backs, wrapped round with a piece of cloth.

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