Marma dancers
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Bangladesh (Bandarban, Khagrachari, Rangamati, Patuakhali and Barguna Districts)224,261[1]
 Myanmar (Rakhine State)Unknown
 India (Tripura)Unknown
Marma, Bengali, Burmese
Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Mog people, Rakhine people, Burmese people

one of the 135 officially recognized ethnicities in Myanmar (formerly Burma)
Marma girls at the Water Festival during Sangrai (New year celebration.)
Marma girls at the Water Festival during Sangrai (New year celebration.)

The Marma (Burmese: မရမာလူမျိုး), formerly known as Moghs or Maghs, are the second-largest ethnic community in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts, primarily residing in the Bandarban, Khagrachari and Rangamati Hill Districts. Some Marmas live in Bangladesh's coastal districts of Cox's Bazar and Patuakhali, while others live in Tripura, India and Myanmar. There are over 210,000 Marmas living in Bangladesh. Since the 16th century, the Marma have considered the Bengal's Chittagong Hill Tracts their home, where they have established the Bohmong and Mong Circles (chiefdoms).

Endonyms and exonyms

The term Marma was officially coined by Bohmong Maung Shwe Prue in the late 1940s to the people of his circle. The term "Marma" is derived from "Myanmar."[2] In the Marma and Arakanese languages, Myanmar is pronounced Mranma ([mɹəmà]), not Myanma ([mjəmà]). In the Burmese language, the Marma are known as the Marama (မရမာ). Mostly they use their own mother tongue for speaking.

The Marmas were previously known as Moghs or Maghs for centuries because they were called Mogh/Magh by Bengalis for joining hands with Dutch and Portuguese pirates during their invasion in Chittagong. The Marmas considered these names to be pejorative, because it means "pirate," and thus assumed the new name Marma in the 1940s. Some Marmas in the Indian state of Tripura continue to self-identify as Marima, or as Moghs or Maghs, considering these terms to have derived from Magadha, the name of a historic Indian kingdom.[3]


Group of Bandarban Marmas with Bohmong in centre, c. 1906
Group of Bandarban Marmas with Bohmong in centre, c. 1906

The Marmas migrated from present-day Rakhine State to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) between the 16th and 18th centuries, coinciding with the Kingdom of Mrauk U's conquest of Chittagong.[4] Records of the East India Company and others indicate that the Marmas migrated from the Kingdom of Mrauk U to Chittagong of Bangladesh in two phases of migrations during 14th to 17th centuries in the golden period of Mrauk U. In the first phase, during the Mrauk U Kingdom expanded to some parts of Chittagong Division. Secondly, Marma ancestors fled to Chittagong and settled down as the Arakanese kingdom was conquered and annexed by Burmese king Bodawpaya in 1785.

Marma girls, c. 1906.
Marma girls, c. 1906.

In 1971, following the Bangladesh Liberation War in which Bangladesh achieved independence, the country's majority Bengali Muslims began settling in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, which has displaced native inhabitants.[5]

Genetic studies

Genetic studies have indicated that the Marma populations share a high frequency of Indian and low frequency of East Asian specific maternal haplogroups, and have the highest haplotype diversity when compared with Tripura and Chakma populations, suggesting deep colonization of the region by Marmas.[6]


The Marmas are subdivided into 12 clans, named after the place from where they migrated.[7] These clans include the Ragraisa, consisting of Marmas living south of the Karnaphuli river, the Palaingsa from Ramgarh Upazila, the Khyongsa (ချောင်းသား) from riverside communities, the Toungsa (တောင်သား) from the hill ridges, and smaller clans including the Longdusa, the Frangsa, the Kyokara-sa, and the Talongsa (တလိုင်းသား).[4][3]

The culture of the Marmas is similar to that of the Rakhine people, including their language, food, clothes, religion, dance, and funeral rites. Marma men wear a sarong called lungyi, while Marma women wear a sarong called thabein.

Marmas mostly depend on agriculture, traditionally practicing slash-and-burn cultivation on the hills. Their belief in Theravada Buddhism is as deep as the Rakhine society's, with an emphasis on ritual practices in deities. Some Marmas also practice Animism, Christianity and Islam.[8]

Marmas follow the Burmese calendar. They celebrate the New Year, called Sangrai (သင်္ကြန်), which begins on the first day of Bohag.[9] They make sangraimu, which is a form of traditional cakes. They take part in Sangrain Relong Pwe (သင်္ကြန်ရေလောင်းပွဲ; water pouring), where young Marma men and women spray each other with water. Sangrai is celebrated in three days, On the 1st day, called Painchwai or Akro, homes are decorated with flowers. On the 2nd day, Sangrai Akya, Marmas participate in traditional sports, dances, cultural activities and hold meetings regarding community issues. They also go to monasteries to participate in the Buddha statue's bathing (cleansing) ritual on this day. On the 3rd day, called Sangrai Atada, they cook a vegetable dish made out of more than 100 ingredients, called hangbong (ဟင်းပေါင်း; pachan in Bangla).[10]

After death, Marma elderlies are cremated, while younger deceased Marmas are buried.


Like other ethnic peoples, the Marma's celebrate a variety of traditional festivals such as birth, death, marriage and New Year. The main festivals of Marma's are: - Buddha Purnima , Kathina , Oyahgyai or Prabarana Purnima , Sangrai etc. The Marma New Year festival is called Sangrai . In addition to these festivals, other natural festivals are also celebrated, which are often similar to other indigenous ethnic groups in Bangladesh.

Buddha Punirma

Main article: Buddha's Birthday

On this full moon day, Mahamati Gautam Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and attained Mahaparinirvana . It is a religious festival. Every year the festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor.


Main article: Kathina

One night it's the color of cotton yarn from the Buddhist beggars wear cibara are made each solid cibara say.

Wagyai or Pravarana

Main article: Pravarana

Wagyai or Pravarana Purnima is a major religious festival of the Marmas. On this day this festival is celebrated with great joy and happiness in every society of Marmas and Bihar. These days delicious cakes are made at home. On this day at night, lanterns are blown to worship and dedicate the great hair of Gautam Buddha .


Main article: Sangrai festival in Bangladesh

The name of the Marma New Year festival is ' Sangrai '. This is one of their main traditional ceremonies. They organize this festival on the Bengali new year occasion of month Boishakh. On the occasion of the New Year, they organize various interesting events in Sangrai. Water festival is one of these events. On that day, the Marma youths rejoiced by sprinkling water on each other. By sprinkling water, they wash away the dirt and ink of the past year. Apart from that, they also find the person of their choice through water sports. In addition to water sports, they celebrate the Sangrai festival by performing other rituals such as pangchowai (flower sangrai), sangrai ji, candle lighting and buddhasnan. They enjoy their festivals by speaking on their mother tongue.

See also


  1. ^ "Table 1.4 Ethnic Population by Group and Sex" (PDF) (in Bengali). Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. 2021. p. 33.
  2. ^ "Marma". Voice of Jummaland. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b I, Fonkem Achankeng (28 September 2015). Nationalism and Intra-State Conflicts in the Postcolonial World. Lexington Books. ISBN 9781498500265.
  4. ^ a b Pain, Frederic (9 August 2017). "Towards a Panchronic Perspective on a Diachronic Issue: The Rhyme <-uiw> in Old Burmese" (PDF). Australian Journal of Linguistics. 37 (4): 424–464. doi:10.1080/07268602.2017.1350129. ISSN 0726-8602. S2CID 55078797.
  5. ^ "Ethnic violence in Bangladesh: assault on minority peoples continues - Asian Studies Association of Australia". Asian Studies Association of Australia. 2 August 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  6. ^ Gazi, Nurun Nahar; Tamang, Rakesh; Singh, Vipin Kumar; Ferdous, Ahmed; Pathak, Ajai Kumar; Singh, Mugdha; Anugula, Sharath; Veeraiah, Pandichelvam; Kadarkaraisamy, Subburaj (9 October 2013). "Genetic Structure of Tibeto-Burman Populations of Bangladesh: Evaluating the Gene Flow along the Sides of Bay-of-Bengal". PLOS ONE. 8 (10): e75064. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...875064G. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075064. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3794028. PMID 24130682.
  7. ^ "The MARMA". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  8. ^ Skutsch, Carl, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities. New York: Routledge. p. 181. ISBN 1-57958-468-3.
  9. ^ Barua, Sanjoy; Khan, Tamanna (13 April 2015). "Blaze of 'Boisabi' colour". The Daily Star. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Hill districts wear a festive look as Boisabi nears". The Daily Star. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2015.