Rakhine people
ရက္ခိုင်လူမျိုး (Rakhine)
Flag of Rakhine.svg
RakhineStudent YGN.jpg
Rakhine students in folk costume in 2018
Total population
5,800,000 (2020 est.)
Regions with significant populations
Arakanese, Burmese
Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Burman, Marma, Mog
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The Rakhine people (Rakhine: ရက္ခိုင်လူမျိုး, Rakhine pronunciation: [ɹəkʰàiɰ̃ lùmjó], Burmese: ရခိုင်လူမျိုး, Burmese pronunciation: [jəkʰàiɰ̃ lùmjó]), also known as the Arakanese people, are a Southeast Asian ethnic group in Myanmar (Burma) forming the majority along the coastal region of present-day Rakhine State (formerly officially called Arakan), although Rakhine communities also exist throughout the country, particularly in Ayeyarwady and Yangon Regions. They constitute approximately 5.53% or more of Myanmar's total population, but no accurate census figures exist. Smaller Rakhine communities exist in southeastern parts of Bangladesh, especially in Chittagong Division and Barisal Division, as well as in India. A group of Rakhine descendants, living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh at least since the 16th century, are known as the Marma people or Mog people.

Ancestral origins

See also: History of Rakhine and Arakan

The pagodas at Mrauk-U pagodas are part of modern-day Rakhine identity.
The pagodas at Mrauk-U pagodas are part of modern-day Rakhine identity.

Beginning in the 900s BC, the Bamar began migrating westward, crossing the Arakan Mountains and settling in what is now Rakhine State.[1][2] By the 1100s, they had consolidated control of the region, becoming a tributary state of the Pagan Empire until the 13th century.[3][2] Over time, these migrants formed a distinct cultural identity, eventually becoming the Rakhine people.[2][3]

According to traditional legends, the Rakhine ascribe their origins to Pyu settlers who migrated westward, led by Kanyaza Gyi, the legendary founder of the Second Dhanyawaddy Dynasty.[citation needed]

In the late 18th century, the Rakhine settled in Cox's Bazar and Patuakhali District after migrating from Myanmar. The Konbaung Kingdom of Burma annexed Arakan in 1784 and refugees moved to Cox's Bazar in 1796. The British colonial officer of the East India Trading Company, Captain Hiram Cox, was given the task of providing land to the refugees in 1799. An estimated 100 thousand refugees were settled in Cox's Bazar, Chittagong Hill Tracts, and Patuakhali by the East India Company government.[4] They settled in Patuakhali District and Barguna District in the 19th century.[5]

Rakhine descendants spread as far north as Tripura state in India, where their presence dates back to the ascent of the Rakhine kingdom when Tripura was ruled by Rakhine kings. In northeast India, the Arakanese people are referred to as the Mog, while in Indian sources, the Marma (descendants of the Rakhine in Bangladesh) and other Rakhine peoples are referred to as the Magh people.[citation needed]

Geographic distribution

Outside of Myanmar, there are a sizable Rakhine community in the southeast districts of Bangladesh, namely in Khagrachari, Rangamati, Bandarban and southern Cox's Bazar, with the Mong circle in Khagrachari having administrative duties. There is a small community of Rakhine people inhabiting the coastal areas of Patuakhali, Borguna and Cox's Bazar, having migrated to Bangladesh from Myanmar before the formation of these two contemporary countries. The total population of the community as of 2020 is 16,000.[6] The Rakhine people and the local Bengali population developed a unique dialect through which they could communicate. The Rakhine people were able to preserve their culture, language, and religion in Bengal. Rakhines observe Rakhine festival such as Sanggreng and Nai-chai ka.[4] The last Rakhine language school in Kuakata closed in 1998 due to shortage of funds, In January 2006, Chin Than Monjur, opened a Rakhine language community school which expanded into three news schools and used Rakhine language books from Myanmar. The schools were forced to close due to shortage of funds.[7]


The 150-year old Khaddya Song Chansai Rakhine cemetery in Taltali Upazila, Barguna District, was forcefully taken by local land grabbers in 2017. The Rakhine population in the Barguna and Patuakhali Districts decreased by 95%, from 50,000 in the 20th century to 2,561 in 2014, with Rakhines leaving Bangladesh due to illegal land-grabbing and persecution. Lands owned by them in the districts decreased by 81%.[8][9] Rakhine land is also being taken over by politicians in Patuakhali District.[10][11]


Rakhine script at a Bangladeshi Buddhist pagoda
Rakhine script at a Bangladeshi Buddhist pagoda

The Rakhine are predominantly Theravada Buddhists and are one of the four main Buddhist ethnic groups of Burma (the others being the Burman, Shan and Mon people). Rakhine culture is similar to the mainstream Burmese culture but with more Indian influence, likely due to its geographical isolation from the Burmese mainland divided by the Arakan Mountains and its closer proximity to India. Traces of Indian influence remain in many aspects of Arakanese culture, including its literature, music, and cuisine. The traditional Rakhine kyin wrestling also plays an important role in its culture. Rakhine mont di, consisting of rice vermicelli noodles, is popular across Myanmar.


Main article: Rakhine language

The Rakhine language is closely related to and generally mutually intelligible with Burmese. Notably, Rakhine retains an /r/ sound that has become /j/ in Burmese. Rakhine utilises the Burmese alphabet.

See also


  1. ^ Charney, Michael W. (31 August 2021), "Religion and Migration in Rakhine", Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.414, ISBN 978-0-19-027772-7, retrieved 11 September 2022
  2. ^ a b c Ware, Anthony; Laoutides, Costas (1 October 2018). "Rakhine–Burman Narratives: 'Independence', 'Unity', 'Infiltration'". doi:10.1093/oso/9780190928865.003.0004. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b Druce, Stephen C. (2020), Oishi, Mikio (ed.), "Myanmar's Unwanted Ethnic Minority: A History and Analysis of the Rohingya Crisis", Managing Conflicts in a Globalizing ASEAN, Singapore: Springer Singapore, pp. 17–46, doi:10.1007/978-981-32-9570-4_2, ISBN 978-981-329-569-8, retrieved 13 September 2022
  4. ^ a b Hasan, Kamrul. "Rakhain, The". en.banglapedia.org. Banglapedia. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Thousands of Rakhine people left country". The Daily Star. 2 September 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  6. ^ Khiam, Sharif (12 October 2020). "Ethnic Rakhine in Bangladesh Protest against Myanmar's 'Military Aggression'". Benar News. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Reopen the lone Rakhine language school in Kuakata". The Daily Star. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Thousands of Rakhines left Bangladesh". The Daily Star. 30 March 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Market on Rakhine temple's land". The Daily Star. 27 October 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  10. ^ "AL, BNP men's joint grabbing of Kuakata Rakhine land protested". The Daily Star. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Give constitutional recognition to indigenous people". The Daily Star. 1 October 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2018.