The Kuki People of the Chittagong Hill Tracts
The Kuki people of Bangladesh reside in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and are an ethnic group that was first documented by the author Rawlins. Due to policies brought in by the British, this group can be found across borders in Burma and in India. Lieutenant Colonel Shakespeare included the Kom, Gangte, Chothe, Hmar, Moyon, Anal and others under the term Kuki due to the fact that the term Kuki refers to ‘Hillsmen’.
All the clans of the Kuki speak a dialect of the Tibeto-Burman language group, meaning that their language has a common origin. Their traditions, culture, heritage and rites are very similar. The individual tribes are identified by their region and the dialect that is spoken. Due to the presence of Mongoloid groups in India being documented as far back as circa 500 BC, it is believed that the Kuki began to migrate to the areas they are now known to frequent. Missionaries and their dedication to introducing Christianity to the Kuki created a significant change in their traditional customs and politics. William Pettigrew was the first missionary to arrive on 6 February 1894, and various other missionaries began to arrive and spread out across the country. The Kuki were fanatically opposed to the domination the British tried to impose and the very first rebellion occurred from 1917 to 1919. These clans were used to living independently and being led by chieftains. They also participated in World War II and are often referred to as “War-Mongers”.
The Kuki people still have a wonderful culture to explore and lead simple, yet very colorful lives. Dogs are the most cherished of all the animals they have domesticated, due to their loyalty. The Kuki live on a staple diet of rice. They have numerous vibrant festivals such as Mim Kut, Lawm Se’l Neh, Sa-Ai and Chawn le Han. Their festivals are accompanied by music and dance, with their own traditional instruments including the Theile, Dah-pi, Gosem, Se’lki and the Kho’ng-pi. The Kuki also have their own folklores that have been passed down through the generations, and have their own adventures to tell about Lengbante, Nanglhun and Jamdil. Some stories tell of romance, some of war and some of friendship, and numerous poetic songs written tell these stories and share their legends with those who listen.