The Manipuri Ethnic Group in Bangladesh

The Manipuri people are of Mongolian descent and speak a language called Meithei. Most Manipuri people lived in northeastern India. The Manipuri fled from their homeland in the northeastern Indian kingdom of Manipur to settle in East Bengal, which was then ruled by Britain. However, in 1947 East Bengal gained its independence and today most Manipuri people live in the district of Sylhet of northeastern Bangladesh.

In contrast to the flat plains of Bangladesh, the district of Sylhet is characterized by rolling hills and is famous for its tea plantations and lush tropical forests. Most of the Manipuri peoples are farmers and they have a succeeded in growing crops of rice, sugarcane, tobacco, oranges and pineapples.

The Manipuri, according to their custom, do not eat meat, but they do eat fish. Manipuri people are primitive in that they still wash their clothes and bathe in the rivers. Their huts of mud and reeds are commonly built near the river’s edge.

When it comes to marriage ceremonies the Manipuri People must find a spouse from another clan because they may not marry within their own clan. Manipuri enjoy their recreation and some of their activity involves polo, boat racing, drama and dancing. They are famous throughout the world for their beautiful expressive dances, which are closely tied to their religion. Their style pf dancing is graceful and gentle and the themes are usually centered on the life of the god Krishna. Manipuri dancing is also characterized by the balancing technique applied by the dancers. The costumes worn by the dancers are designed so as not to arouse any excitement of the opposite sex and the dance rhythm involves mostly the upper part of the body so as not to appear immodest.

The Manipuri are very religious people, and are believed to have converted to Hinduism in the sixteenth century. However, elements of their pre-Hindu religion still remain today. They worship the Hindu gods but also worship many other gods of nature- the snake being one of them. The Manipuri people are also very superstitious and often make their decisions by observing the positions of roosters’ feet based upon an old proverb, “All wisdom derives from a rooster’s foot.”