Bandarban District

Bandarban District

Infobox of BD districts
native_name = Bandarban
skyline = Bandarban1.jpg
skyline_size =
skyline_caption = Skyline of Bandarban
locator_position = left
latd = 22.20
longd = 92.35
division_name = Chittagong Division
population_as_of = 1991
population_total = 292900
population_density = 65.39
literacy_rate = 39.5%
area_total = 4,479
website =
website_caption = Banglapedia Article

Bandarban (Bengali:বান্দরবান) is a district in South-Eastern Bangladesh, and a part of the Chittagong Division and Chittagong Hill Tracts. Bandarban (meaning "the dam of monkeys") is also known as Arvumi or the Bohmong Circle (of the rest of the three hill districts Rangamati is the Chakma Circle and Khagrachari is the Mong Circle). Bandarban town is the home town of the Bohmong Chief (currently King, or "Raja", Aung Shue Prue Chowdhury) who is the head of the Marma tribe people. It also is the administrative headquarter of Bandarban district, which has turned into one of the most exotic tourist attractions in Bangladesh since the insurgency in Chittagong Hill Tracts has ceased more than a decade back.Fact|date=February 2007


One of the three hill districts of Bangladesh and a part of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bandarban (4,479 km²) is not only the remotest district of the country, but also is the least populated (population 292,900). The three highest peak of Bangladesh - Tahjindong (1280 meters, also known as bijoy), Mowdok Mual (1052 meters), and Keokradong (1230 metres) - are located in Bandarban district, as well as Raikhiang Lake, the highest lake in BangladeshFact|date=April 2007. Chimbuk peak and Boga Lake are two more highly noted features of the district. The newly reported highest peak of Bangladesh - Saka Haphong (3488 feet) is also here in Thanchi upazila.Fact|date=January 2008

Bandarban Sadar, Thanchi, Lama, Naikhongchhari, Ali kadam, Rowangchhari, and Ruma are the administrative sub-districts of Bandarban. Major road routes are:
* Bandarban-Rowangchhari-Ruma
* Bandarban-Chimbuk-Thanchi-Alikadam-Baishari-Dhundhum
* Chimbuk-Ruma
* Chimbuk-Tangkabati-Baro Aoulia
* Aziznagar-Gojalia-Lama and
* Khanhat-Dhopachhari-Bandarban.

Inside Bangladesh, Bandarban is bordered by Cox's Bazaar, Chittagong, Rangamati and Khagrachari. On the other side of the national border lies Myanmar provinces of Chin and Arakan. The district also features river Sangu, also known as Sangpo or Shankha, the only river born inside Bangladesh territory. The other rivers in the district are Matamuhuri and Bakkhali. Meranja, Wailatong, Tambang and Politai are the four hill ranges here. Parts of the biggest lake in Bangladesh - Kaptai Lake - fall under the area of Bandarban.


Bandarban lies, by bus, eight hours away from Dhaka, two hours from Chittagong and three hours from Cox's Bazaar. It is also possible to get there by a six hour bus ride from Rangamati.

The Buddha Dhatu Jadi, the largest Buddhist temple in Bangladesh, located in Balaghata, 4 km from the town, is one excellent place to visit. This Theravada Buddhist temple is made completely in the style of South-East Asia and houses the second largest statue of Buddha in Bangladesh. The waterfall named Shoilo Propat at Milanchari is also an excellent site.

The numerous Buddhist temples, known as "kyang" in local tongue, and vihars in the town include the highly notable the Rajvihar (royal vihar) at Jadipara and the Ujanipara Vihar. Bawm villages around Chimbuk, and Mru villages a little further off, are also lie within a day's journey from the town. Prantik Lake, Jibannagar and Kyachlong Lake are some more places of interest. And, a boat ride on the river Sangu is also an excellent proposition.

Bandarban Town

A nearly 52 km² hill-town housing about 32,000 people, of which the majority are Bengali or Marma. There is a Tribal Cultural Institute here, which features a library and a museum. The town also features Bandarban Town Hospital (offering the best medical service in the district), the District Public Library, Bandarban Government College, the District Stadium, banashri, the solitary movie theatre, the royal cemetery, and, of course, the Royal Palace (two of them since the 11th and 13th royal lines both claim the throne). Apart from the numerous kyangs and mosques, there is a temple dedicated to Kali, the most revered goddess of Hindus is Bangladesh, as well as a centre maintained by ISKON.


A kingdom of the Mru since early fourteenth century, Bandarban came under Marma rule after the Mughal invasion of Chittagong under Emperor Aurangzeb in mid seventeenth century, though the Mughal could never defeat the Mru. During the raids of the Portuguese Armada and the heyday of Arakanese kingdom Marmas and Rakhains had moved into the area in large numbers. In mid eighteenth century Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal, invaded the area, as it went almost independent with decline of the Mughals.

British and Pakistani rule

During the British Raj, it was declared as the Bohmong circle with limited autonomy. During World War II the area saw the presence of a formidable British military presence that came to stand against a Japanese invasion. The tribes of these hills held the reputation of unyielding rebellion throughout history. When India, Pakistan and Myanmar went independent from the Raj, the tribes of Bandarban flew the Myanmar, then known as Burma, flag for a few days. During the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) to gain independence from Pakistan, leaders of the tribal people sought allegiance with Pakistan government.

ince Bangladeshi independence

In the late 1970s, a policy of forced settling of Bengalis into hills was pursued, which later gave rise to much violence against the hill people and the insurgency led by Shanti Bahini. [ Chittagong Hill Tracts: India Urged to Raise Minority Issues] , Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, March 20, 2006.] There have been an attempt to create divide among tribal cultural lines between the Chakmas, who led Shantibanhini, and the Mrus, by creating an anti-Shantibanhini militia out of them. Now, after the peace treaty, Bandarban stands as a locally governed ethnic region together with the two other hill districts. Representation of numerous tribes of the district in the Hill Council now stands as a thorn of dispute here.

Contemporary history of Bandarban has not been a happy one, despite much development initiatives taken by church organizations and UN agencies like UNICEF, UNDP and UNFPA as well as Bangladesh Army present in large numbers here. The district is not allowed a cell-phone network and is still under a quasi-military rule. Insurgents from across the borderFact|date=February 2007 as well as drugs and arms smugglers play a large role in the jungles here. Newspaper reports of discovering poppy fields [ Poppy Cultivation of 100 Acres at Burma- Bangladesh Border Destroyed] , Kalandan News, May 10, 2005.] [ Poppy cultivations destroyed in border area] , Narinjara News, March 17, 2005.] or arms caches [ Bangladeshi security forces seize another weapons cache] , BurmaNews International, 25 November, 2004.] are not rare for Bandarban. There also is much tension between Bengali settlers and ethnic minorities, as well as between early Hindu settlers and recent Muslim settlers and between dominant tribes and lesser tribes.


Heavily dependent on Jumm farming, which is a slash and burn agricultural technique, Bandarban produces little that is of economic value outside self consumption of the hill people, also known as Jumia. Fruits (banana, pineapple, jackfruit, papaya), masala (ginger, turmeric) and tribal textile are the major exports of the district, with tourism growing fast as a source of revenue.Fact|date=February 2007 Much of the trade in fruit, like most other commerce in the district, has been taken over by Bengali settlers.

Clothes are mostly made of cotton, wool imported from Myanmar and silk cotton which is a rarity in most of Bangladesh. All cotton is spun and woven by hand. To promote local textile there now is a Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industry Corporation (BSCIC) center in Bandarban together with a wonderful sales centre. BSCIC has also introduced mechanical spinning and weaving here.

Bamboo and tobacco grows in significant quantity, but largely is not considered as economically profitable products. Bamboo is used, along with canes, not just to make the traditional stilt houses, but is the material for most tribal craft, including the bamboo smoking pipe, a major health hazard. Some bamboo-craft and local-made cigarillos are now exported out of the district.

Two church-based development organization - Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) and Caritas are the major forces of development in the district. UNICEF is driving the education effort, which is mostly directed at younger children.


There are more than fifteen ethnic minorities living in the district besides the Bengalis, including: the Marma, Mru, Tanchangya, Bawm, Khyang, Tripura, Lushei, Khumi, Chak, Kuki, Chakma, Rakhine, Riyang, Usui and Pankho. The religious composition of the population, as of 1991, is 47.62% Muslim, 38% Buddhist, 7.27% Christian, 3.52% Hindu and 3.59% others. [ [] ]

The Mru, also known as Murong, who are famous for their music and dance. The Mru in major numbers have converted to the youngest religion in Bangladesh – "Khrama" (or "Crama") – a religion that prohibits much of their old ways. They are proposed as the original inhabitants of Bandarban. [ [ Mother Tongue at Stake! - Cover Story on the Daily Star] ] [ [ From the land of the sunrise - the New Age] ]

The Bawm are another major tribe here. Now converted almost totally to Christianity they have taken full advantage of the church to become the most educated people in the district.Fact|date=February 2007

The Marma, also know as Magh, are of Myanmar by origin and Buddhists by religion, and are the second largest tribe in the hill districts of Bangladesh. They are closely related to the Rakhain, as both of the people came from the same stock in Aarakan.

The Chakma and the Tanchangya are also closely related. The Khumi live in the remotest parts of the district, and the group is thought to include yet unexplored/ unclassified tribes.Fact|date=February 2007

These ethnic groups are again divided in hundreds of clans and sects, principally dominated by four religious threads - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Animism. All these clans and groups are clustered into two major ethnic families - the hill people and the valley people - though since the Kaptai dam flooded the valley to give birth to Kaptai lake, the valley people have started to live on hill tops along the hill people.

Bengali settlers, coming in with the forced settlements in 1979, and Rohingya settlers, coming in across the Myanmar border since the junta came to power in Yangon in 1992, now has become two major ethnic groups outside minorities. It must be noted that not all Bengalis are new comers, as many of the Hindu families, mostly from the lower castes, here have settled even before some of the hill tribes.Fact|date=February 2007



*Lonely Planet Bangladesh (Lonely Planet Bangladesh) by Richard Plunkett, et al
*Identity Politics in Central Asia and the Muslim World (Library of International Relations *Vol. 13) by Willem van Schendel (Editor), Erik J. Zurcher (Editor)
*Deforestation, Environment, and Sustainable Development: A Comparative Analysis by Dhirendra K. Vajpeyi (Editor)
*Minorities, Peoples And Self-determination: Essays In Honour Of Patrick Thornberry by Nazila Ghanea (Editor)
*Mru: Hill People on the Border of Bangladesh by Claus-Dieter Brauns, et al

External links

* [ Indigenous People of Bangladesh]
* [ Banglapedia entry on Bandarban District]
* [ Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti]

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