Mru, The (also Mro) a small ethnic minority,
who live scattered in the hill district of bandarban.
They live mostly in Toin, Mangu, Toinfa, Luloing, Uttarhangar, Dhakkinhangar,
Tankabati, Harinjuri, Takerpanchari, Renikhyong, Pantola, Thankhyong,
Swalok, Tindow, Singpa, Alikhoung and Bhariyatali mouzas.
The Mru population in chittagong
hill tracts in 1956 was 17000 and in 1981, it stood at 20,000.
Mrus are also known as Mro and murong.
call them Lengta, Kuki, or Langye or wild/primitive
people while some people of the plains designate them as Morungs,
which according to many, are different from Mros in some aspects.
Mro sacrificing an animal
during a feast
Murongs living in the district of khagrachhari
are in fact a clan of the Tipra (tripura).
There is a linguistic affinity between the two groups of people. In the
Indian State of Tripura, the counterparts of Murongs are known as Riangs.
However, on many occasions, Mros are contemptuously called Mro-Dang
or Myawktong, meaning lower type of animal being. But Mros introduce
themselves as Mro-cha. The word mro means man and cha
stands for being.
Rajwang, the chronicle of Arakanese Kings, records
that during the 12th century two Mro men helped King Da Tha, the Raja
of Arakan (1153-1165) in locating the Mahamuni Statue. In the 14th century,
Mros were driven out from arakan
a powerful tribe. They moved to the Hill Tracts of Bandarban and settled
down in the western valley of the sangu
along the matamuhuri
river. This is supported by a letter of the King of Burma to
the Chief of chittagong
district. The King stated in the letter that some Murongs along
with people of other tribes left Arakan and took refuge in the Chittagong
region, from where they operated raids on the both sides of the
Mros have Mongoloid features but are tall and strong and have dark complexion. They are peaceful and timid. Moustache and beard are hardly seen on their face. Physically, they closely resemble the Semang of Malaysia.
They build their houses on hilltops. The houses are big and seem to be built for community dwelling. Mros depend mainly on hunting but many of them are engaged in jhum cultivation, jautha khamar (collective farming) and gardening. They have no permanent abodes. Migratory instincts have prevented them from progress in daily life. Mro women are very active in economic pursuits, weave their own clothes and manage all affairs of the house.
Mros take boiled rice twice a day and consume all types of meat but hardly use spicy items in cooking curry. Dry fish is their favourite food. Drinking is popular and they have no taboo as regards any food.
Mro men wear round the waist a strip of cloth called lengti, which is passed between the two legs. The females use a small piece of dark blue cloth (wanglai) to cover the private part of the body; the left side is kept open. It is embroidered in the centre. The wanglai is 6 inches in width from top of bottom. The women hardly cover their breasts. They bind their hairs on the left side of the back of the head. A male wears a lungi, and a shirt and a female uses a piece of cloth on the upper part of her body when they go to the market. Males keep long hairs and also put high hair in a bun just above the forehead and use turbans (pagri) as head dresses.
Mros decorate their body using different colours; both boys and girls colour their lips. They prefer to paint their cheeks, lips and forehead red when they go out for dancing. Females put flowers on head and ears and also a string of small beads on their necks. Only bachelors and spinsters can participate in ceremonial dances. Like the women, the men bore their ears and put on rings. Every Mro blackens
his/her teeth. Their musical instruments consist of bamboo pipes called plungs. When dancing, men wear red clothes with a head-dress of feathers and beads while women dress themselves with flowers, beads and coins.
Mros do not have any written language. The language they speak has some similarity with the Burmese and it seems to belong to the Tibeto-Burman family. In all probability, the Mro language was separated from Tibeto-Burma group at an early period. The Mro vocabulary, syntax, and grammar, to some extent, resemble the Kuki-Chin languages of northeastern India and northwestern Myanmar. Nowadays, some Mros receive modern education at Shialoe school (near Bandarban town) established by the government. Mros talk to their neighbours in the local tongue and know Bangla. In this sense, they are bilingual.
The Mro society is patriarchal. Although the father is the head of the family, women play a dominant role in social life. The property goes from father to son but the lion's share is given to the youngest son. In old age, father and mother live with him. Elementary and joint family system are prevalent in the Mro society. Mros are divided into several clans such as Dengua (plantain tree), Premsang (cockscomb plant), Konglai (wild plantain tree), Maizer (jackfruit tree), and Ganaroo Gnor (mango tree). From this division, it appears that totemic tree worship is still prevalent in Mro society.
Marriage within the clan is prohibited. They marry within the tribe, although intertribal marriage may also take place on rare occasions.
Two types of marriage are found in Mro society: marriage by elopement and marriage by negotiation. In case of divorce, the husband is repaid all that he had given to his wife except the ornaments, which the wife takes to her father's house. For a woman, a second marriage is unusual but a man can marry after the death of the first wife. Polygamy and polyandry is practically absent and child marriage is rare. Mros dispose of the dead body by burying and burning. They pay tribute to the Bohmong chief.
Mros are animists and have three gods: Turai, the creator of the universe, Sangtung, the spirit of the hill, and Oreng, the river deity. In starting any venture, they take oath in the name of Turai; the Sangtung (hill spirit) is considered sacred, and they offer prayer to this hill spirit for good harvest in jhum cultivation. Oreng is worshipped collectively for the welfare of the villagers and to keep out epidemic diseases and bad luck. Mros do not believe in the next world ie, the world after death and they direct all their activities to the present world.
Buddhist influences are evident in the daily life of Mros. A section of Mros adheres to christianity. Lately, many Mros have embraced Cramma, a new religion founded by a Mro named Manley. However, all oaths are taken in honour of guns, daos (chopper) and tigers. Mros venerate the sun and the moon but do not offer any sacrifice to them. They do not have scriptures, temples, and priests.
Sacrifice of cow constitutes one of the principal ceremonies of the Mros; it is called Kumulong. Acoording to Mro mythology, the religious book that their god sent to their forefathers was in the form of scriptures written on banana leaves. A messenger was given the scriptures and some clothes for Mro women to wear. In course of his journey, the messenger halted on the bank of a river, left the scriptures and the clothes on the bank and went to take a bath. On his return, he found that a cow had eaten up the leaves and nothing is left out of the holy book. The cow also swallowed up the major part of the clothes. This is how Mros were left without formal religion and their women got to wear few clothes. For this act, Mros punish a cow every year ceremoniously. A well-fed cow is tied to a pole in an open space where the whole village assembles. Drinking and dancing around the cow continue till afternoon, when they start striking the cow with a painted bamboo stick till blood gushes from its body and it dies. The blood of the cow is considered sacred and preserved in bamboo pots. The animal body is cut off with a sharp dao. Then the villagers sit in a circle. The elderly Mro villagers distribute the blood to every member so that they can suck it. Later, they eat the roasted flesh of the cow. In the ceremony, all persons are urged to live in peace with their neighbours and relatives.
Another Mro ritual is champua. On a fixed day, young boys and girls go to the dense forest to cut banana leaves and celebrate the festival by dancing and singing till dawn. Such a ritual gives young men and women the chance to select their life partners.
Mros try to maintain a close relationship with other
tribes; men and women visit nearby markets to sell agricultural products
and purchase necessary items for daily use. [Abdul Mabud Khan]