Dainak people in Myanmar

Introduction

Daingnet claims they are the descendants of the ancient Sakya race, who migrated from Central India to Myanmar in the first civilization called Tagaung in 9th century B.C. In India they are known as Tonchangya, and Tanchangya in Bangladesh and Daingnet in Rakhine state in Myanmar. According to Myanmar records, they were Sakyas then the Arakan king gave a new name called Daingnet according to “Myanmar Min Ayedaw Bung” under Danyawaddy Ayedawbung. From Daingnet/ Dainak/ Doinak their name become Tanchangya after their arrival in Bangladesh in the early 19th century A.D.

In fact, they are the descendants of Sakya from India. How they got their name into Daingnet is rather important to explain. Quoting from Rupak Debnath’s ‘Ethnicity of Chakma and Tanchangya’ (p-54), ‘as for Daingnak or Tanchangya, an old Arakan account identifies them as Sak captives of Macchagiri; King Mengdi had settled them in the Ann-Dalak region of Arakan, where they intermixed with the local population to evolve, in course of the 14th century AD, a distinct cultural paradigm. From native traditions, the Daingnak appears to have allied with the Sak. But on suffering reverses against Arakan, they moved to the southern part of the Hill Tracts where they settled in the Matamuri valley. ‘Daingnak’ or ‘Daingnet’ is Marma for Tanchangya while the appellation ‘Tanchangya’ is linked to their first settlement in the region of the Tein Chaung or Tain Chhari, a tributary of the Matamuri River.’

According to them the word Dain means, “Protected shield used in sword war” in Burmese and “nek” or “nak” means black. While it refers to the historical record, there is no record as Dainak or Dainek. However, go back to the 14th century in 1331 AD the Rakhine King, Mengdi brought the Daingnet people after conquering from Thaye Township (Thaye, its ancient name is Macchagiri (Myanmar pronunciation) comes from Macchagiri- Fish Mountain) in Magwe Division near the Irrawaddy river to Rakhine Kingdom. (Ref: Danyawaddy Aye Seibong). Why did the Rakhine King bring the Daingnet people is a question. Because, it is said that there were two kingdoms “Anouk Dain” (western kingdom) and “Ase Dain” (Eastern Kingdom) that belonged to the “Thek” people which the Rakhine Kingdom fell in the middle. Indeed both kingdoms are claimed by Chakma People whereas the east kingdom could possibly belong to Daingnet.

Even though Daingnet people were skillful in fighting with the protected shield, they lost in the Eastern Kingdom around present-day Thaye. After bringing them, the Rakhine king asked to tax the ‘protected shield’ for war as tax in (Dain-Anek)Black Colour. Due to giving tax the protected shield of black colour, Rakhine called them as “Dainnak”, which means people who have given tax the black protected shield. If the protected shield is black colour in the night then the opponent cannot see it. Thus, the king asked the black colour shield as a tax. With the protected shield not only protecting themselves but also making the music sound so that the elephants and horses will be afraid of it. Why did Rakhine King go for war with the Eastern Kingdom? The answer is just as when India was between the two parts of Pakistan, always afraid of attacking. Finally, India supported East Pakistan to be Bangladesh for her own strategy. In the same way, Rakhine King fought with the Eastern Kingdom so that Rakhine could be able to protect only the western kingdom.

Daingnet and their geographical distribution

Having elaborate a short account of Dain-nek, it will explain how the Tanchangya of Daingnet settled to Bangladesh and India came into existence? Indeed, it is the combination of two words: Toin > Tong > Tan and Gang + ya >Changya. The word Toin is one of the tributaries of Matamuri Rivers in Southwest part of Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. In the earliest time when they migrated from Rakhine due to the torture of Rahine, the Daingnet people settled in the valley of Toin Tributary, as a result they got the word “Toing.” Moreover, the word “Gang” means River and “Ya” means persons who live (in certain places), in Tanchangya. It is believed that they dwelt in the Toin River at least a hundred or two. That led them inevitably to choose the term Toin-gangya which eventually evolved into “Tanchangya/Tongchangya” At present Tanchangya people are living in Bangladesh in the district of Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar. In India, they live in the state of Mizoram and Tripura and even heard that there are some Tanchangya in Arunachal Pradesh who are named as Chakma. In Myanmar, they live in the States of Rakhine and Chin and in the Yangon Division (Rangoon). Those who are dwelling in those states claim themselves as “Chakma which officially recorded them as Daingnet. Despite their different names, their culture, customs, and language are similar to the Tanchangya who stay in India and Bangladesh. Tanchangya and Chakma are a little similar but the way they dress and language are different.

According to the racial stratification the Tanchangya community belongs to the Mongoloid group. They are sturdy, strong, brave, talented, open, and yet modest in behaviour. They have a medium and round face with slim, tall figures and fair skin.

They mostly settled in the village, which symbolizes them as a long tradition of handing the ancient culture of loving the “Beauty of Nature”. They enjoy and continue their life in the midst of trees and forests that make them healthy both bodily and spiritually.

Demography and Education

Having discussed their concentration place and their mode, it is going to describe their population and literacy. The populations of Tanchangya were numerically a small community having 30,000 people as per the census of the private Tanchangya Organization in 1998. However, at present they claim approximately they will be numbering of 80,000. Looking at their literary background their percentage of their literacy is low in Myanmar. In secular education very few are educated with graduation however in the religious field they are educated. Some of the monks completed and some are doing to complete the degree of “Dhammacariya” (Teacher of Dhamma) which is equivalent to the first degree. Since their childhood, most of the male children stay in the monastery and learn the teaching of the Buddha. They become novice (samanera) and in their twenty-years received their higher ordination (monkhood) and teach the teaching of the Buddha for the welfare of all. Now due to the good environment, the young generations are attending the school in secular studies.

Occupation

After touching their literary condition it is going to mention a brief account of their economic status. The Tanchangya are mostly farmers and they cultivate paddy in wetland cultivation wherever water logging low lying lands in between the ridges are available. Moreover, they also cultivate yum, potatoes, mustard seeds, and they do grow fruit such as orange, banana, pineapple, lemon, and sugar cane. Furthermore, they also do tree plantations. They cultivate their crops in plain areas, where water can easily drainable and by terracing the gentle hill slopes. They cultivate ginger to a great extent and sell the raw products in the weekly market at wholesome and retail prices. They are industrious. Manufacturing of cane and bamboo goods are required for domestic purposes which are another important source of earning their livelihood. These days there are some who work in government service and non-government particularly in the factories in Yangon and other major cities.

Culture

Language

The Tanchangya in Myanmar has preserved their ancient language, which the older generation could speak in India and Bangladesh. Due to the influence of Burmese culture, they speak some of the words with the frequent inclusion of Burmese. The old generation of Tanchangya words is almost forgotten by the younger generation of Tanchangya in India and Bangladesh. While in Myanmar they still use such as “Thor” which means monk, “Along” means all, good morning, evening means “Gom dibhuya/ binya”, thanks means “gom gom/paye paye ,( gom uye gom uye), “duhu” means bag, rawth means train or aeroplane, park means “aram”, quality means vanna, by cycle means ‘teng gari’, ghost means ‘jettha’/ ‘bhut’ etc. Their languages are based on ancient sacred languages such as Pali, Prakrit, and Sanskrit, which are the Middle-Indo Aryan Language Family.

Dress:

After narrating in the Tanchangya language, it is going to mention concisely on their dress. Now the Tanchangya people in Myanmar are mixed up with the traditional dress of Burmese (Myanmar) like a loincloth, shirt, and other modern Western dress such as shirt, hat, dress, suit, and so on. However, the Tanchangya people in India and Bangladesh have preserved their colourful charming dress.

Social life

Family structure

Having described the Tanchangya language, it is going to discuss their family structure. They have both Monogamy and polygamy marriage. The Tanchangya in Myanmar follows the patriarchal and matriarchal system of family structure. The father and mother are the head of the family. They have both joint family and separate or single-family structures.

Marriage

Concerning their wedding, it is called Sa-nga in Tanchangya, the word for “wedding”. The system of marriage of Tanchangya in Myanmar is the same as the Tanchangya in India and Bangladesh. There are many types of marriages existed in Tanchangya community, they are:

a) The bridegroom takes to the bride’s house

b) The lover elopes and marries

c) The couple marries in the temple

d) The couple runs away to another place and,

e) Court Marriage

If there is the disagreement of bride parents, then, they usually claim for dowry. If they take back their daughter for twice and in the third time, bride parents cannot take them by force of their daughter according to their marriage custom.

Law of Inheritance

The law of inheritance in Tanchangya plays an important aspect in the distribution of their parents’ wealth. They preserved similar customs as the Tanchangya practice of the distribution of inheritance in India and Bangladesh. The male children of a deceased father divided the property equally among themselves including furniture, cattle, etc. However, the daughter cannot claim any share of the property except when they have no brothers. But if the son and mother have an agreement, they can have a share of the property. The children of a father who is mad or becomes recluse get an equal share of his property. If the deceased father does not have any child, the adopted son will inherit all the property. If a wife is separated during her pregnancy and if she gives birth to a male child, he will inherit her ex-husband’s property. If someone dies as a bachelor or without any children, his property will transfer to his brother.

Religious Life

After stating their custom of inheritance, it will reflect their practice of religious life. Tanchangya people have been Buddhist since a long time ago as the followers of Theravada Buddhism and until now they follow with strong confidence. They take refuge throughout their whole life the Triple Gem, the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. They have the confidence that the Buddha is the supreme guide in order to liberate from suffering to happiness, ignorance to enlighten, misery to open-handed evil to good, wrong-view to right view, a conceit to modest, laziness to industrious, doubtful to trusty non-forgiveness to forgiveness enemies to friendship, restlessness to one-pointedness of mind, hatred with loving-kindness, liar to the truth, theft and drunkard to a good person and so on. Those qualities are indeed the heart of Buddhist practice.

They visit the temple and take five precepts along Triple Gem and listen to the Buddha’s teaching preached by most venerable monks in the temple. On the full moon day and the new – moon day they worship the Buddha by offering candles, sense sticks, flower honey, etc. Whenever they go to monasteries they never go with an empty hand. At least they bring some fruit, biscuits, etc. for the monk. As the Lord Buddha taught the way to live a blissful life is engaging always with wholesome practice. Moreover they also observe the religious festivals colourfully such as kathina festival, Vesakha full moon day, Asalha, Katthika, Magasira full moon days. Besides the religious festival they also celebrate the “Water Festival” to mark the end of the Old Year and beginning of the New Myanmar Era for ten days. It is like Bisu or Bishu at the end of Citta (second week of April) of the old year of Bengali and New Year of Bengali.

Conclusion

As it has discussed above on culture, society, economy, education, and religion of Tanchangya/Dainget/Dainak in brief. Interestingly there are lots of similarities found between the Dainak and Tanchangya in Bangladesh and Tongchangya in India simply due to inherent attitude and their same roots. They are in the process of their future establishment. However, they are still far away compared to the Tanchangya in Bangladesh and Tongchangya in India. They have no political leading people though recently the Myanmar government is encouraged to appoint a leading person from each minority group. Particularly, they need to revive their cultural dress, alleviation of poverty and illiteracy, and widen their future progress in the global world. If anybody by reading this debut article gets any information or inspiration the commitment of writing will regard success.

Earlier published sources:

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