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Changing Pattern of the Mundas in the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest of Bangladesh

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The community celebrates seven generation through a festival named pahari puja. They belief that they are lucky, gets the ceremony in their life period. It become arrange out of the community residence, nearby canal, river or forest in the month of Chatra. The members of the clan of the nearest village become invited in the ceremony and everyone wishes for the children. Hosting village members contribute for feast through participatory way. After feast, they dug a hole and keep the wastage, extra food, cooking equipment and materials into in the hole. Only iron metal take back to the house.

Rituals related to production: Gohil Puja is more amusement of the Munda community. It is held every year at the month of kartik at new moon night. The puja is conducted for safety and production of cattle. Mundas believed that through this ceremony they will get healthy cuff, enough milk and meat. At the new moon night drinking haria, the members of the community awake all the night, dancing, singing, and gossiping in their own language. Female member of the community conduct the puja at the early morning in the cow hut welcoming (boron using korid ,rice and grass) the animal after that there has to provide a special food to the animal that has been eaten by the members of the community in the same pot., they also sacrifice red cock through a ceremony of striking to the head (singh) of the cow and meat is to serve to the invitee.

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Valua puja is done for the better production crop. They conduct the puja before planting paddy.

They are also worshipper of Kali, the gods of power but do not make any sculpture of Kali, at this puja they arrange all the elements used by the conventional hindu kali puja. They believe that she will save them from danger, famine, and epidemic diseases. The community people pray the Monosha because of their living near by the beel, frequent movement in crop field, canal and so on. Monosha, the gods of Snake will save them from attacking of snake through this puja.

The Changing Pattern of Munda Community

Shrimp cultivation has changed adaptation pattern of Munda community. In mid 70s it spread in the Sundarban areas that limit the access on common grazing land. It totally impact on their livelihood strategy. It restricts fishing in the beels, cattle movement and agricultural activities. Those are living in this ecology have been influenced to change adaptation strategy and becoming dependable to the coastal resources. The people of study villages are engaged in different occupation on the basis of seasonal variation and resource availability.

The community has plenty of land for cultivation. The property was under the gosti title but problem occurred when they are used the title Munda. Land record was in the previous title “Sarder” that create problem in transformation property through generation. The local people occupied their land without document or making false document. Many of the Mundas file case in the lower judicial court but they are losing the case due to their community title.

The government has take several initiatives for restoring mangrove ecology that has little implication on the Mundas, living in this area because of low dependency on Sundarbans forest resources. A group of people migrated in the inland in early 70s due to poor adjustment with ecology. Both Pull and Push factor are embedded to their migration. The Push factor are limitation on agricultural land and economic hardship in this area and push factors are better opportunity of survival i.e. Housing land provided by the local land lord, and the ecological condition where they lived. They settle down near by the char or khas land of Tala and Ashasuni upazila.

Mundas are very close to the Shudro and Khatrio, schedule caste of Hindu religion who living near by their residence. Approximated 75% time is passing with the community members mentioned by the young Mundas and sharing their needs, problems and views with them. The intimate interaction with the hindu community make changes in their attitude, behavior and cultural responses.

Government and Non-Government Development Initiatives

A few NGOs i.e. Poritran, BHUMIJA, RISHILPI, Prodipon are working for the development of Munda community. But Father Lewezi an Italian is working for restoring the solidarity and cultural development of the Munda community. He has established the identity of the community as Mundas. Now Mundas people used the title Mundas as Sham Munda, Atul Munda.

The Munda people are voter of Bangladesh. They get benefits of VGD/VGF and other relief from government through local governments. Government lunching house of Mundas in the rehabilitation projects but it make cultural crises. A few Mundas has migrated in the newly provided house but all the time living with Banagli people that insist to import culture and changing their distinct culture.

Identification Challenges of Mundas in pluralistic society

The ethnic community is under threat for their identification. The Mundas of this area is known as Bunos, Kuli, Mundari by the dominant Muslims and Hindus, though they are belonging to a same race and posses same beliefs, rituals and customs. In 1991 population census, there has been documented this community as two separate community Bunos and the Mundas. The community faces problem in their title, the British government used community title as sarders in the first census in this area. The community was affected mostly by the first land survey. The Surveyor was not popular in the gosti terms. Consulting with local landlords used Sharder as Gosti title of Munda people and merged them with the common plain land people. Long period they hold this identity due to possess their family land property. But unfortunately, most of the Munda people are landless. Government never paid attention to the Mundas, ethnic community.

The Nagri language is rarely practice among the children of this community. The Mundas are in the process of acculturation, going to the schools and learning Bangla language, culture, norms and values. As they have to mix with mainstream community people in the school, they fell shyness to talk Nagri among themselves; moreover they have to face teasing. The community people are to cope with the Bengali people every moment for their economic need, they are talking Bangla as first language. The frequent use of bangla language is taking behind the Nagri language. Now the Nagri is used only in the religious and festivals purpose. The aged people are rich with the Nagri language; middle age people can continue the cultural activities and new generation are little concern with the language.

The community people believe that they have lost their land property due to lack of education. Now their children are going to schools. The worship of Sharoshoti, gods knowledge has been practiced followed by the hindu religion.

Policy Recommendation and Conclusion

The Munda community is in the process of cultural change and also facing identity crises. The findings of this research claim some policy implication on their cultural preservation, ethnicity and overall their distinct identity in the southwestern part of Bangladesh. Anthropologists of this region have to conduct rigorous ethnography on the community that will be a document of their culture with their internal and external crises and government and NGOs should respond to restore their culture. A few recommendation haws drawn below:

  1. Learning of Nagri language can take into formal institution because it is first tools of communication. In the Indian part the community have rich vocabulary and also the written form. So, for the cultural preservation Nagri version school can be provided. On the other hand, formal school can open only for Munda community people where the children will talk themselves in Nagri language.
  2. The integration among Munda villages must be strong to resist Bengali peoples intervention. NGOs can play roles in their social networking.
  3. Khas lands have to provide for the community people through government initiatives for their economic stability and taking back to their parental occupation (farming).
  4. Restrict plain land people migration/ settlement within the Munda settlement territory.
  5. Government and NGOs can take rehabilitation project only for the Munda community, not with the mainstream cultural people. The socio cultural and housing logic of the Munda community will take into consideration in build up their residential pattern.

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