South Asian Literary Conference

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The Khumi indigenous people live in the three sub districts Ruma, Rowangchari and Thanchi of the Bandarban Hill district of Chittagong Hill Tracts situated in the South-Eastern part of Bangladesh. The Khumis are one of the smallest indigenous groups in Bangladesh.

Khumi is the variety of Sino Tibetan Kuki-Chin language spoken by about 2200 in the South-Eastern part of Bangladesh. 3500 in the Mizoram State of India and about 100,000 in the Chin State situated in the Western part of Myanmar. The objective of the paper is to Focus on the literature of the Khumi indigenous people in Bangladesh. I will try to discuss the oral Literature: stories, rhymes, proverbs and folk songs of the Khumi people.

The Khumi do not have any written literature even though written scripts have been developed since 1970 in Bangladesh. The literature which includes stories, myths, proverbs, rhymes and folk songs has been transferred orally from generation to generation. This literature is yet to be transcribed to a written from in Bangladesh, India or Burma. To my best knowledge, the Khumi Literature Forum has been busy with the translation of the Bible and religious songs into Khumi. There is no initiative to compile the literature of the stories, rhymes, proverbs and folk songs in a written form.

There are many famous Khumi oral stories and myths practiced in the society from time immemorial. For example, the dove story, a strongman  story, deer story, cannibal story, turtle story, bear and squirrel story, jungle cat story, elephant story, seven brothers story etc. All of the mentioned stories are very interesting for the Khumi people. Grandparents and mother usually tell the stories to children before they go to bed. One of the most famous stories in the Khumi society in given below.

Once upon a time there was a girl called Anglo Rengpa. She was brought up by a boy named Chawng Thiunglang. They had spent childhood together and agreed they would marry each other when they were adults. However, the family of the man when became very poor when he was adult. So the family of the girl did not want to marry her to the boy. They found a rich man to marry their daughter called Chang Thiungkiung and the parents married their daughter to him instead. The girl and Chawng thiunglang were very sad as they did not get to marry.

One day Chawng Thiunglang found that the girl was weaving cloth alone at her husband’s house in the afternoon while her husband was in their shifting field. He sang a folk song which said, “hey, my dear! Once upon a time we loved each other so much, but I was unlucky being a poor man and not getting to marry you. Your parents did not consider some poor man like me to marry you.”

Hence, Chawng Thiunglang told her in his song that today is the day to go to the river to catch fish and enjoy themselves. “So, let’s go.” Then the girl and the man went to the river for catching fish and spent sometime together.

In the evening Chawng Thiunglang returned home, but did not find his wife. He found his house messy with chicken fesses. He realized that his wife had gone to the river with her old boyfriend. So, he took a gum in his hand and chased them. He found them in the river in an emotional moment. So he shot both of them and returned home alone.

Proverbs and rhymes are also a part of the oral tradition of the Khumi literature used in many intellectual discussions of social occasions. The people who are good at using proverbs in accordance with social context are highly respected in the society. And they are often invited to resolve social conflicts.

Some proverbs of the Khumi people are presented below:

1.SHIKHI DIE Y KHA SEUNGA BAI – collect banana leaves before hunting a deer

2.LAW AWNG BI Y KHA BIUTLIE SORA BI – A lid becomes hot before a pot.

3.TIKI MIE PAJAW Y BALY A MILE – Twist the ears if you cannot twist the horn

4.THEU NAI MAWI A KO MA – Don’t wait for the big animal, but shoot the first one

Khumi folk songs can also be considered as an old version of Khumi literature because of their distinctive social values practiced by the Khumi people from generation to generation. The folk songs are different from the spoken language of the general Khumi people. Generally Khumi people do not understand the song language because it has different words for different things that are completely different from the spoken language of the Khumi people. Folk song singers can only understand each other’s expression in the song language but not other Khumi people. Folk singers can easily communicate with each other in the language and they often have competitions.


Lelung Khumi, (Rega; Issue – 8; November, 2013)

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