Rakhine

Asian Geographic - - On Assignment -

(ARAKANESE)

Oc­ca­sion­ally linked to present-day Bangladesh, the Arakanese boasts that their army al­ready con­trols much of the Bay of Ben­gal by the 15th cen­tury. Be­sides at­tain­ing fame for their strong mil­i­tary, Rakhine was called Dhanyawaddy – ‘Land of Boun­teous Rice’, ex­port­ing large quan­ti­ties of rice yearly. The Arakanese, pri­mar­ily ad­her­ents of Bud­dhism, make up four per­cent of Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion. Be­sides Bud­dhists, the mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tion of Mus­lim Rakhine also lives along­side them, some of whom are known as Ro­hingya. Bor­der­ing Bangladesh are the ru­ins of the an­cient cap­i­tal of Mrauk U in the Rakhine State, a pre­cious piece of his­tory rav­aged by care­less­ness, de­struc­tion and ne­glect.

The Arakanese speak a ver­sion of Burmese which his­to­ri­ans are con­vinced is the ear­li­est form of the lan­guage. How­ever, due to their ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion, they have un­know­ingly ab­sorbed a fair bit of cul­ture from the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent. In the eyes of the Burmese, the Arakanese are a Cre­ole race – a mix­ture of Burmese and In­dian – a mis­un­der­stood per­cep­tion that Bud­dhist Rakhine strongly re­sent.

Girls carry ew­ers in Mrauk U, an ar­chae­o­log­i­cally im­por­tant town in the north­ern Rakhine State, Myan­mar

A farmer trans­plants rice seedlings in ru­ral Myan­mar

KHAMI/ MRO

Lit­tle is known about the Khami tribe, ex­cept they are closely as­so­ci­ated with the Mro tribe as both are sub-groups of the Rakhine group. The Khami peo­ple re­sem­ble the Burmese but are mostly of a lighter com­plex­ion. To get by, the Khami peo­ple cul­ti­vate crops like paddy, chilli and pump­kin in the hilly ar­eas. The Khami women used to tat­too their shoul­ders to com­ple­ment the tribe’s ex­quis­ite weav­ing. It is said that the Khami cloth is so fine that one panel of a dress takes six months to com­plete, and is wo­ven so tightly it is wa­ter­proof.

Very lit­tle has been pub­lished about the Khami di­alect, de­spite much cu­rios­ity sur­round­ing it. The Khami di­alect is de­rived from the south­ern di­alect of the Khami lan­guage, dif­fer­ing from the South­ern di­alect mainly in pro­nun­ci­a­tion and phon­ics.

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