Among the 45 indigenous ethnic communities in Bangladesh, there are 13 in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), and ‘Tanchangya’ is the one of them. The word 'Tong' means hill and 'Taugya' means jhum (Hilltop Sweden cultivation). So, the word 'Tanchangya' means Hill Sweden farmer. Arakanise Tanchangya-s are also known as 'Doingnak'. In 1869 DC of CHT, Lewin misspelled 'Tanchangya' and he wrote 'Toungjynya'.
For various historical reasons and after a long term continuous demand from the government, the Tanchangya community gained its identity as one of the indigenous communities in the country in 1989 [Rupayan Dewan; Jhum (DU)]. Anthropologically the Tanchangya-s belong to the Mongoloid group.
Tanchangya-s have been living in CHT since its prehistoric age. At present, Tanchangya-s are found in Rangamati, Bandarban, Roisyabili & Sadhikyabili (Chittagong district), Ukhia and Teknaf (Cox’s Bazaar district) areas of the Bangladesh. In North-east Indian states (Asam, Tripura, Mizoram) and Arakan state of the Myanmar too there are Tanchangya communities in small numbers. Most of Tanchangya-s live in reserve forest of CHT. In April 10, 2000, the government approved new bill 'The forest (Amendment) Act; 2000', declaring the cultivation & preparation of cultivation in reserve forests as illegal. This has affected the livelihood of the Tanchangya community and others indigenous ethnic communities living in CHT.
There are also confusion about the numbers and spelling of Tanchangyas. This is because of the ignorance and shallow knowledge of writers and researchers. So, it is very difficult to examine exact numbers and spelling of Tanchangyas. According to census of 2001 the number of Tanchangya is 31,164 in CHT (source: solidarity2002, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum). According to the report of Daily Prothom-alo the number of Tanchangya is 51,773 in CHT (Published on 3 February, 2012).
Tanchangya community consists of about 12 Gasha (W.W. Hunter wrote: Goza or clan). But in Bangladesh there are seven Gosha. These are (1) Karua Gosha (2) Dunya Gosha (3) Mou Gosha (4) Mongla Gosha (5) Lambacha Gosha (6) Millong Gosha (7) Ongya Gosha (Hunter;1876). Tanchangyas communicate each other by using their own language. Where are Tanchangya language consists of Pali, Prakrit and ancient Bengali. Tanchangys has own alphabets..
Traditionally a Tanchangya woman wears colourful dresses and ornaments. The full dresses of Tanchangya women are known as “Paiet kapor”. That means there are five parts. These parts are-
(1) “pinon” which is seven colours with stripes.
(2) “Fadhuri” which used as belt.
(3) “Mada-kobong” which wearing upon head.(4) “Khadi” as scarf
(5) “Shaloom” just like blouse.
Tanchangya women also wear various ornaments. These are “Rajjur & Jhanga” for ears, “Baghor & Kuchikharu” for Wrists and “Tajjur” for arms, “Chandrahar, hachuli & Sikchara” for neck. These ornaments are made by silver. Tanchangya men generally wear loincloth and long sleeve shirts.
Day by day Tanchangya songs and dance becomes famous. There are many Tanchangya musical instruments such as Bashi, Kengkrog, Chobuk, duduk etc.
Agriculture is the main occupation of Tanchangya peoples. Even today they do jhum cultivation and they cultivate paddy, ginger, garlic, bagurpada etc. on hill slopes. Literacy among Tanchangyas is low. A few of them serve in government and non-government organizations.
Tanchangyas celebrate 'Bishu' as a main enjoyable festival on the end and beginning of the Bengali new year. “Pachon” is a special item for Bishu. “Pachon” is a mixed vegetable with dried fishes etc. Now-a-days “Bishu mela” were organized in Tanchangyas localities. “Ghila kala”, “Nahdeng kala” “Gudhu kala” etc. are the Tanchangyas Traditional sports.
Tanchangya peoples are Buddhists and observe religious rites such they worshipping Gautom Buddha and listening Buddha sermons. Tanchangyas also maintains the kathino chivar dan, Buddha purnima, maghi purnima etc. They have at least one Buddhist viharas in their own localities.
The male children of a deceased Tanchangya father divide the property equally among themselves. The daughters cannot claim any share of the property except when they have no brothers. If son is abnormal or an ascetic, he also get equal share of his property. If the deceased father has no children, an adopted son inherits all the property. If a wife is separated when she is pregnant 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 go to his brothers.