Mru - The hidden tribe in Burma, the least reached, the most unreached
Geography and population: Mru is one ethnic group among the Chins. Mru, a small ethinic minority, who live scattered in the hill district of ponnagyun, kyuaktaw, Budditaung, Maungdaw Township, Arakan State (where the most persecution of religious area), Paletwa Township, Cin State, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Mru population in Arakan State in 2000 was 45,000, within Chin State and Bangladesh, total population is about 60,000. Mru intruduce themselves as Mru-cha. The word Mru means “man”, and cha stands for “being”.
Mru are living in small villages in plain and hills, not at all in towns. They are cultivators and farmers. There about 175 villages of Mru in Arakan States, 25 villages in Paletwa, number of village in Bangladesh is unknown.
There is very hard communication between village to village. Basis transportation is walk, climb the hills, crossing the river. Now, there are some route for bike, and car which village are close by to the larger village or highway.
They have few places where they could by ship and bus. There are very backward, no civilization, no school in villlages, no agriculture utilize in development, no health care center. They are illiterate and unedcuated people. They have good behavior, a good characteristic and manner. They are very poor but honest. In these area some other race are also living among of the Mru people. Mru are the most backward and undeveloped tribal in Myanmar.
Lifestyle: Mru have mongoloid features but are tall and strong and have dark complexion. They are peaceful and timid. Moustache and beard are hardly seen on their face. They build their house on hilltops. The houses are big and seem to be built for community dwelling. Migratory instincts have prevented them from progress in daily life. Mru women are very active in economic pursuits, weave their own clothes and manage all affairs of the house. Mru take boiled rice twice a day and consume all types of meat but hardly use spicy itmes in cooking curry. Dry fish is their favorite food. Drinking is popular and they have no taboo as reards any food.
Traditional Dress: Mru men wear round the waist a strip of cloth called maiklang, which is passed between the two legs. The females use a small pice of dark blue cloth (wanglai) to cover the private part of the body; the left side is kept open. It is embroidered in the center. The wanglai is 6 inches in width from top of bottom. The women hardly cover their breasts. They bind their hairs on the left side of the back of the head. A male wears a Maiklang, and a shirt and a female uses a piece of clothees on the upper part of her body hwen they go to the market. Males keep long hairs and also put high hair in a bun just above the forehead and use turbans (pagri) as head dresses.
Mru decorate their body using different colors; both boys and girls color their lips. They prefer to paint their cheeks, lips and forehead red when they go out for dancing. Females put flowers on head and ears and also a string of small beads on their necks. Only singles can participate in ceremonial dances. Like the women, the men bore their ears and put on rings. Every Mru blackens his/her teeth. Their musical instruments consist of bamboo pipes called plungs. When dancing, men wear red clothes with a head-dress of feathers and beads while women dress themselves with flowers, beads and coins.
Language: Mru do not have any written language. In all probability, the Mru Language was separated from Tibeto-burma group at an early period. The Mru vocabulary, syntax, and grammar, to some extent, resemble the Kuki-chin languages of northeastern India and northwestern Myanmar. Nowadays, some Mru receive modern education at school established by the government, 1 high school, 1 middle school and 5 elementary school for total 175 villages. Mru talk to their neighbors in the local tongue and know Bangla. In this sense, they are bilingual.
Social Structure: The Mru society is patriarchal. Although the father is the head of the family, women play a dominant role in social life. The property goes from father to son but the lion’s share is given to the youngest son. In old age, father and mother live with the youngest son. Elemenatry and joint family systems are prevalent in the Mru society. Family Structure: Two types of marriage are found in Mru society; marriage by elopment and marriage by negotiation. In case of divorce, the husband is repaid all that he had given to his wife except the ornaments, which the wife takes to her father’s house. For a woman, a second marriage is unusual but a man can marry after the death of the first wife. Plygamy and polyandry is practically absent and child marriage is rare. Mru dispose of the dead body by buring and burning.
Rituals: Mru are animists, and have three gods. Turai, the creator of the universe, Sangtung, the spirit of the hill, and Oreng, the river deity. In starting any venture, they take oath in the name of the Turai; the Sangtung is considered sacred, and they offer prayer to this hill spirit for good harvest in Jhum cultivation, Oreng is worshipped collectively for the welfare of the villagers and to keep out epidemic diseases and bad luck.
Mru do not believe in the next world, the world after death and they direct all their activities to the present world. Buddhist influences are evident in the daily life of Mru after Buddhist mission spread out in the area. A section of Mru adheres to Christianity. Lately, many Mru have embraced Cramma (Krama), a new religion founded by a Mru named Manley, who they also believe as angle. However, all oaths are taken in honour of guns, daos (chopper) and tigers. Mru venerate the sun and the moon but not offer any sacrifice to them. They do not have scriptures, temples, and priests. Sacrifice of cow constitutes one of the principal ceremonies of the Mru, it is called Kumulong. According to Mru mythology, the religious book that their god sent to their forefathers was in the form of sriptures written on banana leaves. A messenger was given the scriptures and some clothes for Mru women to wear. In course of his journey, the messenger halted on the bak of a river, left the scriptures and the clothes on the bak and went to take a bath. On his return, he found that a cow had eaten up the leaves and nothing is left out of the holy book. The cow also swallowed up the major part of the clothes. This is how Mru were left without formal religion and their women got to wear few clothes. For this act, Mru punish a cow every year ceremoniously. A well-fed cow is tied to a pole in an open space where the whole village assembles. Drinking and dancing around the cow continue till afternoon, when they start striking the cow with a painted bamboo stick till blood gushes from its body and it dies. The blood of the cow is considered sacred and preserved in bamboo pots. The animal body is cut off with a sharp dao. Then the villagers sit in a circle. The elderly Mru villagers distribute the blood to every member so that they can suck it. Later, they eat the roasted flesh of the cow.
In the ceremony, all persons are urged to live in peace with their neighbors and relatives. Another Mru ritual is champua. On a fixed day, young boys and girls go to the dense forest to cut banana leaves and celebrate the festival by dancing and singing till dawn. Such a ritual gives young men and women the chance to select their life partners. Mru try to maintain a close relationship with other tribes; men and women visit nearby markets to sell agricultural products and purchanse necessary items for daily use.