Saturday, February 26, 2011


In a country with more than its fair share of cultural diversity, the Bede people are not only distinctive in their traditional lifestyle, but also in their history.
With over 40 groups of indigenous peoples, inhabiting, in particular, the hills of the eastern borders of the country, Bangladesh can reveal greater cultural and ethnic diversity than, perhaps, any other country in Asia.
The diverse origins of these people, from across Central Asia, and the Himalayan region in particular, with religious, social and cultural patterns, including costume that can reveal family, and even septs of family, like the great families of Scottish clans, make them reasonably easy to find on the lands their ancestors settled, often long before the Common Era.
The distinctive, river side camps of the Bede people, however, can be elusive.
They are not known as water gypsies for nothing. The semi tubular shaped tents, covered in black oilcloth or plastic, seldom remain in one place for more than a couple of months, except, perhaps in the winter season, when the rivers may dry out.
Masters, and mistresses, of such esoteric arts as snake charming.. useful for villagers seeking to remove resident reptiles from village homes, and entertaining in Haats and Bazaars. Traditional medicines and remedies are also a specialty, also much in demand by villagers, for whom a visiting Bede encampment is usually welcome. Diving for the river cultured pearls, especially the distinctive pink, which are a specialty of the country, is another of their demand skills.
Although, generally, speaking Bangla, it is likely they have their own, tribal language, probably in common with other such peoples of Asia, such as the Dom of India, and perhaps even the Romanies of Europe, with whom they seem to have a lot in common.
Many also claim to be Muslim, which certainly can help to protect them in Muslim majority Bangladesh, but Hinduism, Shamanism, and even Animism seem to be practiced, too, by many.
They move, by river, in family groups, although, like Romany people across the world, they may well share a looser affiliation with other family groups, particularly when it comes to marriage and child rising, to avoid inbreeding. Perhaps they even share such social structures as their own tribal Kings and queens, as do the Romanies of the UK. So little is known about these elusive people that nothing is certain to the world around them. That, of course, makes them all the more intriguing!

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