The land of the marma

The Marma, Bangladesh’s second-largest ethnic minority group (approx pop. 300,000), migrated to the Chittagong Hill Tracts from Arakan state in Burma during the 16th and 17th centuries.


They spread over much of present-day Bangladesh, but were eventually driven back into the southeastern region of the country by the superior force of the Moghul Empire.

 As we discovered during our stay among the Marma, Buddhist monks often take the initiative in creating orphanages to host children from poor families (who are not necessarily orphans in the strict sense of the term), thereby offering them the possibility of an education – and, it is to be hoped, a brighter future. We visited three such orphanages, and came away both moved and impressed by the earnestness of the children and young adults whom we met: at one hostel for girls, for example, all but one of the young ladies we spoke with (aged 8-13) readily told us that they aspired to be doctors. Doctors, they said, can nurse poor people back to health when they are ill…