Arakanese, Mag in India






Largest Religion

Main Language


Rakhine State

Source:  Asia Harvest      Download
Introduction / History

Centuries ago, the most feared pirates and sailors in the Bay of Bengal terrorized communities along the seacoast and far up the river channels of what is now Bangladesh. They were called maghs, or pirates. This continues to be the popular name of this tribe, originally from the Arakan region of Burma. Today, they are settled in the Chittagong Hills area of southeastern Bangladesh.

The people themselves dislike the term "Magh" and prefer to be called Marmas, which means "Burmese." They are of Thai origin and are believed to have come to the hills of Bangladesh by way of Arakan after their ancestors were driven out of China. They speak Arakanese, a Tibeto-Burman language, and regard Burma as the center of their cultural life.

Bangladesh is a new nation, having begun its course when the Muslim population broke away from Hindu India in 1947, forming East and West Pakistan. In 1971, internal strife precipitated a civil war, and East Pakistan became independent Bangladesh.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Having left the seas long ago, the Maghi (Arakanese) are now valley farmers. Forced out of the plains and into the hills by more powerful groups, they have adopted the "slash and burn" method of agriculture. In Maghi society, farm land is community property. After one year's use, the field must be left fallow for a sufficient time to let the earth recover. After the fallow period, anyone and everyone can work this field. No individual, family, or kinship group has prerogative rights to the land. Farming and other activities tie families to the community and the community to families.

The Maghi continue to write and dress in ways similar to Burmese culture, although many in the northern Chittagong Hills have come under significant Bengali influence. According to their custom, marriages are restricted to within the clan. Maghi villages consist of 10 to 50 houses built on the banks of streams. The houses are generally flimsy structures constructed on bamboo piles. Often, a roofed platform at the end of the village street serves as a community house where men socialize, share stories, and discuss village business.

The Maghi are one of the few tribes in the Chittagong Hills who have clan chiefs and display formal tribal and clan organization. Following traditional tribal culture, villages are headed by representatives chosen by the villagers. They are often assisted by an informal council of elders. In order to connect with the Bengali government, the tribal areas are divided and subdivided into geographical regions, with the tribal head of each small area responsible to the leader of the larger region.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Although several religions are represented among the Maghi, the most common religion is a blend of Buddhism and animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits). The theology of Buddhism alleges that man undergoes a cycle of separate existences and that all living things are endowed with individual souls. A devout Buddhist is able to progress toward his goal of nirvana-a state of eternal bliss-through the accumulation of merit-earning acts.

The animistic ingredient includes the worship and appeasement of local spirits, such as house spirits, village spirits, and territorial spirits, which rule over rice fields, forests, lakes, rivers, and other places. In order to avoid accidents, misfortune, and illnesses, one must try to manipulate and placate the spirits through rituals and offerings of food and flowers. Male and female mediums enter trances to attempt to communicate with the spirits so that they might discover future events.

What Are Their Needs?

The Maghi, along with other tribal groups of the Chittagong Hills, have experienced oppression from the Bengali government and from settlers moving into their tribal territories. As a result of the economic poverty and land hunger in Bangladesh, many Maghi have experienced large scale evictions, torture, and massacres. Also, the devout, animistic Buddhist traditions have made the tribe members unreceptive to the Gospel in the past.

Prayer Points

* Pray for justice in the Bengali government's treatment of the Maghi and the other tribal peoples.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Maghi.
* Pray that God will give the Maghi believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Maghi.
* Ask God to speed evangelistic materials into the Maghi language.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Maghi towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Maghi.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

Expanded PDF Profile

People Name General Arakanese
People Name in Country Arakanese, Mag
Population in India 47,000
World Population 2,963,000
Countries 3
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Maga, Magh, Maghi, Marma, Mash, Mogh, Morma, Mugg, Yakan, Yakine
Affinity Bloc Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster Burmese
People Name General Arakanese
Ethnic Code MSY50b
People ID 13207
Country India
Region South Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Total States on file:  5  (up to 20 largest shown)
Tripura (40,000) West Bengal (6,400) Mizoram (300) Meghalaya (20)
Assam (20)
Total States on file:  5  (up to 20 largest shown)
Tripura (40,000) West Bengal (6,400)
Mizoram (300) Meghalaya (20)
Assam (20)

No people group map currently available. Use the above button to submit a map.

Enthologue Language Map

Ethnolinguistic map from University of Texas or other map

Languages & Dialects on file:  23  (up to 20 largest shown)
Magahi (33,000) Bengali (8,500) Hindi (1,500) Kok Borok (1,400)
Kurux (1,200) Nepali (300) Santhali (100) Telugu (60)
Assamese (30) Garo (20) Bodo (20) English (10)
Ho Dimasa Limbu Munda
Chin, Falam Bhili Dogri Oriya
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Magahi 33,000 Bengali 8,500
Hindi 1,500 Kok Borok 1,400
Kurux 1,200 Nepali 300
Santhali 100 Telugu 60
Assamese 30 Garo 20
Bodo 20 English 10
Ho 10 Dimasa 10
Limbu 10 Munda 10
Chin, Falam 0 Bhili 0
Dogri 0 Oriya 0
For Primary Language: Magahi

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1890-2009)
New Testament Yes   (1826)
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
God's Story Video Film / Video
Jesus Film: view in Magahi Film / Video
Oral Bible stories in Magahi Audio Recordings
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Buddhism

Major Religion Percent
80.27 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.54 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
18.33 %
0.15 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.03 %
0.68 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Anonymous  
Video Source: Asia Harvest
Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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