Magh in Bangladesh

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

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 according 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

* Scripture Prayers for the Magh in Bangladesh.

* 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 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

Additional Info
Global Prayer Digest: 2007-08-06
Global Prayer Digest: 2009-10-26
People Name General Magh
People Name in Country Magh
World Population 2,914,000
Total Countries 3
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
Pioneer Workers Needed 4
Alternate Names Maga, Magh, Maghi, Marma, Mash, Mogh, Morma, Mugg, Yakan, Yakine, अरकनेसए
People ID 13207
ROP3 Code 106013
Country Bangladesh
Region South Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 48  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country South and southwest   Source:  Joshua Project
Total States on file 3
Largest States
Specialized Website South Asia Peoples
Country Bangladesh
Region South Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 48  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country South and southwest.   Source:  Joshua Project
Total States 3
  Chittagong 169,000
  Barisal 27,000
  Dhaka 400
Website South Asia Peoples
Primary Language Marma (118,000 speakers)
Language Code rmz   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 6
Secondary Languages
Primary Language Marma (118,000 speakers)
Language Code rmz   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 6
Secondary Languages
  Chittagonian 29,000
  Rakhine 22,000
  Bengali 4,000
  War-Jaintia 500
  Usoi 200
People Groups Speaking Marma

Primary Language:  Marma

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes
Bible-New Testament No
Bible-Complete No
Possible Print Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
World Bibles
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religion Percent *
92.14 %
Christianity  (Evangelical Unknown)
3.20 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
2.82 %
1.84 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Photo Source Anonymous 
Map Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Video Source Asia Harvest
Profile Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more
* Religion Values From latest Bangladesh census data.  Current values may differ.

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