Love, longing and commemoration: a study of Chakma culture through the Ubogeet
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Bangladesh is home to more than forty-five indigenous groups who are mostly located in the north (east and west), the south and southeast regions of the country. The Chittagong Hill Tracts is home to nearly 70% of the indigenous population currently residing in Bangladesh. Whereas the intermittent socio-political conflict surrounding the area is the subject of much scholarly debate, serious scholarship on the rich literature of these ‘othered’ communities of Bangladesh is lacking. This paper provides a critical analysis of a particular type of folk song called the Ubogeet which is popular among the Chakma community. Ubogeets are colloquial ‘love songs’ that are fiesty, playful and nuanced in meaning, offering a fascinating insight into certain socio-cultural aspects of the traditional Chakma ways of life. Unfortunately, these songs, perceived by the younger generation as old-fashioned, antiquated and even vulgar, are fast disappearing from the Chakma culture. This paper argues, firstly, that Chakma literature is an important part of Bangladeshi history and culture, and secondly, that it is imperative to preserve and renew indigenous literature such as the Chakma Ubogeet for future generations who need to be aware of the rich and complex history of Bangladesh and its multilingual indigenous literature.