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Rakhine people

Rakhine people
ရခိုင်လူမျိုး (Rakhine)
A Rakhine girl tosses water at revelers during the Myanmar New Year.
Total population
4 million (2024 est.)
Regions with significant populations
Other countries50,000 - 100,000
Rakhine, Burmese
Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups

The Rakhine (Burmese and Rakhine: ရခိုင်လူမျိုး, Rakhine pronunciation: [ɹəkʰàiɰ̃ lùmjó], Burmese pronunciation: [jəkʰàiɰ̃ lùmjó]) or Arakanese are a Southeast Asian ethnic group in Myanmar (Burma) forming the majority along the coastal region of present-day Rakhine State (formerly called Arakan), although Rakhine communities also exist throughout the country, particularly in the Ayeyarwady and Yangon Regions. They constitute approximately 5.53% or more of Myanmar's total population, but no accurate census figures exist. Rakhine communities exist in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts and in India, where they are known as the Marma and Mog peoples respectively.

Marma Dance of Bangladesh


Rakhine (less commonly spelt Rakhaing) is the contemporary ethnonym and name of the region in Rakhine, Burmese, and English today.[2] The word is extant to the mid-11th century, appearing on a pillar inscription at Shite-thaung Temple, and also appears in European, Persian, and Ceylonese accounts by the 15th century.[2] U Kala's Maha Yazawin traces the word's etymology to Alaungsithu's conquest of the region during the Pagan era, but epigraphic evidence to support the underlying theory remains scant.[2] Arthur Phayre traces the etymology to the Sanskrit or Pali words for 'monster' or 'demon' (rākṣasa and rakkhasa) respectively, which is more likely.[2][3] Some Rakhine inhabitants now prefer the alternative spelling of ရက္ခိုင်.[4]

Between the 17th and 18th centuries, the Rakhine began calling themselves Mranma (မြန်မာ) and its derivatives, as attested by texts like the Rakhine Minrazagri Ayedaw Sadan and the Dhanyawaddy Ayedawbon.[5][2] The word, which is also cognate with Bamar and is the Rakhine pronunciation of "Myanmar," continues to be used by their descendants in Bangladesh, who are known as the Marma.[5] By this period, the Bamar began to call the Rakhine the Myanmagyi (မြန်မာကြီး; lit.'great Mranma / Myanma'), as attested by contemporaneous Burmese and foreign sources.[5] The ethnonym reflected their common ancestral kinship ties with the Buddhist-professing Bamar, with whom the Rakhine identified.[5]

By 1585, European, Persian, and Bengali accounts began describing the Rakhine and Buddhist groups as the Magh and its derivatives (e.g., Mogh, Mugh, Mog, etc.).[2] The word's etymology is likely to derive from Magadha, the name of an ancient Buddhist kingdom.[5] By the late 19th century, British authorities adopted the ethnonym Arakanese. After 1991, the Burmese government changed the official English name of the ethnic group to Rakhine, as part of a broader effort to indigenize the country's English ethnonyms and place names.[6][7]

Ancestral origins

This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this article by introducing citations to additional sources.Find sources: "Rakhine people" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (March 2023)
The pagodas at Mrauk-U pagodas are part of modern-day Rakhine identity.
Group of Bandarban Marmas with Bohmong in centre, c. 1906

Arakanese legends and some Rakhine people claim that they are Aryans came from Shakya in India, but it is impossible. Maybe they are mixed with Indo-Aryans and Tibeto-Burman. Kanyans of Irrawaddy Valley with later integrated into Arakanese race. Rakhine and Burmese are very closely related languages, which both descend from Old Burmese. 3000 or 2800 years ago, The Chandra dynasty that ruled Dhanyawadi and Waithali was more likely Indo-Aryan in origin. Arakanese legends claim that the Unknown ethnic are founder of Dhanyawadi. Now they are mixed with Rakhine people.[8][9]

By the 9th century Rakhine people have founded Le-Mro, Le-Mro in the Rakhine language means "four cities," which refers to the four ancient Rakhine cities. In 1103, they had consolidated control of the region, becoming a tributary state of the Pagan Empire until 1167. In 1406–1429, Kingdom of Ava occupied the Northern Rakhine. Southern Rakhine was not occupied by the Bagan Empire and the Ava Kingdom. In 1429, founder of Kingdom of Mrauk U, the king Min Saw Mon reclaimed the Arakanese throne with the help of the Bengal, and ruled the kingdom. But as a vassal of Bengal 1429 to 1430.[8] Rakhine oral traditions and written records also describe several alternative origin myths, including one that traces the Rakhine back to an intermarriage between a highland Mro and a lowland queen, and another that traces the ancestry of Rakhine monarchs back to Mahasammata, the legendary first monarch of the world.[10]

After the Kingdom of Mrauk U was annexed by the Konbaung Kingdom in 1784, Rakhine refugees began settling in Cox's Bazar and Patuakhali District. The British colonial officer of the East India Trading Company, Captain Hiram Cox, was given the task of providing land to the refugees in 1799. An estimated 100,000 refugees were settled in Cox's Bazar, Chittagong Hill Tracts, and Patuakhali by the East India Company government.[11] They settled in Patuakhali District and Barguna District in the 19th century.[12] Rakhine descendants spread as far north as Tripura state in India, where they are known as the Mog.

Geographic distribution

Outside of Myanmar, a sizable Rakhine community exists in the southeast districts of Bangladesh, namely in Khagrachari, Rangamati, Bandarban and southern Cox's Bazar, with the Mong circle in Khagrachari having administrative duties. There is a small community of Rakhine people inhabiting the coastal areas of Patuakhali, Borguna and Cox's Bazar, having migrated to Bangladesh from Myanmar before the formation of these two contemporary countries. The total population of the community as of 2020 is 16,000.[13] But according to the Joshua Project, the total population is 20,000.[14] The Rakhine people and the local Bengali population developed a unique dialect through which they could communicate. The Rakhine people were able to preserve their culture, language, and religion in Bengal. Rakhines observe Rakhine festival such as Sanggreng and Nai-chai ka.[11] The last Rakhine language school in Kuakata closed in 1998 due to shortage of funds, In January 2006, Chin Than Monjur, opened a Rakhine language community school which expanded into three news schools and used Rakhine language books from Myanmar. The schools were forced to close due to shortage of funds.[15]


The 150-year old Khaddya Song Chansai Rakhine cemetery in Taltali Upazila, Barguna District, was forcefully taken by local land grabbers in 2017. The Rakhine population in the Barguna and Patuakhali Districts decreased by 95%, from 50,000 in the 20th century to 2,561 in 2014, with Rakhines leaving Bangladesh due to illegal land-grabbing and persecution. Lands owned by them in the districts decreased by 81%.[16][17] Rakhine land is also being taken over by politicians in Patuakhali District.[18][19]


Marma girls at Sangrai (Marma new year celebration in Bangladesh)
Rakhine script at a Bangladeshi Buddhist pagoda

The Rakhine are predominantly Theravada Buddhists and are one of the four main Buddhist ethnic groups of Burma (the others being the Burman, Shan and Mon people). Rakhine culture is similar to the mainstream Burmese culture but with more Indian influence, likely due to its geographical isolation from the Burmese mainland divided by the Arakan Mountains and its closer proximity to India. Traces of Indian influence remain in many aspects of Arakanese culture, including its literature, music, and cuisine. The traditional Rakhine kyin wrestling also plays an important role in its culture. Rakhine mont di, consisting of rice vermicelli noodles, is popular across Myanmar.


The Rakhine language is closely related to and generally mutually intelligible with Burmese. Notably, Rakhine retains an /r/ sound that has become /j/ in Burmese. Rakhine utilises the Burmese alphabet.

Notable Rakhine

See also


  1. ^ "Table 1.4 Ethnic Population by Group and Sex" (PDF) (in Bengali). Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. 2021. p. 33. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 March 2023. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Charney, Michael (November 2005). ""Theories and Historiography of the Religious Basis of Ethnonyms in Rakhaing (Arakan), Myanmar (Burma)"" (PDF). The Forgotten Kingdom of Arakan: A Public Seminar on the People of Present Day Arakan State of Myanmar.
  3. ^ In Burmese and Rakhine, the Sanskrit and Pali spellings are ရာက္ၑသ and ရက္ခသ respectively.
  4. ^ "ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ်". Constitutional Tribunal of Myanmar. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kyaw Minn Htin (December 2015). "The Marma from Bangladesh: A 'de-Arakanized' Community in Chittagong Hill Tracts" (PDF). Suvannabhumi. 7 (2): 133–153.
  6. ^ Leider, Jacques P. (2015). "Competing Identities and the Hybridized History of the Rohingyas". In Egreteau, Renaud; Robinne, Francois (eds.). Metamorphosis: Studies in Social and Political Change in Myanmar (PDF). NUS Press.
  7. ^ Day, Katie; Edwards, Elise M. (31 December 2020). The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Cities. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-000-28926-8.
  8. ^ a b Ethnic Culture Traditional Customs Rakhine 1976 (Burmese: တိုင်းရင်းသားယဉ်ကျေးမှု ရိုးရာဓလေ့ထုံးစံများ ရခိုင် ၁၉၇၆) page 33 and 36
  9. ^ LaPolla, Randy J.; Thurgood, Graham (17 May 2006). The Sino-Tibetan Languages. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-79717-1.
  10. ^ Charney, Michael W. (31 August 2021), "Religion and Migration in Rakhine", Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.414, ISBN 978-0-19-027772-7, retrieved 11 September 2022
  11. ^ a b Hasan, Kamrul. "Rakhain, The". Banglapedia. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Thousands of Rakhine people left country". The Daily Star. 2 September 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  13. ^ Khiam, Sharif (12 October 2020). "Ethnic Rakhine in Bangladesh Protest against Myanmar's 'Military Aggression'". Benar News. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  14. ^ "Rakhine people who speak Sittwe Dialect". Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  15. ^ "Reopen the lone Rakhine language school in Kuakata". The Daily Star. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Thousands of Rakhines left Bangladesh". The Daily Star. 30 March 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Market on Rakhine temple's land". The Daily Star. 27 October 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  18. ^ "AL, BNP men's joint grabbing of Kuakata Rakhine land protested". The Daily Star. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Give constitutional recognition to indigenous people". The Daily Star. 1 October 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2018.


  • Charney, Michael W. (1999). 'Where Jambudipa and Islamdom Converged: Religious Change and the Emergence of Buddhist Communalism in Early Modern Arakan, 15th–19th Centuries.' PhD Dissertation, University of Michigan.
  • Charney, Michael (2005). Buddhism in Arakan:Theories and Historiography of the Religious Basis of Ethnonyms. Arakan History Conference. Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  • Leider, Jacques P. (2004). 'Le Royaume d'Arakan, Birmanie. Son histoire politique entre le début du XVe et la fin du XVIIe siècle,' Paris, EFEO.
  • Loeffner, L. G. (1976). "Historical Phonology of Burmese and Arakanese Finals." Ninth International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics, Copenhagen. 22–24 Oct. 1976.
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Rakhine people
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