Panorama of the Week: Indigenous Market, Chittagong Hill Tracts

Open the panorama below and you might be wondering, “Is that really Bangladesh??”

In scenes like this one at the indigenous market in the town of Bandarban, it’s easy to forget which country we’re visiting. Bandarban is part of an area known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). CHT’s rolling hills in southeastern Bangladesh are home to over fifteen indigenous groups, many of which have their origins in far eastern India, Burma and Southeast Asia.

While the market had some unusual features for one in Bangladesh — a monitor lizard butchered to bits at the river’s edge, a huge pig sawed in half mid-market, massive sting rays hanging on hooks, and sacks jumping with plump frogs — something else stood out. Women.

Women were everywhere – as vendors, buyers, connoisseurs of cigars, and among the out and about. While the presence of women may not sound terribly profound, their absence from other markets and many facets of public life here in Bangladesh has been noticeable. And we’ve missed it.

So at the Sunday episode of the Bandarban indigenous market we enjoyed the opportunity to sit with vendors (men and women), throw around a few words in Bangla (didn’t really help), use charades to communicate some more, learn the local names of vegetables, and share a few smiles.

When you open the panorama below to full screen, be sure to use the down arrow to catch the colorful action on the ground.

360-Degree Panorama: Weekly Indigenous Market in Bandarban, Bangladesh (Chittagong Hill Tracts)

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  1. says

    Ah, this is precisely what I hoped to do back when I was planning a goodly exploration of Bangladesh. But alas, I’ve since opted instead to – not just visit, but move – lock, stock ‘n barrel – to Vietnam. Preeecisely so I can better/more leisurely explore that side of the globe. So, while it may be awhile yet, with any luck I will one day soon experience this fascinating corner of the globe.

  2. says

    @Dyanne: Congrats on your upcoming move to Vietnam! It’s quite a fascinating country and more differences between the south and north than we first expected.

    When you do visit Bangladesh, be sure to try and carve out a chunk of time. Things usually take a bit longer than expected and life moves at a different pace.

    @Roy: Thanks, glad you enjoyed the pano!

  3. says

    This is the first time I’ve looked at one of your panoramas – how awesome is this?? 😀 So much more immersive than just photos…I can practically hear the chatter and feel the dirt under my feet.

    Off to the archives to check out the rest… :)

  4. says

    @Megan: So glad you enjoyed this! You’ve probably already figured out the archive panoramas, but just in case here they are:

    @Claire: The city of Chittagong is rather big and crazy – it must have been nice to spend time in the villages around. This part of Bangladesh was one of our favorites.

    @Sofia: That’s a perfect description! Later in the week we were at another indigenous market in Rangamati and it was mobbed with people – not quite as enjoyable.

    @Brady: Thanks, glad you enjoyed this!

  5. Imran says

    Women form 36% of the labour force in Bangladesh, higher than India and many other Asian and/or Muslim countries. In addition, gender disparity in pre-university schooling is also lower in Bangladesh than India and many Middle Eastern countries.

    In addition, the labelling of anything Chakma, Marma etc as Indigenous is something of a trend that began not too long ago. In that case, the Rohingya Bengalis of Arakan must be indigenous right? The Arakan Mountains were the traditional divide between South And Southeast Asia and the population movements etc. If anything, the Bengalis are indigenous and native of West of that line and the other Tibeto-Burman groups are native and indigenous to the east of that line.

    • says

      Thanks for the fascinating and thoughtful comment, Imran, In general, I suspect the label “indigenous” has been trending in general, not just in Bangladesh. It’s an attempt, however elegant or appropriate, to characterize populations that are considered native or populations that have pre-dated waves of modern migration. Clearly, on this subject we are not experts. So, the same must be said of any opinion we have of the situation and treatment of the Rohingya Bengalis, a lot of which based on our read of the news is quite sad and unfortunate. In any event, your Arakan Mountain dividing line is an interesting thought and proposal. I would look forward to what other readers would have to say about it.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts and some additional background, all of which has proven educational for us!

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