The Chakmas generally burn their dead except in case of death due to cholera, small pox, leprosy etc the little children who has got no teeth and the most poor people who has no resource to perform the after death rite called Sāt Dinnyhā. In such a case, a dead body is buried. It is customary that one should die in own house or the house ofown Gutthi (genus). If one die in other gutthi house, the family should bear the expenditure of Bur Pārā /Balā Kādā rite to ward off the misfortune acquired.. As the Chakmas believe that one acquires Phee (misfortune) if one dies in other genus house. A dead body is also never allowed to be brought inside others house except in the house of the dead person and sometimes in the house of own clansmen due to fear of Phee. Otherwise, the body is kept at the ouskirt, at an open field or bank of a river/stream. They also avoid disposal of a dead body on wednes day and sun day. Wednesday is said to be Lokkhi Băr , the day on which Ma Lokkhi the goddess of wealth has arrived to earth and sun day is said to be the day on which Lord Buddha was cremated. They don’t want that a common man should be burnt on the burning day of Lord Buddha’s burning.
On the death of a person, every household of a village light an Ălsyā (a clay or metal pot where paddy husk is burnt to produce smoke) and kept at the door. Drums were earlier beaten in Mară/Magadă Tăl. On hearing the sound of drums atleast one able person from every family come to the dead house, and offer coin and money on the chest of the dead body. The dead body is first kept on A platform called Somreng Ghar or Bar Ghar . In making the Somreng ghar three each bamboos are bound together and cut to the measure of the dead body. First three bundles are spread and five or seven bundles are cross bound (five for male and seven for female).Above it a bamboo mat is placed which should also be plaited with five to seven pairs of tapes. Above the mat five to seven layer of clothes are spread for male and female. The body is then laid on it after giving a bath with five to seven bamboo tubes of water. Here rice pān, bidi is also offered. New and clean cloth is put on and hair brushed.
Afterwards the relatives and visitors offer coin and money called Ghăt Păra Poijhyă (river crossing money) or Bugo Kurhee (coins of the chest) as the Chakmas believe that the soul of a dead person need to cross a river to enter the next abode where he had to pay boat fare. And if the soul cannot cross the ghat, it has to live the life of a spirit, ghost, pretā etc suffering years after years. The dead body is also offered flowers, scented material etc. It is also customary to place a silver coin in the mouthbe lieving he/she will have silver white teeth in the next life. In the evening, the priest Lurees used to chant religious discourses like Mālen Tārā, Ănijā Tārā, Arindāmā Tārā etc, in the earlier days, during their existence. But now a days, the monks are invited instead of Luree and they also chant religious discourses Karaniya sutta, Anicca sutta etc..
The relatives and villagers wakes up whole night beside the dead with various activities like reading from epics, holy books, Gozenha Lāmā, religious hymns called Kittan etc also beats drums in a different rhythm called Marā Dhulo Tāl (dead drum beat ) which sounds as Chotdheng Chotdheng Dendreng/Magadādhā Dendreng/ Theim Ni Na Theim Gāngkuley Jeim etc..
The Chakmas usually dispose the bodies in the afternoon and carry off the body at about 1.00 PM from the house on the next day. But sometimes if a near relative is not present, the bodies are kept for two to three days. Or if a rich or powerful person has died and the relatives want to cremate with a chariot called Gărhi Ghar(vehicular chariot)/Gheelhyā Ghar (wheeled vehicl or chariot). The body is kept for two three days for the making of the Rat (chaript)/Rādhā Ghar(chariot)/Gārhi Ghar(vehicle)/Gheelhyā Ghar (wheeled chariot) and other preparations. There is also a custom to preserve a body hanging on a tree in a box or covering in a bamboo mat if the relatives are poor and cannot afford the immediate expenditure of after death rite performed on the seventh day called Săt Dinnhyă or if a relative like son is not present at home though they might have the capacity to bear the expenditure. Sometimes a body is also kept hung if the season is found unfavourable say a rainy season, for doing the after death rite in a good season like winter or spring. A hung dead body is called ‘Tāngyā Magadā. A dead body may also be buried after observing all the custom as in the case of burning. A buried dead body is called Gour.
The common practice at the burning place is to make a Rădhă Ghar if a Gărhi Ghar / Gheelhyā Ghar is not possible and a funeral pyre for burning the body. But sometimes a Gārhi Ghar or Gheelhyā Ghar ( wheeled chariot) is also made for a rich or royal family member in addition to a Rādhā Ghar. Before taking out the dead body from the house to cremation place, the body is bathed with water carried from the river with a bundle of bamboo tubes consisting of five bamboo tubes for male dead body and seven tubes for female body. New dress is also changed and rice, paan etc are also offered to the dead body and the Rari/Luree reads out the Ăgartārā (traditional religious scripture)at the time of doing these. The younger relative also pay homage vowing and the older relatives of the dead person also bless the dead with rice and cotton to get long and prosperous life in the next birth. After everything id ready, the body is transferred to a stretcher called Ălang or Pallyang Ghar The Pāllyeng Ghar is made with four wooden posts and a lid which is decorated with colored papers, flowers etc and four Kas ( browndoves) and one Kalătthur (banana flower) and a monkey which are made by plaiting bamboo tapes and wood. A Khadi (breast cloth)is also placed as banner and the monkey is placed at the banner post. A chicken is also tied with seven striand of thread at the Ălang and all the family members of the dead person had to hold the thread of the chicken. The exorcist or the Luree then asks from all present whether there is permission to separate the dead and alive and all will answer in affirmation and the thread is cut off and chicken freed. This rite is called Marăi-Jedăi Phărak Hanhă (separation of dead and alive). The chicken so freed is required at the time of Saatdhinnya, the funeral rite after seven days. Some Gozas have the practice to cut off seven string of threads at the time of taking out the dead body which symbolizes separation from the gutthi or genus..
In the cremation ground, which is always at the down stream of the village, some villagers already makes a funeral pire directing east-west. Above which a white clothe called Chănnwa(canopy) is also spread binding at the four corners with the tips of fourlong bamboo poles. The pyre is made with five layers of fire wood for a male body and seven layers for a female body. A male body is laid head eastward and a female body head westward. The custom to put the fematle westward is said to have come to the society after a Chakma king had married a moghul prince and who took the promise to burn her body head west ward as she was a mohmedan and Mecca lies in the west.The the three each of six wooden posts which supports the firewoods are called Kuung Găch.
As already stated, a well to do or for a member of royal family member a Gheelhyā Ghar or Gārhee Ghar is made . Ropes or long canes called Kereit are bound at two sides. It is usually done on a field or a flate ground of a river bank.
The Rādhā ghar is also constructed of timbers and bamboo and decorated with flowers and colored papers and many design of decoration with bamboo chips. It is square in shape and may be single or double storyed.
After taking out of the body it is carried in a procession beating drums and other instruments. Sometimes fire crackers are also burnt in the way. Fire and a leaned post called Thabāk or wedged post called Thak from the house is also brought with the dead body. On reaching the cremation place, the body is placed on the Rādhā Ghar and it is carried and rounded around the pyre for five or seven times jerking till it is broken. Afterwards the body is put on the pyre. Where again rice, betel nut and other things are offered and th Lurees chants religious discourses. In case of Gārhee or Gheelhyā Ghar, the cart is drawn by two party like between two villagers, married and unmarried , between different septs, symbolizing hell and heaven .Such a pulling is called Garhee Tana. It is drawn till it is broken and later the body is put on the pyre. If there is no Gheelhyā Ghar or Rādhā Ghar, the Pāllyāng is put on the pyre after making five or seven rounds around the pyre every time touching it. The post which was brought from the house is already splitted into chips and distributed among family members and relatives and they have already made torches of fire. First the son or father sets fire and later own clansmen and others. It is customary that a blood relative should first set fire. It is to note that a pregnant woman is never burnt with the fetus inside the womb. In such a case the fetus is first taken out and burnt or buried afterwards beside the mother. For any death due to suspected black magic or unidentified disease, the stomach or chest of the dead body is also sometimes examined on the request of the family. It is also customary that a log of plantain shoot should also be burnt while burning an unmarried youth or girl who had attained puberty. It may be to compensate the wife/husband he/she could not marry.
After burning a dead body all the person who took part in the procession must take bath in the river and come home without looking back. On reaching home they are offered bitter things to eat say bitter gourd curry or bitter gourd leaves curry, neem leaves etc. .
In the evening rice is kept cooked on the oven for the dead person soul in the dead persons house usually of one measure rice with one boiled egg. The Chakmas believe that the soul of the dead person will visit the house at night in search of food. Such a rice is called Kānjabā Bhat.It is reported that they still find marks of the souls visit on the rice pot and egg, like biting mark, finger mark etc. The tradition for coocking such rice is to only cook in a pot without stirring. The egg is also shelled after boiling and kept with the rice. It is covered with plantain leaves and kept on the oven. The rule is to open and examine on the next morning.
For all the above customs like making of Somreng Ghar, Rādha Ghar and Gheelhyā Ghar etc there is a traditional story that – Once, king Sadheng Giri’s queen purchased a bird and requested the king to search for the pair. But after sending his men in different directions the pair could not be found out. So, one day the king himself went to search for the bird with his men. But after searching in different jungles he could not find it out . And in search of the bird, one day he happened to reach a hut in the jungle where an yogi lived. He then become the disciple of the Yogi and learnt religion and Brahma yoga and other knowledge. After six months of learning he returned to his kingdom and introduced pujas and yajnas like Purush Uddhar Yajna (salvation of forefathers), worship of Siva etc. When he became old, he renounced family, leaving the kingdom to his son DHARMA SUKH with the instruction to visit him after twelf years on a certain mountain. He went to the jungle and did meditation and yoga.After twelf years, his son Dharma Sukh went to meet him with his men on the mountain. On reaching the mountain they reportedly found him meditating, but after sometimes he was suddently gutted by a huge fire from no where and Sadhengiri was burnt into ashes. But within no time they also observed a carriage with elephant, monkey, birds and on top a flag under a spider net on the same spot, which flew up in a charming fashion , drawn by four doves and gone up. Sadhengiri was seen seated on the chariot . So it is believed that Sadhengiri has attained highest abode and went to heaven alive. Therefore, in symbolizing the Sadhengiris attainment of Heaven the Chakmas make a chariot for a dead. The story of Sadhengiri was also read out in the form of SĂDHENGIRI TĂRĂ by the Lurees in the olden days.
On the next morning after burning a dead body, the family members perform the rite of Hăr Bhăjhă (bone flowing) as the Chakmas flow the bone reminants of a dead body in the river or stream. The Hār Bhājhā rite is usually performed by the relatives. In case of parents death, all the sons and in case of a son or daughter by the father or by a blood relative. On reaching the Chobă Shăl (burning place) first a finger bone is searched which is put in a earthen or any pot and sealed with plantain leaves. The remaining bones are carried to the river and flown. The burning spot is then cleaned neatly and swept with clay. A fencing is also erected with four bamboo poles where plantain and taro, brinjal etc are planted. A pitcherfull of water is also placed with a dao, a busket, some even put comb and other provisions. A shade is also made with a piece of white clothe called Tala Chānnwa (lower canopy) which is bound on the four poles of the four corner of the fence. On parental death, the sons tonsure their head near the burning place. The earthen pot where the finger bone is kept is then taken to the river and either by the eldest son or by the youngest son( in case of parents death, in case of son or daughter’s death by the father, in case of brothers death by a brother, in case of no close relative by a clansman) and has to go to waist deep water with the pot and pour water by piercing fingers facing up stream and throw the pot at the back with the prayer not to face any death in future. The throwing should be above the head if of a older person and between the legs for a younger person. The thrower is pulled by another person with seven strand of thread backing the follower and the follower also should come out naked from the river folowing his wearing clothes even the waist cord called Phārat Duri in the river and wear new clothes from the bank. One of the member of the family will close the fencing .The other accomplice also take dips in the river and come home without looking back.
On reaching home, another right called Marā Bur is also performed to evade further death in the family. Which is usually performed by an Ojhā (exorcist) In the traditional way. When lunch is ready, lunch is offered at the burning place and the soul is asked to wait at the spot for seven more days for Sātdhinnya. Lamps are also lighted every evening for the dead at the spot for six nights and on the seventh day The Sătdhinnyă rite is performed. Untill the seventh day no sex, fresh meat or fish or wine, will be taken by any members of the family, which is called Sādhāng Dharānā (observing purity for the departed). Some even do not put shoes or chappals during this period.
1SAATDHINNYA : After the death of a family member, it is the duty of the living members to perform a rite called Karma or Sātdhinnyā on the seventh day of burning of the dead for the Utdhār (salvation) of the departed soul. So preparation begins from the day of Hār Bhājhā to collect provisions for offering and of feast to general public . Collection of every possible food, drinks and other items for dedication are made. Religious dedication like Hăjăr Bătti(thousand lamps),Phănăch( hot balloons made of colored papers),Tăngon (banners) , Phorhā (hand loomed banners) etc are also arranged for the purpose. Other provisions for dedication like useful materials for the monks are also arranged. On the evening of the seventh day all relatives and at least one able member from every family f the village will gather in the death house and help in the preparation for the Sātdhinnya like preparation of food, making of balloons, banners etc are done. On the seventh day everything are arranged like food are kept ready, materials for dedication are kept ready . The departed is also invited to come to the feast and offering by burning candle at the burni. First four plates of food are readied on three plates and one Pun Chichchyā Khājhā ( side of bottom splitted basket) . One for the Gongei, one for the monks , the third for the departed and ng place.the fourth to be offered at the burning place.. Every available items like rice, sticky rice, millet, barley, pop corn, sweets, cakes, etc are prepared . On the arrival of the monks, Five precepts are administered and religious discourses are chanted. Afterwards all the provisions are dedicated to the monks with the prayer to bestow all the virtues to the departed soul . The Gongei and the monks are offered food. The fourth plate will be sent to the burning place for other wondering souls, In the meantime, the Ăk Bārhā Poi (invitee plate, the plate meant for the departed )is opened by vowing and sprinkling sandalwood water or wine by any member of the family. Fly and insects are observed. If any fly or insect is found to āhave sat on the food plate it is understood that the soul has arrived in the form of fly or insect.After sometime when the fly or insect goes away, the food is offered to others at the outside of the house by calling whoever interested may have it. Generally no member of family or of the gutthi eat it. But the people of Borbwa goza family used to take it. And the death rite come to conclusion.
Note: Many of the Chakma curses like Magadā Mwha, Rādhā Mwha, heelhyā Mwha, Chotdheng Mwha, Pāllyeng Mwha, Dendreng Mwha, Rādhā Gharha Mwha, Gheelhyā Ghara Mwha, etc actually came from the death rite.