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Cultural heritage: Machang houses being lost in Bandarban

  • Published at 12:39 am June 20th, 2019
Machang house-Dhaka Tribune
A traditional Machang house in Bandarban

The indigenous houses are declining in numbers due to scarcity of raw materials

Traditional Machang house –renowned for being one of the many cultural aesthetics of Bandarban's ethnic minority community –are declining in numbers due to lack of raw materials and rise in modern trend of building dwellings.

The speciality of the house lies within its architecture, which allows the house to be cool, and comfortable in summer. It also contributes in protecting hills from being razed, said a local environmentalist.

According to locals, Machang houses are mainly popular among the ethnic communities in Ruma, Thanchi, Lama, Naikhongchhari, Rowangchhari, and Sadar upazilas of Bandarban.

Chhan (dry paddy grass) and bamboos are the main raw materials for Machang houses, which allow people to live in remote areas of the hills and earn their living by Jhum cultivation. 

With the changing agricultural practices, the volume of chhan and bamboo cultivation is decreasing, and the prices of the material are increasing.

Aung Cha Mong, a local environmentalist, said: "Due to increase in population at the hill tracts, deforestation is on the rise. This is causing the prices of raw materials for the house to increase."

He added that initiatives from the government and private organizations are required to save the Machang houses from extinction.

A purpose of the elevated Machang houses, which often stand on 5-6 feet of braced bamboo stilts, was to protect the homes from wildlife.

"Due to deforestation, the wild animals in the area have decreased in numbers. So locals prefer their homes on the ground," said Aminur Rahman Pramanik, a local artist and poet.

"But in some villages people still build the house as a heritage of their community," Aminur added.

"The locals are busy building houses made of bricks and cement, also the forests no longer have enough bamboo and chhan, that is why we are losing the once popular Machang houses," said Sing Yong Mro, a member of Bandarban Hill Zila Parishad.

Bandarban Tribal Cultural Institute Research Officer Uchnu said Machangs were going extinct mostly owing to relocation of the communities, and unavailability of the traditional building materials.

“We need coordinated public and private effort if we are to sustain this heritage,” he said.

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