Thursday, February 9, 2023

Festivals & Fairs


The main features of festivals in Tripura is that, whether a festival is basically tribal or not, all people - tribal and non-tribal will join it in a joyous mood and be part and parcel of it. Of the many festivals current in Tripura, the one that occupies the pride of place is the worship of the fourteen deities popularly known as Kharchi Puja celebrated in July at Agartala (Puran Agartala). The week-long celebration is held in the temple premises and is joined by thousands of people. The word Kharchi is said to be a corrupt form of Khya which means earth. Kharchi Puja is, therefore, the worship of the earth - the earth that sustains mankind with all her resources. Sacrifice of goats and pigeons at the alter of gods is a usual feature of the festival.

Next in importance come Ker and Garia Pujas - both are traditional tribal festivals. The former is celebrated two weeks after  Kharchi Puja. The guardian deity of Vastu Devata is Ker. A large piece of bamboo when bent in a particular fashion assumes the image of Ker. It is generally believed that the former rulers used to perform this Puja for the general welfare of the people of the state. The literal meaning of Ker is boundary or specified area. Two age old beliefs may lie behind  the ritualistic incantation of a specified boundary for the Ker Puja. One is to safeguard the interest of the people from any calamitous misfortunes, diseases, and destitution. The other is to save people from any external aggression. Offering and sacrifices constitute an important aspect of Ker Puja.

On the seventh day of the month of Baisakh (April) is held the Garia Puja - another important festival for the tribals of the state. The celebration starts from the last day of Chaitra. Two deities- Kalia and Garia - are worshipped. The Puja is held to propitiate the deity for blessings. The Garia is a community festival. Sacrifice of cocks is an important feature of the Puja. Another equally important feature is dancing and rejoicing after the Puja. The Garia dance is very popular among the Tripuris and the Reangs. Symbolic of the worship of the deities as well as of the socio-economic activities of the households, these dances represent hunting, fishing, food-gathering and various other activities.

After Navanna; the festival of new rice, Ganga Puja is celebrated in March-April every year. This is another remarkable tribal festival. Ganga, it may be recalled, is one of the fourteen deities of the land. Like Garia Puja, this too is a community festival. People gather by the streamside, pare three piece of bamboo into beautiful flowers, the villagers then build a temple with bamboos in the middle of the stream, and the ageless rituals take place amidst joy and splendour. God is propitiated by the sacrifice of goats, buffaloes and ganders to save the people from any epidemic.

Other two important festivals of Tripura are Durga Puja and Diwali. Both are community festivals, but the former has attained the status of being the greatest community festival in Bengal and Tripura. The four-day long Durga Puja is generally held in autumn (Sep-Oct) every year. The immersion of the deity takes place on the Vijaya-Dashami or the fourth day of the Puja. 

The Puja offers a unique opportunity to see the organisational ability of the young men at its best. A very healthy competition develops among different club or Para boys to exhibit the Para Puja in its best form.

This Puja was also an occasion for a social get-together. On the night of the Vijaya-Dashami, the ruling house used to hold a great community dinner known as Hasam Bhojan. Two explanations are offered for this dinner entertainment. One is that this was an occasion to honour the soldiers of the soil. The other is that the phrase is a concept form of Asama Bhojan which means a community dinner of unequal.