Tripura is the tiniest State of India. The State gets its name due to the location of the Tripura Sundari Shakti Peeta. Tripura has a picturesque landscape with deep valleys and hills. The State has diverse ethno linguistic groups, resulting in a composite culture. Some of the popular inhabitants are Bengalis, Manipuris, Tripuris, Jamatias, Reangs, Noatias, Kolois, Murasings, Chakmas, Halams, Garos, Kukis, Mizos, Moghs, Mundas, Oraons, Santhals, and Uchois. Bengalis are the largest non tribal community in Tripura. Thus Bengali culture is the main non tribal culture of the State.
Tripura Royal House Palace
Some of the important festivals are:
Kharchi Festival: The most popular festival celebrated is Kharchi Puja held in Agartala, the capital city of Tripura for seven days. The festival is celebrated in July on the eighth day of the new moon day. The word Kharchi has originated from the word Khya meaning earth. Kharchi also means “cleaning”. Thus the festival is observed to worship Mother Earth. The rituals during the festival includes, worshipping 14 Gods (considered as the dynasty deities) and Mother Earth, at the Puran Agartala, in the temple premises. Prayers at the temple are offered with the belief that praying to the deities will wash away one’s sins and are symbolic of cleaning the Mother Earth, post her menstrual cycle.
On the day of the festival, all the 14 deities are carried to the river Saidra nearby and given a holy bath. The deities are then brought back to the temple and worshipped with flowers and vermillion. People sacrifice goats and pigeons and the meat is offered to the deities.
Ker Puja: Ker Puja is celebrated after a fortnight from the celebrations of the Kharchi festival. According to the ritual, a large bamboo is used as Ker, the Vaastu deity which is used by the priest to perform the puja. Ker also means a boundary. Thus the entry and exit points are strictly guarded while the festivities are on. No one is allowed to either enter or exit the boundary till the rituals are over. Pregnant women and dying people are shifted to neighbouring villages before the start of the puja. The puja starts at 8.00 am and goes on upto 10.00 am. Complete silence is expected to be observed during the Puja. All the deities of Tripura are worshipped during the festival. The Ker deity is worshipped to ward off any misfortune, disease or poverty. Traditional dances are performed to appease the diety.
A priest doing Kher Puja
Durga Puja: It is celebrated by Bengalis during Dasara (September- October) with great pomp.
Ganga Puja: is another festival celebrated with religious fervour in March- April. Ganga is one of the fourteen deities of Tripura. People cut a piece of bamboo into three pieces and make beautiful flowers. A small temple with bamboos is built in the middle of the stream and the diety Ganga is worshipped. Dance with musical instruments played in the background forms an integral part of celebrations. The dance forms, music played and the instruments used vary depending upon the cultural ethnicity of the tribe. Animal sacrifice is an important ritual observed during the festival.
Garia Puja: Garia Puja is observed as a harvest festival on the seventh day in April. During this festival, the deity Garia is worshipped. Young men and women dress in traditional attire and dance in front of the deity to appease Lord Garia. The festival is observed chiefly by the Jhumias, a tribal group. As part of the rituals, a bamboo pole is worshipped with flowers and garlands, which is symbolic of Lord Garia. The other items used for the worship include: fowl chick, cotton thread, rice, eggs, riccha, rice beer and earthen pots. An important ritual of the festival is the sacrifice of the fowl chick and offering its blood to the Lord. It is believed that by sacrificing a fowl chick, Lord Garia will bless the people with peace, prosperity, children and domestic animals.
Ashokashtami: is one of the religious festivals celebrated in March- April at Unakoti Teertha in Kailasahar. During the festival devotees take a dip in the holy Ashtami Kunda. Several rock cut images of the local deities are worshipped at Unakoti hills by thousands of devotees.
Rock cut images at Unakoti.
Another little known festival is the Orange and Tourism festival held in November. The festival is held to celebrate the cultivation of Oranges in the States on the hills of Jampui hills, the only hill station.