Introduction – TRIPURA
Tripura, the ancient home of the Bodos, is the northeastern state of India located by the side of Bangladesh. Politically, now it is a part of the area comprising seven states aptly called `Seven Sisters`, because of many similarities in the social milieu, cultural mosaic and economic landscape. These states besides Tripura are Assam, Manipur, Nagaland ,Meghlaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
The latitudinal and longitudinal extent of the state of Tripura range between 22.56 `degree North to 24.32 degree North and 92.21 degree east respectively. The state has a total geographical area of 4,117 square miles or10,491sq km. Tripura is strategically situated between the river valleys of Myanmar and Bangladesh. Encircled almost on the three sides by Bangladesh, it is linked with Assam and Mizoram in the northeast.
As per the government statistics 56.52 percent of the total geographical area of the state is forest, which can roughly be divided into four types, viz, Sal, Garjan,Bamboo and miscellaneous species.
According to the 2001 census, the total human population of the state of Tripura is 3,191,168. The highlands are areas of sparse population and the lowlands are densly populated. In Tripura , there are not only people hailing from different regions but also people constituting different ethnic groups. Each ethnic tribe has its own language and distinctive forms of cultural expressions, such as music,dance and festivals. Tripura, for instance, have the Garia dance, Reangs have the Howzagiri and the Chakmas have the Bijhu dance.
They have their own musical instruments like flute, khamb and lambang which are made of bamboo. The non-tribal populace practise Rabindra Sangeet and dance – Gajan dance, Dhamail or JariSari or Murshidi-Marfiti.
There are people of all religious groups. Hindus are predominant probably because the ancient rulers were Hindus and their faiths may have affected their subjects.
Nineteenth century marked the beginning of the modern era in Tripura when king Maharaja Birchandra Kishore Manikya Bahadur modelled his administrative set up on the British India pattern and brought in various reforms. His successors ruled over Tripura till 15thOctober 1949 when it merged with the Indian Union. Initially, a part C state and, it became a centrally administered territory with the re-organisation of states in1956. In 1972, this territory attained the status of a full-fledged state.
Tripura has a long historic past, its unique tribal culture and a fascinating folklore. Some scholars are of the opinion that in the distant past it was known as Kirat Desh. There are references of Tripura in the Mahabharat and the Puranas. Tripura, the descendent of King Druya and Bhabru, contemprary of Yudhishtara, was the ruler on whose name Tripura is named. One more explanation says that the territory is named after the temple of Tripuri Sundari, located at Radhakrishnapur. This deity has always been held in high esteem by the local population.
The early history of Tripura is shrouded in mystery. Many myths and legends are associated with it. One version traces its link with the Puranic tradition, to the times of Yajati and Pratit when the 71st Raja Tripura was bonded by a Bodo alliance with Kachar. Another version in the Rajmala (Rajmala is one of the important sources of Tripura history generally datable to the 15th century) states that the ruler of Tripura belongs to lunar race and trace their descent from the Rajput Kshatriyas. Todd, in his Rajputana states that Tripura was one of the 84 mercantile tribes of Rajathan. Probably a synthesis occurred between the culture of the Aryans and Bodos.
However, the well-known historian D.C Sarkar expresses doubts about its authenticity. The medieval history is more definite since the A.D.1279 when we hear about the title Manikya being first conferred by Gaur Sultan to Ratan-pa, a disgruntled Tripura chieftain, for helping him to invade Tripura. The title continues till date. It was even conferred to those ruler who were not direct natural descendents, but managed to grab power through fair or foul means. Until the 16th and17th all the external threats were dealt with successfully, helping the state of Tripura to flourish. By the middle of the 17th century the Mughals became the greatest threat to the political stability of the state of Tripura. Gradually, the plains of Tripura came under the Mughal rule and the name was changed from Tripura to Roshanabad. Later as the East India Company gained political power in India, it attacked the plains of Tripura forcing the ruler to become a tributary. The Jajdhar Manikya (A.D 1785-1804) had to pay annual revenue for the plains (Chakla Roshanabad ) to the Company in order to restore his throne. Other members of the royal clan fled to the hills to safeguard their position. Subsequent rulers tried to impress and please the British to re-fix the territory as it was in the ancient times. But it didn’t work out.
Tripura lacks an industrial base save some cottage industries(handicrafts and handloom) and small scale manufacturing units. In the last 10 years the Indian government has encouraged small scale industries especially dealing with weaving, carpentary, pottery and basketmaking. Rice is the main crop. It is well-suited to the marshy conditions of the northern basin. Jute, cotton, tea, and fruit are important cash crops. Sugar cane, mustard and potatoes are also grown. The state imports large quantities of rice,wheat, maize,pulsese,sugar, etc. Exports from the state include plywood pulp, articles manufactured out of bamboo,timber and canned fruit.
Garia Puja-Celebrated on the 7th day of the month of Vaishak(April)by the tribal people who believe that the celebration will bring prosperity and enjoyment for the whole year. Sacrifice of cocks is one of the features of the celebration. It culminates with devotees, both men and women dancing.
Kharchi Puja(July)-Originally another tribal festival, it now attracts people from all walks of life who come to the Chaturdas Deutas Temple in Old Agartala to worship the fourteen deities of head image.
Ker Puja-A traditional tribal festival held within a specified boundry specially marked with prior notification in the state government gazetteer. During the Puja period no person is allowed to enter or come out of this specified boundary.
This festival of the mother Goddess Durga in her benign and protective form has possibly come in from Bengal. InTripura too, it is celebrated for four days with great enthusiasm in September-October and the celebrations come to an end when idols of the goddess are taken out in procession and immersed in river.
Tirthamukh-A popular pilgrim centre for the tribal people of Tripura. During the Uttarayan Sankranti(Jan-Feb), thousands of pious people , irrespective of caste,creed or religion assemble and take holy bath. Besides these festivals , Howzagiri,Bijhu,Mansamangal,Sarad,Holi, Diwali, etc are celebrated.
Ujjayanta Palace – It was built by the Radhakishore Manikya Bahadur in1901 in the heart of the city.
Sepahijala Wild life Sanctuary – Endangered species like spectacle monkey, or Chasma Badar the state boasts of is only found in this sanctuary. Other attractions are zoo, recreation-ground, botanical garden, etc.
Neer Mahal – A palace in water, Neer Mahal is 53km away from Agartala looks like a fantasy castle.
Deatamura – A panel of crude images engraved on the face of hills facing the river Gumati, in Deatamura, a hill range 75km from Agartala.
Jampui Hills – An orange producing zone, besides the enthralling landscapes, ones eyes and mind will be glued to the lifestyle of aborginals mainly at Lushai with their traditional customs,dance,song and hospitality.
Unakoti – There is a profusion of the rock cut images, belonging to the 11-12th centuries A.D. This is as such an open-air gallery. It is also a Shaiva Tirtha. Thousands of people from all over the region visit it particulary, on Ashokasthami Mela in March-April.
Matabari, Pillak, Dumboorlake ,etc. are other interesting places for sight-seeing.