The Tripuris live on the slopes of hills in a group of five to fifty families. Their houses in these areas are built of bamboo or ua as it is called in Kokborok and raised five to six feet height to save themselves from the dangers of the wild animals. The neat and clean traditional wooden houses of the local inhabitants combined with greenery all around provide excellent opportunities for eco-friendly tourism. During the month of November every year, the unique Orange Festival is celebrated in the Jampui Hill
Tripuri culture owes its exuberance to the tribal populous, comprising of tribes like Maslums, Chakmas etc, each amalgamating the whole of the cultural heritage its individuality and ethnicity. Close association of Poet Rabindranath Tagore with Tripura has imbued luster to the rich cultural heritage of the state All the tribes have their individual dance forms. The main dance forms are Hozagiri, Lebang Boomani, Jhum, etc. Tripura also has a long tradition of making exquisite crafts from cane and bamboo and also woodcarving. Festivals of Tripura as well as the culinary items are in harmony with the rest of India, especially to those of the Eastern region.
The Tripuri people mainly speak various dialects of Kokborok, the standard dialect of the Debbarma tribe spoken around Agartala and the second official language of Tripura. There are estimated to be 1,000,000 speakers of the various dialects of Kokborok in Tripura, others being in Mizoram & Assam in India and Sylhet and Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh.
The Tripuri (Tipra or Tipperah) people are the original inhabitants of the Kingdom of Tripura in North-East India and Bangladesh. The Tripuri people through the Royal family of the Debbarmas ruled the Kingdom of Tripura for more than 2000 years till the kingdom joined the Indian Union in 1949.
Tripura, completely off the beaten track, is mainly a hilly territory with altitudes varying from 50 to 3080 ft above sea level. Most of the population, however, lives in the plains. Encompassing a sensitive border zone where India meets Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, the region is remote – only the narrow Siliguri corridor connects it to the rest of India. The second smallest state of India, it is one of the most ancient of the princely states with its capital city in Agartala.
Characterized by moderate temperatures and a highly humid atmosphere, Tripura is a storehouse of tribal crafts and culture as well as music and dancing. Tripura has mainly a Bengali community, in spite of the 19 Scheduled Tribes that form a major chunk of the population. The tribals, with a rich and varied culture, belong mainly to the Reang, Chakma, Halam and Usai communities. The majority of tribals live in elevated houses of bamboo called ‘Tong’.
It is one of the most beautiful places in India where we can see rare combination of natural beauty and man- made wonders, a unique blend of the old order and new, and a fusion of cultures and architectural styles. Many tribes and communities who have made their home in Tripura have lent an incredible mix of culture and customs to this small state.
The important dances of the Tripuri’s are:
- Goria Dance
- Huk kaimani Dance
- Lebang bumani Dance
- Hojagiri Dance
- Ua Bamboo dance
Goria Dance: The life and culture of Tripuris revolve around Jhum (slash and burn) cultivation. When the sowing of seeds at a plot of land selected for Jhum is over by middle of April, they pray to the God ‘Goria’ for a happy harvest. The celebrations attached to the Goria Puja continue for seven days when they seek to entertain their beloved deity with song and dance.
Lebang Bumani Dance: After the Goria festival is over, the Tripuris have a time to rest awaiting the monsoon. During this period, folks of charming colorful insects called ‘Lebang’ use to visit hill slopes in search of seeds sewn on it. The annual visit of the insects renders the tribal youths to indulge in merry-making. While the men-folk make a peculiar rhythmic sound with the help of two bamboo chips in their hand, the women folk run tottering the hill slopes to catch hold of these insects called Lebang. The rhythm of the sound made by the bamboo chips attracts the insects from their hiding places and the women in-groups catch them. With the change of time jhuming on hill slopes are gradually diminishing. But the cultural life that developed centering round the jhum delved deep into the society. It still exists in the state’s hills and dales as a reminiscence of the life, which the tribal of today cherish in memory, and preserve as treasure. In both the dances Tripuris use the musical instruments like Kham (the Kokborok word for drum) made of bamboo, Sumui (flute), Sarinda, Lebang made of bamboo and bamboo cymbal. Tripuri women generally put on indigenous ornaments like chain made of silver with coin, Bangle made of silver, ear and nose rings made of bronze. They prefer flower as ornaments.
The enthusiastic Tripuri folks celebrate all the main Indian festivals in great festivity, thus making them an integral part of Tripuri culture. They have also added festivals of local origination to the list of popular occasions.The worship of the fourteen deities called Kharchi Puja is feted in July where Tripuris take part in great delight. Offering goats and pigeons at the altar of gods is a common aspect of the festival. Ker and Garia Pujas are traditional tribal festivals. Ker is renowned two weeks after Kharchi Puja, commemorating Ker, the guardian deity of Vastu Devata .The Garia is a public festival. Sacrifice of cocks is a vital trait of the Puja. Another tribal festival, namely, Ganga Puja is the festival of blooming of rice crops and is held in the month of March or April.
The novelty of the state’s art & craft comes alive in its handicrafts and handlooms. Handloom products make the vital part of the economy of Tripura. Silk, cane and bamboo works are some of the main industries. Here skilled artisans craft a fascinating variety of handiwork using simple materials, such as, bamboo, cane, palm leaves and ordinary yarn. Some of the popular handicraft items are bamboo screens, lamp stands, baskets, ivory work, tablemats, sitalpati, woodcarving, silver ornaments
Tripura’s gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $2.1 billion in current prices. Agriculture and allied activities is the mainstay of the people of Tripura and provides employment to about 64% of the population. There is a preponderance of food crop cultivation over cash crop cultivation in Tripura. At present about 62% of the net sown area is under food crop cultivation. Paddy is the principal crop, followed by oilseed, pulses, potato, and sugarcane. Tea and rubber are the important cash crops of the State. Tripura has been declared the Second Rubber Capital of India after Kerala by the Indian Rubber Board. Handicraft, particularly hand-woven cotton fabic, wood carvings, and bamboo products, are also important. The per capita income at current prices of the state stands at INRs 10,931 and at constant prices Rs 6,813 in the financial year 2000-2001.
Some quality timber like sal, garjan, teak, and Gamar are found abundantly in the forests of Tripura. Tripura has poor mineral resources, with meagre deposits of kaolin, iron ore, limestone, coal but this state has considerable amount of natural gas reserve. The industrial sector of the state continues to be highly underdeveloped.
The indigenous Tripuri people comprises various hill tribal communities viz., Tipra, Reang, Jamatia, Kaipeng, Noatia, Koloi, Halam, etc. who migrated to this land in successive waves in the ancient past. They grew in isolation and were sometimes subjugated by one another. Each community had its own elementary social and administrative organization starting from the village level and up to the chieftainship of the whole tribe. The tribes enjoy their traditional freedom based on the concept of self-determination. The relation between the king and the subject tribes was as Maharaja (king) of Tripura-Missip or liaison officer Roy of Headman of the tribe – Sardar of chief of the village-the individual.
The Tripuri people have a rich historical, social and cultural heritage which is totally distinct from that of the mainland Indians, their distinctive culture as reflected in their dance, music, festivals, management of community affairs, dress and food habit has a strong base. Kokborok, the linguafranca of the twelve largest linguistic groups of the indigenous Tripuris and other dialects spoken in Tripura are of the Tibeto-Burman group as distinct from those spoken in India. There is no influence whatsoever of from those spoken by other peoples in the North-eastern region. The great music composer father-son duo of S.D. Burman & R.D. Burman belongs to the Tripura royal family.
The main Tripuri tribes are:
- Debbarma or Tipra , from which the royal family Debbarman ruled the kingdom.
- Reang or Bru
The lineage in Tripuri is called Sandai or bosong.
Most of the groups or sub-groups are named after some animal, or bird—this is prevalent among most Tripuris. All the sub-groups of Tripuri lineage are patriarchal. Because the members of a lineage are related, their behaviour pattern is also similar to a certain extent. The adopted son bears the lineage identity of the foster parents. The unmarried daughters belong to the lineage of their fathers or brothers. After marriage the daughter follows her husband’s lineage.
Tripura has its own religious faith, belief and practices. It is one of the sects of Hinduism practiced in India. The religion of Tripuri people is the origin of Hinduism; it is still practiced in its pure form, in the Tantrik way. It has the faith on the supreme Almighty god which is called as Sibrai ir Subrai or Achu Subrai. he is none but the Shiva, or Mahadev. Then there are also Gods for wealth, for success, for well-being, for war and victory, for the ancestor, for the earth Mother, Water, Air, Sky etc. The Tripuris does not belief in the existence of god in inanimate objects which most of Scholars had described to the faiths of Tripuri people. that is why the Tripuri people do not worship the stone, rock, soil, tree, bamboo etc. but they worship the above mentioned gods by making symbol of god called “WATHOP” which is akin little similar to Christian Cross but two vertical pole, as seen in the Tripura Society’s logo.
Some of the Gods that are worshipped by the Tripuri people are similar to those worshipped by the Hindu not by name but by their nature. For example the Mailuma is Goddess of Paddy and prosperity in Tripuri people, where as Laxmi is a similar goddess in the Hindu faith who is worshipped for paddy and prosperity. Similarly Twima is Goddess of Water among Tripuris where as Ganga is Goddess of water in Hinduism. The Hindu methods of philosophical investigation consist of the study of the Vedic evidence, reasoning and experiences. The last one, that is experience is emphasized by much by Hindu philosophers. in that matter any philosophy or way of life is based on one’s own experience. A Tripuri way of life or philosophy is no exception to this. In a Tripuri way of life one may find less emphasis on reasoning and more on experiences. Essentially religion is based largely on intuition and emotion, not always on purely rational attitude of mind or based on the scientific facts. It is often based and inspired by faith and belief rather than argument or reasoning. In the above context Tripuri faiths are akin similar to Hinduism so the scholars termed it a part Hindu. By analyzing the historical and prevailing practices one can come to the conclusion that Tripuri people had not adopted the Hindu god or goddess, on the contrary the Hinduism had adopted and glorified many of the Tripuri God & Goddess. Because when the Indo-Aryan branch of Caucasoid race entered the Indian subcontinent they are supposed to have brought with them the faiths prevailing there which belief in one God only, where as Tripuri people from the beginning had faith in multiple gods and philosophy is based on many gods and goddess.
The Tripuri marriage follows some steps and beliefs.
Hamjwk Tubui Kaimani: In this system of marriage the negotiation between two families is made by a marriage broker. He is known as Raibai or Andra in Reang dialect. In finalizing a marriage the parents or the guardians play the sole role. The bride or the groom has no choice. This type of marriage always takes place in the house of the bridegroom.
If the girl is chosen by the parents of the boy, the guardian of the daughter demands dowry of money, ornaments etc. Among the Tripuris the bride does not bring any dowry to her father-in-law’s house. The Tripuri society is free from the dowry system. There is a trend toward expectation of a dowry at present, however.
Koksurma: Koksurma is the preliminary proposal for marriage, coming from either side of the parties. Generally the raibai performs the brokerage in the koksurma. If the proposal is accepted by both parties then they fix a date for a final settlement called Kokswhngmung
Kokswhngmung: Kokswhngmung is the finalization of marriage where both sides of the party commit to get their ward marriage. The guardian of both sides sit side by side in front of two pots of rice beer called bwtwk. A bell-metal plate containing some cotton, durba, copper coin, rice, soil etc. is put in front of them to perform the rituals of Dangdua, performed by each person three times. The would-be bride then comes before the assembled persons and bows before the elders. The dates and times, terms and conditions of the marriage, bearing of expenditure etc. are finalized in this kokswhnglaimung.
Khum Phunukmung: After the finalization of the marriage there are rituals of invitation by offering betel leaf, nut and flower etc. to every family of the village. It is started from the house of the Chokdori, the village head. On the fixed date the bride is brought into the groom’s house and received with much enthusiasm, and dangdua.
Aya and Ayajwk: Aya is the helper and assistant of the groom, in dressing, make up, and procedural follow-up. Similarly Ayajwk is the counter part for the bride. Throughout the marriage ceremony they are to remain nearby the respective person.
Bedi: A bedi is a platform on which the marriage ceremony is performed. It is made of bamboo, cane, wood etc. Over the bedi seven layers of plain pieces of cloth are tied one over the other like a tent. Jari is a pot made of brass, somewhat like a kettle but elongated, that is used in carrying the secret water to be sprinkled over the bride-groom, first by the priest then by the parents and other elders. The morning rituals are performed by Ochai the priest. The ritual is called Lampra uathop. A deity is worshipped along with the Twisangrongma. After the ceremony the new couple bow down before and touch the feet of each senior person in attendance, and the aged person blesses the couple with gifts called Heli. Following this ceremony on the same day a grand marriage feast is served to all. The next day of the marriage is called Dolan when a post marriage ceremony is observed by the close relatives of both parties. The non-vegetarian dish that is served on this occasion is an important part of Tripuri marriage ceremonies.
Maitwrang beraimani: Maitwrang beraimani is the first visit after the marriage to the bride’s parents. It generally occurs after three days of marriage.
The Tripuris live on the slopes of hills in a group of five to fifty families. Their houses in these areas are built of bamboo or ua as it is called in Kokborok and raised five to six feet height to save themselves from the dangers of the wild animals. The neat and clean traditional wooden houses of the local inhabitants combined with greenery all around provide excellent opportunities for eco-friendly tourism. During the month of November every year, the unique Orange Festival is celebrated in the Jampui Hills.
The Tripuri people are considered part of the Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group. Originally they migrated from near the upper courses of the Yangtze kiang and the Hwang Ho rivers in Western China. They had left China long before the Sui dynasty came to power. At the time of migration they were animists. So it may be reasonably assumed that they migrated before 65 AD, the year Buddhism was introduced in China. The common reference to these people as “Kiratas” and “Cinas” in the early Sanskrit texts of India unmistakably indicates that they came down to the Assam valley long before the dawn of Christian era.
Tripuris entered their present country through its north-eastern corner, settled there and gradually expanded their settlement and suzerainty over the whole of Tripura. They were able to expand their influence as far south as Chittagong, as far west as Comilla and Noakhali (known during the British period as ‘plains Tipperah’) and as far north as Sylhet (all in present Bangladesh). Hardly their forefathers could imagine that their descendants were destined to build a strong monarchy and resist the advance of the Mughals. The ruling dynasty passed through several vicissitudes of history and ruled Tripura for several centuries till up to 14 October 1949, the day Tripura was annexed by India.
The history of Tripura is as old as the history of India. It is not impossible but difficult to ascertain how the name of Tripura kingdom had come into existence. The most plausible is that it was named after the mightiest ruler of Tripura, the son of Daitya, Tripur, the 40th descendant from Yayati, the famous king of Chadra (Lunar) dynasty. In the Mahabharata Trilochana is mentioned as the king of Tripura at the times of kurukshetra war, the same fact is also corroborated in the royal chronicle of Tripura, the Rajmala. Tripur was described as most powerful and unreligious in Shivmahapuran, there fore he was assassinated by Lord Shiva, consequently her widow queen Hiravati was blessed with a most religious and spiritual son named Trilochana, having third eye, who as also known as Subrai raja by the Tripuri people ever since. He is equivalent to Lord Rama of Hindu pantheon and adored by all section of people.
Tripura was originally land of almost exclusively of Tripuri people till the nineteenth century. Up to the middle of 20th century Tripuri people were still a majority in the state, but by the turn of 6th decade of last century the Tripuri people turned out to minority in their own state. And in the beginning of 21st century the Tripuri people became a minority in the land of their fore fathers. It is stated that they now consist of only 31% odd including other indigenous people. Earlier the state was having more of Muslim Bengali people, but it had, since the middle of the century gradually been transformed of having more Hindu Bengali then Muslim because of influx from erstwhile East Pakistan.
The comparative over view of the population ratio of the different ethnic races for the past one century will give a clear understanding of Tripura migration and refugee predicament of present time. In the year 1901 AD, the population percentage of different communities in Tripura were approximately viz. the Tripuri and other indigenous people including the Manipuri was 74.68%, the Muslim Bengali 25.9 %, the Hindu Bengali were just 8.6%. Just after 100 years apart the percentage of different ethnic races as per the census report of 2001 AD stands as follows, approximately the Tripuri and other indigenous people including Manipuri came down to 31.82%, the Muslim Bengali went down to 8%, where as the Hindu Bengali percentage went up to 60%. This is how the population ratio has just been substituted between the Tripuris and Hindu Bengali in the matter of just one century apart.
There have been multiple impacts of demographic changes that took place in Tripura following refugees’ settlement from erstwhile East Pakistan in the after math of India’a independence and partition. Apart from the political, economical, social impacts it has also affected the Cultural and topographical aspect of Tripura. Most of the names of different villages, hamlets, rivers, tributaries, markets, area, hills, hillocks, towns etc had been changed to suit the tongue of refugees, who had since became majority population. This created the impression that Tripura state did not belonged to Native Tripuri people, rather it created the idea that the land had since been occupied by Indo-Arian language speakers, which it was not till mid 20th century in true senses. These are just a tip of ice berg, the list if added it would make almost all the geographical names of Tripura.
Like many parts of the world the Tripuri has traditional sports. It is common in almost all the clans of Tripuri. They are called thwngmung in Tripuri. Now a days these traditional sports are being abandoned gradually as Tripuris are attracted to modern games and sports. But some of the sports still played and preferred in rural Tripura.
- Achugwi Phan Sohlaimung
- Dwkhwi Sotonmung
- Phan Sohlaimung
- Kaldong or Kadong
- Longoi Chokmung
- Muphuk Sagwnang
- Musta Seklaio
Tripuris have their own traditional dresses. This dress is similar to rest of the North- East Indian people in terms of the type. But it is totally different from rest of the people in terms of the pattern and design.
The dress women for the lower half of the body is called Rignai in Tripuri and for the upper half of the body cloth has two parts Risa and Rikutu.
Risa covers the chest part and the rikutu covers whole of upper half of the body. In the yesteryears these garments were used to be woven by the ladies by home spun thread made from the cotton. But nowadays the threads are bought from the market and the risa is not worn, instead blouse is worn by most of Tripuri women because of convenient. In present day young girls are wearing rignai with tops also.
Rigwnai: Each of the clans of Tripuri has their own rignai pattern and design. The patterns of the rignai are so distinct that the clan of a Tripuri woman can be identified by the pattern of the rignai she wears. Nowadays there is inter-mingling of the ‘rignai’ and different clans are wearing ‘rignai’ of other clans freely and new designs are being woven differently. ‘Rikutu’ is a plain cloth of different colour and shade woven by the Tripuri ladies.
Rigwnai designs: Different types of designs fashion that are woven in the rignai borok by the Tripuri women are as follows:
- Kuaichu bokobom
- Kuaichu ulta
- Similik yapai
- Rignai mereng
- Metereng trang
- Rignai khamchwi
- Sorbangi and many more.
It is said that at the time of Subrai Raja, the most famous and legendary King of Tripura, through his 250 wives he had invented two hundred fifty designs of rignai. He married those women whoever invented a new design. But all these design had lost in time and only few are retained till date. The effort to re-discover the lost designs is in process.
Male dresses: Male counterpart used to wear ‘rikutu’ for the loin and ‘kamchwlwi borok’ for the upper part of the body. But in the modern age very few people are wearing this dress except in the rural Tripura and working class. The male have adopted the modern dress of international style.
Women dresses: Tripuri women wear a scarf, called rignai, which reaches down just below the knee. They weave in their loin-loom a small piece of cloth, which they call risa, and they use this small piece of cloth as their breast garment.
Tripuri cuisines are very delicious dishes and healthy preparation. The people whoever had tasted once to some of the preparation they could not but tested it for life. Most of the Tripuris who had been living in the Agartala since long had discarded their cultures, customs, distanced from the mother tongue, and traditional Tripuri dresses and adopted states present majority culture. But one thing which they had not been able to discard totally is the Tripuri dishes. Still in the kitchen of these town based Tripuris, the Tripuri dishes are cooked regularly. It is because that the Tripuri dishes are very delicious, palate soothing, and healthy way of cooking. Some of the Tripuri dishes have become a regular feature in non-Tripuri family also. One of the most important ingredient of Tripuri cuisine is Berma , it is basically fermented dried puthi fish. The flavour of the Berma is not very pleasant, but when cooked its flavor is mouth watering and appetizer for Tripuri people. Berma is used as spices in most of Tripuri dishes. Large number of Tripuri cuisine are prepared with out oil . In that health point of view it is very good even for those who are restricted to take fatty and oily food. At a time when people are becoming calorie conscious they can switch over to Tripuri way of cooking and live a healthy life. Some of the Tripuri cuisine are listed below: Awandru, Bwtwi, Chakhwi, Chakhwtwi, Chakhwtwi Kwthwng, Thokni Chakhwi, Berma bwtwi, Chatang, Mosodeng, Deng, Gudok, Hang, Ik, Muitru, Hontali, Muhr, Mwkhwi, Napek, Peng, Rabra, Ruk, Ser, Sok, Yohk, Yaksapik .