FESTIVALS OF TRIPURA
Tripura, a little state of India, is a tribal Hindu land, and a very very offbeat place. Here, a different world exists, with colorful festivals that few have a had a pleasure to see.
Kharchi Puja is one of the most popular festivals in Tripura. It's a week-long royal Puja which falls in the month of July on the eighth day of the new moon and attracts thousands of people. This festival is celebrated at Agartala (Puran Agartala) in the temple premises of fourteen gods. There are many legends associated with this Puja. The celebrations extend till a week and are held in the temple premises which are attended by thousands of people.
The word Kharchi is derived from the word Khya which means earth. Kharchi Puja is basically done to worship the earth. All of rituals are of tribal origin, which includes worshipping of fourteen gods and mother earth. The Puja is performed to wash out the sins and to clean the post menstrual phase of mother earth’s menstruation. Thus the Puja is performed for seven consecutive days. On the day of the Puja, the fourteen gods are carried to river Saidra by the members of chantai. The gods are bathed in the holy water and are brought back to the temple. They are again placed in the temple by performing Puja, offering of flowers and vermillion. Animal sacrifice is also an important part of this festival and includes sacrificing of goats and pigeons. People offer sweets and the sacrificial meat to god. Both tribal and non-tribal people join together and celebrate the festival in a festive mood by becoming a part of it. Plenty of other attractions along with a large fair and cultural programs are organized during this time.
Ker Puja is held after a fortnight of Kharchi Puja and is a traditional tribal festival. The deity of Vastu Devata is Ker meaning boundary or a particular area. People believe that the former rulers in the past used to perform this Puja for the general welfare and well being of the people of the state. A large piece of bamboo is used to make Ker and this bamboo is then used by the priest to perform the Puja. Ker Puja is the strictest Puja done by the people because of the association of various beliefs and aspects. The deities of Tripura are worshiped in this Puja. Every entrance or exit of the portion is entirely blocked to create a symbol for doing the Ker Puja. Expectant mothers and dying people are shifted to neighboring villages before starting the Puja. The people in the surrounded place are not allowed to go beyond the boundary till Puja gets finished. If any person enters the boundary by mistake, he is not allowed to move back from the place.
The Ker Puja starts around 8 am to 10 am in the morning hours. People are not allowed to speak or laugh once the Puja starts. This Puja is done to defend the interest of the people from any misfortune, disease and poverty. The other reason is to save people from any external violence. Offering and sacrifices are an important part of Ker Puja. Dancing and rejoicing is done by the devotees after the Puja.
Garia Puja is a Puja done by the tribes of the state and is held on the seventh day of the month of April. This festival is celebrated as a harvest festival by the ethnic tribes and celebrations begin from last day of March-April. This festival is celebrated in a traditional way by the people of Tripura and celebrated throughout the state with a lot of splendor and joy. Children and youth play drums, sing and dance in front of the Lord Garia. They do this to please the deity. People from all the communities seek the blessing of Lord Garia. The Puja is mainly conducted by Jhumias. A bamboo pole is worshipped with flowers and garlands by the tribals which symbolizes the Lord Garia. Various ingredients are used while conducting the Garia Puja. The ingredients used in the Puja are fowl chick, cotton thread, rice, eggs, riccha, rice beer and earthen pots. An important part of the Puja is sacrificing a fowl and offering the blood to the deity. This activity is done to please the deity and to seek his blessings. God Garia is worshipped so as to bestow the people with domestic animals, peace, children and wealth. The Puja is held to seek blessings. The sacrifice of cocks is an important feature and other important feature is dancing and rejoicing after the Puja. Garia dance is performed by the Tripuris and the Reangs.