Agartala, Aug 4 (IANS) Tripura tribals’ traditional “Ker Puja” began on Saturday in Tripura with unprecedented rituals. The puja is conducted for the welfare of the people and to ward off evil spirits.
Sponsored by the state government, Ker Puja is one of the important holy events in Tripura’s traditional cultural calendar.
As per the decades old practice, the West Tripura District Magistrate and Collector has notified the Ker Puja areas this year on Thursday explaining all the binding norms and compulsions.
“The area in and around the royal palace here as well as Puran Habeli, the erstwhile capital of Tripura (around 12 km from Agartala), have been notified for the 31-hour-long ‘Ker Puja’. The lunar day of the worshiping begun at 10 p.m on Friday night and it would end at 5 a.m on Sunday morning,” the the District Magistrate’s notification said.
The meaning of “Ker” in tribal Kokborok language is specified area.
“Once the traditional formalities of Ker Puja start, it would continue uninterruptedly for 31 hours. During the princely rule, the notified areas of this puja was much bigger, but over the years, the area got reduced to a large extent,” historian and writer Subhash Das told IANS.
Das, a former Additional District Magistrate and Collector of West Tripura district, said: “Pregnant women and sick people are to be kept out of the specified puja area before the rituals of worshiping start. No one is allowed to enter the notified area during the puja period.”
“Any kind of entertainment, dancing, singing and movement of animals are strictly barred in the specified Ker Puja areas,” he said and added that if there is a birth or a death, then a family has to pay a fine as well. The fine is determined by the head priest of the puja, called “Chantai”.
The rituals are carried out at the Tripura government’s expenditure as per the accord between the Tripura government and the erstwhile royal family.
Besides Agartala and Puran Habeli, the puja is organised in many tribal villages towards the end of the year or at the end of the harvesting season.
“The sacrifice of birds, animals and offerings characterise this popular puja,” Das pointed out.
An artistic structure built with green bamboo poles serves as the deity for the Ker Puja.
The Chantai, wearing traditional costume, is regarded as the “king” on the occasion.
The notified area is guarded by Tripura Police personnel.
At the end of the 517-year rule by 184 kings, on October 15, 1949, the erstwhile princely state of Tripura came under the control of the Indian government, in line with a merger agreement signed with Kanchan Prabha Devi, then Maharani-regent.
The agreement made it obligatory for the Tripura government to continue the sponsorship of 18 temples, pujas and festivals across the state earlier organised by the royal families. And it continues through the years.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be reached at [email protected])