Adivasi Awaaz creator Anuprava Debbarma, in the following article, talks about the sustainable practices of the tribes from Tripura, which have been a part of their lifestyle for ages. Sustainable practices of tribal communities all over the globe have been helpful in protecting and preserving the environment. Hence, it becomes crucial to discuss them as we live in an era of environmental degradation.
Tribals all over the country depend on nature for their basic needs. Even today a large part of the tribal population lives as gatherers of forest produce. Gathering forest produce not only provides food and timber for survival but also aids in sustainable living. While different tribes have different modes of sustainable living, here are five traditional sustainable practices of the tribes from Tripura.
Making Toothpaste from Charcoal: Charcoal today has become one of the biggest trends in the world of beauty, skincare and wellness. One of the common marketing strategies used by skincare and beauty companies is infusing ‘activated charcoals’ in their products and advertising and marketing the products citing the benefits of charcoal. Charcoal masks, charcoal face wash and charcoal toothpastes are a few of the many products in this race. But did you know that the tribals of Tripura used charcoal as toothpaste since ancient times? Yes, you heard it right. Even today the tribals residing in the villages use charcoal as their toothpaste to clean their teeth. The blocks of charcoal are broken down into powder form and then mixed with water to form a thick consistency and then with the use of fingers, it is used to clean the teeth.
Making Natural Loofahs: The commercially available loofahs that we use in our daily lives are generally made from plastics. These are also made up of other synthetic products. These loofahs are non-biodegradable and hence are harmful for the environment. However, the tribals of Tripura use a special type of loofah which is not only plastic free but also biodegradable and hence environment friendly. These loofahs are made from sponge gourds. The sponge gourd is left to ripe and then when it dries out, a natural loofah is formed.
Homemade Shampoo: Tribals of Tripura traditionally derived their shampoo from charcoal and ash residues. A special type of filtering basket ‘Chakhwi Khok’ which is made from bamboo is used to extract and filter out the liquid from the charcoal and ashes. The liquid which is extracted after filtering out the charcoal bits and ashes is called ‘chakhwi’. Interestingly this chakhwi is also used to prepare a traditional Tripuri dish which is also known as ‘Chakhwi’. Small charcoal pieces and ashes are placed on the chakhwi khok which is hung on a wall and then hot water is poured on the ashes to extract and filter out the chakhwi from the ashes. The filtered Chakhwi is then collected in a bowl or any utensil which is placed below the chakhwi khok. The Chakhwi is then used as a shampoo. The Chakhwi can be further stored in a bottle for several months and can be used as a shampoo or else for making the Chakhwi dish.
Utilising Local Materials for Building Houses: The traditional Tripuri houses were made from bamboo which is a widely available raw material in Tripura. The houses which are made from bamboo are called ‘Gairing’. The Gairings are small huts with raised platforms and bamboo stairs, sometimes surrounded by an open balcony. With the passage of time and the advent of modernisation many tribal people have moved to the cities and have abandoned living in these huts. But there is still a large number of people who live in the Gairings.
Hand Fan: The Tripuri people make hand fans using palm leaves. The leaves of the wine palm or tal palm (scientific name: Borassus flabellifer) are dried and cut down to make beautiful hand fans.
The lifestyle of the tribals is different from the mainstream. The tribal people make the most out of what is readily available in nature. They grow their own food or collect food from the forest and most of the things and materials used in their everyday lives also usually come from nature itself. That is why the survival of the forests and nature in their habitable and pure form is important. It is important not only for the sustenance of the tribal people but for the survival of the whole of humankind and the planet earth. While we are facing a climate crisis, it is important to acknowledge and support the contribution of the tribal people in maintaining natural resources and protecting the earth. We should also learn some of these habits and incorporate these into our daily lives so as to contribute our bit to the environment and the earth.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.