Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
Tripuris celebrate a host of festivals all year round. The three most prominent ones are Hangrai, Buishu, and Durga Puja. Every festival erupts in a multitude of cultural variations as the state is home to 19 tribes where each has a unique way of celebrating these festivals. Buishu in particular witnesses the participation of every tribe as it marks the traditional New Year for the people. On this day, the difference of religion disappears as people visit each other’s homes carrying with them a variety of homemade sweets.
On my recent visit to Manu Ghat I realised how diverse my state is. Manu Ghat is situated in the Sadar District of Tripura. A majority of residents there are from the Chakma community. I had the opportunity of striking a conversation with Sukla Rani Chakma, a resident, who gave me a lot of information about her tribe. Talking to her made me realize that although there are several differences in our culture, there are also many similarities.
I found that Debbarmas and Chakmas both love non-veg food. They eat a lot of chicken and fermented fish as do we. Their fermented fish called napek is made of puthi, embru, and shrimps whereas we only use puthi (a small local fish). Chakmas love to eat bamboo shoots too. They sometimes ferment it so they can use it throughout the year. Apart from food, I found that we also share a collective love for the festival of Buishu.
Chakma people call the festival Biju. Alternately, it is celebrated as Bihu in Assam and Baisakhi in Punjab. Buishu/Biju/ Bihu is observed in April and is considered to be a prayer for a good harvest. In contemporary times, the festival is used as an occasion to meet relatives and friends and to showcase the rich cultural diversity of different communities. Through this festival the older generation introduces the newer generations to Adivasi food and culture.
The Chakmas celebrate Biju for three days. The first day is called Phool Biju where people clean their houses and pay floral tributes to the river. The second day is called Mul Biju. On this day people gather together to sing and dance. On the final day known as Gotche Potche Biju, the community holds a function where older couples renew their marriage vows.
What makes Buishu/Biju even more special is that it transcends all religious barriers. Chakmas are traditionally Buddhists whereas many other Tripuri communities are Christians. Yet, in April we all celebrate the festival with lots of good food and conversations. This is the beauty of festivals in Tripura. They are multicultural and transcend all social as well as religious barriers.
About the Author: Sarika Debbarma is a bamboo artist from Tripura. She loves to create beautiful jewelry out of bamboo. As an Adivasi Awaaz creator she regularly shares recipes on how to cook some of the famous Tripuri dishes.