Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
The people of Tripura recently wrapped up the Garia Puja celebrations which worships the titular deity as well as the goddess Haichukma. This festival, spread over eight days, is observed every year with much pomp and piety. Baba Garia, addressed as “father” is believed to bless his followers with health, wealth, and happiness. On the days leading up to the main puja, a fair is set up at a place called Killa where thousands, if not lakhs of people from around the state, gather to offer prayers. Many communities worship the Garia deity but preparation and organization of the puja is mostly carried out by members of the Jamatia community whose apex body is known as Hoda.
The Garia Puja and festival is testament to the spirit of mutual cooperation and volunteerism of Adivasi communities. One of the main requirements for the success of the celebration is rice donated from different households. This is done a week before the first day of the puja which is known as Hari Buisu. This day coincides with other harvest/spring festivals such as Baisakhi, Biju, Vishu, and Bihu celebrated in many parts of the country.
Hari Buisu was celebrated on April 14th this year. A week before that day, people from different households of Tripura visited the place to contribute a handful of rice to the common pantry. According to Hoda member and former Secretary, Kirit Kishore Jamatia, this rice denotes the unity of the people. He said that this rice is cooked, fermented, and later the rice beer made from it is served as an offering to the deity. “This tradition is being observed as far back as we can remember,” he said. The rice beer is served after a week on the day of the main puja called Sena.
The entire process is done in the home of the main pujari known as the Kherphang. Jamatias observe much sanctity in the process. A new fire stove is prepared to cook the rice. After it is cooked, the organizers lay out the rice on a new mat. Every care is taken to ensure that it is kept away from insects and flies. There are people who volunteer to fan the rice so that insects can’t sit on it. This rice is mixed with a special yeast called chuwan. It is then stored for a few days so that the fermentation can take place. Finally a day or two before the Hari Buisu festival, the distillation process takes place so that rice beer can be ready on the big day. This beer, locally known as chwak, is then served to Baba Garia as an offering along with fruits and rice cakes. This offering is made every day for the eight days of the festival. The entire process of collecting rice and making the beer is called Chukbar Songmung.
Hari Buisu is a very sacred day for the indigenous communities of Tripura. On this day, people are supposed to let go of any emotions of envy, hatred, and anger and replace them with love, piety, and brotherhood/sisterhood.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.