top of page

Learn About This Unique Festival Where Once A Year You Are Allowed To Steal From Your Neighbour

Hojagiri festival is celebrated during winters in Tripura. It's the time of coconut laddoos, new clothes, and prayers to goddess Mailuma for prosperity. But, other than its spiritual context, children wait for the day so that they can break from the norms of gentility and indulge in some stealing that makes them feel like tricksters, all in a safe environment. Hojagiri, celebrated by the indigenous communities of the state is one festival where once a year, children and teenagers are allowed to steal from their neighbours. The usual object of this "crime" is food from the pantry, and vegetables from the field.

The festival makes people realize the importance of being alert

The word Hojagiri is derived from the word ‘hojag’, which means to be conscious or alert. It is one of the most celebrated and delightful occasions for the Tripuri natives. It is an annual festival observed during the month of ‘Asin’ (October) by worshipping ‘Ama Mailuma, Khuluma’.

As per the knowledgeable Chitra Debbarma, Purnini Jamatia and the people of the Mayung Twisa village, the origin of the Hojagiri festival can be traced back to the rule of Maharaja Trilochan of the Kingdom of Tripura. The maharaja on this day had called upon his subjects to be watchful against hatred and to stay safe from those who wish to rob them of their rightful belongings. This was his strategy to prepare the citizens to not only safeguard themselves but also commit towards the welfare of the community. By this process he also wanted to assess how capable the people were at defending themselves. The reminder of the 54 times the kingdom was forfeited by invaders in the past was what led to the initiation of Hojagiri as a way to prepare the commoners for similar circumstances and prevent future violations upon their land.

Prayers are offered to deities "Mailuma" "Kuluma" and "Noksu"

The maharaja laid down a set of rituals for the festival. First, after the offerings to the deity had been made at the royal court and the house of the village chief, one had to steal groceries or staples from a certain house without causing any damage to the house or putting anyone in danger, and without distressing the inhabitants of the house. Second, one was not allowed to consume any of the stolen item as that would make the person a thief. Thereafter, the stolen goods had to be taken to the royal court or to the village chief and while handing them over, mention had to be made of where they were stolen from. Then the person from whom those were stolen was asked to pay a price in order to collect the belongings back, owing to the failure to stay observant during the eve of Hojagiri. This was the maharaja’s way to send out the message that if you don’t stay aware, your possessions will be seized from you. If it wasn’t for the royal court or the village chief, those things would not have returned to you. If the land which is rightfully yours was taken away by invaders, you would not have acquired it back. But if you are vigilant, not a single grain of sand can be stolen from under your nose.

Five different kinds of fruits are offered to the deities

During the night of stealing, if a house successfully evaded a robbery, its inhabitants would gain recognition as cautious and attentive. Such houses would receive blessings and be considered to be contributing as the citizens of the land. In order to protect the homeland, the maharaja had to come up with novel measures and traditions as such. The citizens were hence expected to not only master the art of ethical stealing but also acquire the skill of protecting their own homes. The entire process aims to accomplish qualities required to preserve the sense of security and to confront those who seek to muscle in on an individual’s legitimate ownership.

The deities who are worshipped on this festival are ‘Ama Mailuma’ who is considered to be the provider of our daily meals and rations, and ‘Khuluma’ who provides us with our clothing. Another deity, ‘Noksu’ bestows the household with prosperity. The requirement of nourishment, clothing and shelter must be fulfilled for a decent living. With this essence, Ama Mailuma, Khuluma and Noksu are worshipped to celebrate Hojagiri. For the ‘puja’ or the rituals of worship, the most necessary requirements are that of a ‘lota’ (round-bottomed brass pitcher), ‘khul’ (freshly harvested cotton), ‘khum’ (flowers), ‘laisok’ (mango branch with 5 new leaves on it), ‘tulsi’ (holy basil), and 5 varieties of fruits.

I hope that through this article, you have either learnt some life-lessons or about something that had been unknown to you. If there is more that you know about the festival of Hojagiri, do share with us. We must exchange knowledge as such with each other in order to understand our culture and traditions much better than we do. Thank you.

This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.


bottom of page