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No Sticks And Stones: Tripura’s Tribals Used Bamboo To Make Fire Before Matches

Written by Sameer Debbarma and translated from Kokborok by Snehamoy Roy Chowdhury

Fire, one of the most important discoveries for humankind, changed the way people lived their lives. Suddenly, food could be cooked, tools could be made, animals could be kept at bay. One of the other uses of fire was farming. Jhum cultivation has been practised for a long time by people across the world, and the tribals in Tripura practised it, too.

Living in the forests, tribals procured whatever they needed for their daily lives from the forest itself, and practised jhum cultivation on the hill slopes.

Creating fire was not as easy then as it is today- there were no matches and no lighters. So, the tribals in Tripura created fire from something abundant in the north-eastern regions—bamboo.

The method of making fire with bamboo is called ‘Hardouk‘ or ‘Har Samani’ in the Kokborok language. In the ‘Hardouk‘ method, physical strength is essential.

Bamboo slit piece, string and fibre needed to create the fire.

Any kind of bamboo can be used for making fire. If dry bamboo is not available, raw bamboo can also be used. However, it is better to dry the raw bamboo in the sun before trying to make fire, simply because it burns well. The fire ignited with ‘Hardouk‘ made of dry bamboo goes out easily.

The method used for creating fire

In this method, a slit bamboo piece is placed on the ground and a string is pulled from underneath it. While standing on both ends of the slit bamboo piece, the string is pulled up and down, causing friction between the string and bamboo, creating fire. The string needs to be kept at the same spot to ensure that fire is created successfully. Some fibres have to be taken out from the bamboo and placed on the bamboo slit at the spot of the string below so that it sets on fire easily.

Using this method, it takes about 6 to 7 minutes to produce fire. Once the process has started, it cannot be stopped midway and the string has to be continuously pulled back and forth. This activity requires tremendous strength. This is the method which our ancestors used in the past to create fire and cook food. Even when matches and lighters were invented, tribals continued to use this method, when they were working in the jungles without these tools.

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

About the author: Sameer Debbarma lives in the Khowai district of Tripura. He wants to work as a police officer. He likes listening to Hindi classical music and is interested in art. He is currently looking for a Government job.

This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz


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