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Pabarana Purnima: The Lesser-Known Festival Of The Chakma Tribe

On the full-moon night that follows Vijaya Dashami (Dussehra), in the month of Ashvin, some tribes of Tripura who follow Buddhism, like the Chakmas, celebrate Pabarana Purnima, unlike the tribes who follow Hinduism and celebrate Laxmi Puja (called Hojagiri in Kokborok). Adivasi Awaaz creator Anuprava Debbarma, writes about Pabarana Purnima, in the following article.

Villagers celebrating Pabarana Purnima; Picture Credit: Diga Chakma

The Chakma tribe belongs to the eastern most regions of the Indian sub-continent and is one of the major tribes of Tripura. As such many of their cultural practices and way of life are well known. ‘Biju’ is one of the most famous festivals of the Chakmas. It is celebrated during the harvesting season alongside other festivals like Baisakhi, Lohri, Bihu, Garia Puja and the like. However, some aspects of their life remain under-researched. For instance, very little is known about Prabarana Purnima, one of the most important festivals of the Chakma tribe and the tribes that follow Buddhism.

Pabarana Purnima is celebrated not only in Tripura by the Chakmas, but also in the neighbouring state of Mizoram and also in Bangladesh, where the Chakma tribe forms a significant population. It is also celebrated by the Mog tribe who traditionally are Buddhists. Although the festival is celebrated in an identical manner by both the Chakma and Mog tribes, slight variations exist.

Pabarana Purnima marks the occasion of ‘adopting wholly’ as well as ‘forbidding’. Adopting wholly refers to the practice of committing to the principles of Buddhism which includes humility and simplicity; whereas forbidding implies giving up the ways of life that are contrary to the principles of Buddhism. This day is marked by seeking forgiveness and the act of forgiving others. Forgiving is considered as one of the most virtuous qualities in Buddhism, which brings luck and blessings to the person in question. On the occasion of Pabarana Purnima, the Chakmas and other tribes remind themselves of this virtuous quality and indulge in the act of seeking and granting forgiveness.

On Pabarana Purnima, the devotees attend the prayer meeting organised by the Buddhist Temple Committee in their respective villages. Everyone in the village bathes and dresses up in their best clothes to attend the puja/ prayer. The programme starts around 9am to 10am in the morning and continues till 12pm in the noon. The monks who are invited on this auspicious occasion, initiate the pujas. On this day the Chakmas worship Lord Buddha followed by the worship of ‘Shibuli’ / ‘Sivali’ (an arhat/ saint who is widely venerated among the Theraveda Buddhists). According to the Chakmas, Shibuli holds the same place among the Buddhists as Goddess Laxmi among the Hindus. Hence, he is worshipped for prosperity, fortune, well-being and wealth. The puja is followed by the ritual of ‘Ashtapurashkar’; an act of donating clothes and other items to the monks. Then comes the important ritual of ‘Moitri Binimoy’: the act of seeking/granting forgiveness.

As the puja concludes, the monks proceed to have lunch. They are forbidden to consume anything that includes chewing, after 12 in the afternoon. Hence, the villagers ensure that the monks are served lunch before 12 p.m. After the monks, the villagers proceed for lunch. This marks the end of the celebration. The rest of the day is marked by the monks spreading the messages of Buddha and the principles of Buddhism in the villages.

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


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