Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
In Tripura, as with many adivasi areas, nature is worshipped in all its forms. From gurgling streams to majestic hills, many elements of nature are revered and treated as sacred. One such sacred hill range is called Longtharai which is spread across 48 km and has a peak height of 482 metres. The top of the hill range has a bunch of small temples where many small deities reside. This place sees many worshippers congregate during February when the annual puja is held with much aplomb. With annual exams just a few weeks away from the festival, many students come here to pray for good grades.
According to the local legend, many gods reside at the peak and they look after the well-being of the people living in the hill range. They are headed by Baba Longtharai, the main deity who blesses childless couples with children, sick people with health, and struggling students with good marks.
The locals say that the worship site was established 90 years ago when a man met with a divine entity. The man described the meeting as neither a dream or reality. In addition, the entity was neither a man nor a shadow. It beckoned him to build a temple at the top of the hill which the man did. It is said that not long after the temple was built, some miscreants damaged the idols. This led to a strange fever inflicting the people of the villages nearby. Many people, young and old became bedridden with sickness. The villagers held a meeting and decided to restore the gods to the temple and worship them without fail. The pestilence came to an end and good health was returned to the people.
Today the peak has two sets of temples. The temple on the lower level is visited by many people and contains many small gods etched on small rocks. Another temple is constructed at an upper level very few people can climb to due to the steepness.
One of the priests who lives in the temple is Ratan Joy Reang. He says that Baba Longtharai fulfills the wishes of the people who come and pray to him. Every year many childless couples and innumerable school-going students climb the hills to come here and offer prayers. “Baba Langtharai cannot give you what you do not have. For instance, he cannot give legs to a man born without them but he can give blessings to make life better.”
The annual festival this year was attended by many families. They offered prasad and birds to pray for wish fulfilment. A few shops selling coconuts, cucumber slices, candles, and incense sticks were also set up.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha. Tripura has 19 tribes and each tribe has different beliefs and familial systems. This article represents the beliefs of a few communities.