The indigenous people of Tripura have been worshiping nature since ancient times. Our worship requires bamboo in two ways. First, bamboo is used as a symbol of our gods, and second, it is used as a vessel to offer prayers to them. In other words, bamboo is considered to be very sacred as it provides us with all our basic needs.
Our priests are called Ochai and they pour water into the hollow of a bamboo to make it holy. This holy water is then used to bless people who attend the rituals.
One of our most revered gods is “Wathop Mwtai” where ‘Wathop’ stands for a collection of bamboo and ‘Mwtai’ means deity. Wathop Mwtai is worshipped for the welfare of a village and to prevent untoward incidents. It is believed that Wathop purifies everything, repels negative energies, brings success, brings good agricultural yield and repels misfortunes which is why Wathop Mwtai is considered one of the most important part of our indigenous culture.
Since our Dangaima-Dangaipha era, Wathop has been believed to be auspicious. New born babies are purified with a drop of water from it. Even during marriage ceremonies, Wathop is worshipped with the names of the bride and groom, then the purified water is poured on them. Wathop Mwtai is made only by ‘wathwi’ variety of bamboo and cannot be made out of other kind of bamboo.
Banana or bamboo leaves are tucked in and Lahan (a piece of bamboo in the diagram above) is placed on top. Holy Water is offered to the deity through basil leaves from the holy water poured inside the Lahan. The middle part the Wathop is called Sebuk Sakphang. Rice is offered to the deity near Khumdali (a pair of bamboo crafted in flower shape in the diagram above) placed just at the corners of Tharukma and Dik. Khong sits on the right side of the Wathop. The deities worshipped on Wathop are Sangorongma, Twi (Water), Sriakhata-Sribikhata.
A ceremony of offering traditional wine to the priest is done two to three days before worshipping Wathop Mwtai. The ideal time to worship Wathop Mwtai is in the morning in the front yard of the house. The items used to worship the deities are Champa variety Banana leaves, flowers, rice, khul (a type of cotton), incense, holy water etc. These items are arranged on a bailing (a round plate made out of bamboo). Baruwa (the priest’s assistant) has to stand the bamboos into Wathop Mwtai and assemble worship items, if he is unable to do so then the priest or Ochai does the work. The bamboo rope used to tie the bamboos for the purpose also requires to be of Wathwi variety of bamboo. And a fresh new piece of cloth either Risa or Rituku is used for the deities. Wathop Mwtai has to be faced towards East.
The priest has to first take a bath before conducting the rituals. In addition, the worship has to be done on an empty stomach. The ritual begins with the priest reciting chants using jackfruit leaves. A goat or cock is sacrificed in the ceremony. The sacrificed animal is then cooked and offered to the priest to be consumed. It has been believed since olden days that Wathop Mwtai brings peace and good luck.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.