The kingdom of Tripura is an ancient one. It has been mentioned in many historical chronicles, texts and inscriptions. It is a beautiful state bestowed with hills, rivers, and mountain ranges. As such, the tribals of Tripura named the geographical features based on their characteristics and stories associated with them. For instance, an area with lots of elephants was named "Mayung Twisa" in Kokborok or "Stream of the elephants" and another area where the Khumpui flower blooms was named "Khumpuilwng".
However, over the years, the indigenous names in Kokborok have been replaced in official records until the original words remain only in the memories of the local speakers. No one can pinpoint the date on which these changes were carried out but the reality is that, they are not used in the common parlance.
On this Kokborok Day, we must ask ourselves if we will ever get back the names that were given by our ancestors. They were perfectly aligned with the nature and beauty of the mountains, valleys, and rivers. Each name had a story behind it.
If you want to know more about indigenous Kokborok names of places, you should read Ravindra Kishore Debbarma's book Hachwkni muktwi on the issue. Apart from him, Binoy Debbarma has also written many articles in different newspapers to raise awareness about how Kokborok language is getting undermined through name changes.
The people of Tripura must demand the restoration of the original Kokborok names. Sir Bikashroy Debbarma's song lyrics perfectly fits with the current scenario.
"Dumbur siring sorok Raima Saima komok Lamao tisakha ari
sasoui bebak halok Raima nwng tini bumung philwi Gomati
Biyang kwmakha bolong sajwk Kormoti"
"Twi lik lik lik tini kobolrwrwk
Kothoma kwcham tini kwmarwrwk Holong mwkhang tini
lachijagwi Bolongo mwkhang hwio"
Which translates as:
Silent and Quite Dumboor, dejected Raima Saima broke all the
relation, and was changed today with new identity as Gomati.
Where did the name Kormoti, the daughter of forest, depart?
As the water level rises up, all the ancient stories are
submerged in it.
This is a very serious issue indeed. The modern history of India demonstrates many instances of victory where the local residents of a place were able to restore the original names of places that had been changed by the British. It is not that long ago that Calcutta reverted back to Kolkata, Bombay to Mumbai, and Bangalore to Bengaluru. In Tripura too, we need to restore and protect our original names before they are forgotten forever.
Such a move is entirely possible if the people and the government have the intention. For instance, Tripura has a very famous tourist place called Unakoti. Its name is in Sanskrit and refers to the story of how one less of a crore gods and goddesses used the spot to rest for the night. However, in Kokborok that place is known as Subrai Khung. Some years ago when the tourist place was getting renovated, the authorities placed a stone tablet where the name Subrai Khung was written.
It is through small but meaningful gestures that we can continue to promote our languages.
About the author: Khapang Debbarma is a student of Civil Engineering at NIT, Agartala. He's a painter and poet. He has worked with various language, culture, and environmental organisations and translated many significant drafts in Kokborok. He's also teaching Tripuri language to foreigners through Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp through a page name "Learn Tripuri".