Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha on Monday inaugurated the ‘Kharchi Puja’, a day after worshipping 14 deities simultaneously in the erstwhile princely state’s previous capital Puran Habeli.
Thousands of people from various parts of the country and neighbouring Bangladesh participated in the colourful centuries-old ‘Kharchi Puja’ which began with traditional fervour and rituals.
Home Minister Amit Shah greeted the people of Tripura on the occasion of the auspicious Puja.
“Greetings to my sisters and brothers in Tripura on the occasion of Kharchi Puja. May the Almighty, bless everyone with good health, success, and prosperity,” Shah tweeted.
Saha, who also holds the Information and Cultural Affairs Department portfolio, tweeted: “Kharchi Puja is one of the biggest festivals of Tripura. It highlights the spiritual and cultural spirit of the state with the participation of thousands of devotees every year.
"Glad to inaugurate the century-old traditional Kharchi Festival and Exhibition- 2023 at Chaturdash Devata Temple, Old Agartala today. My prayers to 14 Deities for the well-being of the people & overall welfare of the state.”
The annual ‘Kharchi Puja’ and festival is meant to cleanse the sins of mortal souls. Originally a Hindu tribals’ festivity, the Puja is now observed by all communities and religions.
With colourful marquees, illumination, religious rites and chanting of ‘mantras’ amid drum beats, the festival features 14 deities -- Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartik, Ganesha, Brahma, Abadhi (God of water), Chandra, Ganga, Agni, Kamdev and Himadri (Himalaya).
As per tradition, the week-long festival began with a colourful procession accompanied by the Tripura police music band. All deities and priests were escorted by Tripura Police personnel, who also presented a guard of honour to the Chief Royal Priest -- Raj Chantaia.
Thousands of devotees joined them en route to Howrah River for the customary bath.
Writer and historian Salil Debbarma said that the worship starts with the dipping of 14 deities in the Howrah River, followed by the sacrifice of 108 animals in the presence of hundreds of thousands of devotees, all at government expense.
As per the merger agreement, the Tripura government has been bearing the festival’s expenses for the past several decades.
“The state government is abiding by the 1949 merger agreement with the royal family to uphold the faith of the tribals year after year,” Debbarma told IANS, adding that “Kharchi Puja” is the biggest festival for the Hindu tribals in the northeastern region.
On October 15, 1949, Tripura came under the control of the Indian government after a merger agreement was signed between Kanchan Prabha Devi, then regent maharani, and the Indian Governor General.
The merger agreement made it mandatory for the Tripura government to continue the sponsorship of 14 temples including the Mata Tripura Sundari Temple (one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in the country) run by the Hindu princely rulers.
Debbarma said: “For over 78 years and until 1838, Puran Habeli was the capital of then undivided Tripura, which included large parts of Sylhet, Brahmanbaria and Comilla districts of then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh.”
It was king Krishna Manikya Bahadur (1760-1761) who shifted the capital from southern Tripura’s Udaipur to Puran Habeli in 1760.
The temple of 14 Gods constructed at that time still stands. In 1838, the capital was shifted to Agartala from Puran Habeli by king Krishna Kishore Manikya Bahadur (1830-1849). (IANS/NS)