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Tribals of Tripura all set for Ker Puja to thwart evil spirits

According to writer Salil Debbarma, "The customary rules and conventions of Ker Puja are strict and not easy to follow. Around 40 years ago the then District Magistrate had been fined for entering the Ker Puja area without permission."

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Kharchi Puja in Tripura. Image source: breathtakingindia.com
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  • “Ker Puja starts at midnight on Monday and will continue uninterrupted for over 31 hours,” said Sanjoy Chakraborty, Senior Deputy Magistrate of West Tripura district
  • The literal meaning of ‘Ker’ in tribal Kokborok language is ‘specified area’.
  • “Any kind of entertainment, dancing, singing and movement of animals are barred in the specified Ker Puja areas,” it added

In centuries-old Ker Puja in Tripura, there is no place for death, birth or recreation. Steeped in intricate, time-honoured rituals, this mega tribal event is about well-being and warding off evil spirits. This 31-hour-long festival is all set to begin from Monday, July 25, onwards.

It might sound strange but no pregnant woman or critically ailing person is allowed in the sacred puja precinct. Anyone who violates is made to pay a fine and the puja starts from scratch.

Sponsored by the state government, Ker Puja is one of the important events in Tripura’s calendar. Elaborate arrangements are made to ensure that the puja passes off peacefully.

As has been the norm, the West Tripura district administration has notified the Ker Puja areas this year. The area in and around the royal palace here as well as Puran Habeli, the erstwhile capital of Tripura around 12 km east of Agartala, have been notified for the Ker Puja.

The literal meaning of ‘Ker’ in tribal Kokborok language is ‘specified area’. “Ker Puja starts at midnight on Monday and will continue uninterrupted for over 31 hours,” said Sanjoy Chakraborty, Senior Deputy Magistrate of West Tripura district.

“Pregnant women and the sick are to be kept out of the specified puja area. No one is allowed to enter the notified area,” said the notification.

“Any kind of entertainment, dancing, singing and movement of animals are barred in the specified Ker Puja areas,” it added.

According to writer Salil Debbarma, “The customary rules and conventions of Ker Puja are strict and not easy to follow. Around 40 years ago the then District Magistrate had been fined for entering the Ker Puja area without permission.”

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If there is a birth or a death, then a family has to pay a fine as well.

“During Ker Puja, any kind of recreation is strictly banned in the notified areas. Security personnel guard the area to maintain the dignity of the puja,” Debbarma added. “The Tripura police offer a gun salute before the puja begins.”

Ker Puja. Image source: www.thegreenerpastures.com
Ker Puja. Image source: www.thegreenerpastures.com

According to Debbarma, “The head priest and his associates light up the fire by rubbing bamboos. The tribals and people around the Ker Puja areas carry the fire to their homes believing that it would ensure their well-being and thwart the evil spirit.”

The rituals are carried out at government expense as per an agreement between the Tripura government and the erstwhile royal family.

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Besides Agartala and Puran Habeli, the puja is organised in almost all tribal villages towards the end of the year or at the end of the harvesting season.

“The royal dynasty would perform Ker Puja for the welfare of the people, praying against calamities and external aggression,” said Panna Lal Roy, a writer and historian.

“The sacrifice of birds, animals and offerings characterise this popular puja,” Roy told IANS.

A structure constructed with green bamboo poles serves as the deity for the Ker Puja. The chantai or head priest is regarded as the king on the occasion. (IANS)

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North-East Assembly Elections: Everything You Need To Know About The Elections In Tripura, Meghalaya, And Nagaland

North-East Assembly elections 2018 will directly affect the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent government formation

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north-east assembly elections
50.4% registered voters were women (outnumbering men) in the final electoral rolls of the state of Meghalaya. Wikimedia Commons

Many states are gearing up for the North-East Assembly elections 2018 that are being said to be the defining factor for the future political dynamics of India. Elections dates in the on-going states of Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura were February 18 for Tripura, while the other two states will hold their round of elections on February 27. The elections will be held in two phases, and the results will be announced on March 3.

Many parties are looking forward to extending their political reach in the north-eastern region. North-East Assembly elections 2018 will directly affect the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent government formation.

ALSO READ: 64% Voters cast their vote in the First phase of UP Elections

north-east assembly elections
EVMs will be installed for the first time. Wikimedia Commons

Here is everything you need to know about the north-east assembly elections 2018:

1. The incumbent assembly tenure in Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura will end on March 6, 13 and 14 respectively. Each of these states has a 60-member assembly.

2. In all the three states, Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) have been implemented.

3. VVPAT machines are being implemented in Meghalaya for the first time since its formation in 1970. Voters had been using the ballot-paper until now.

4. The Election Commission of India had asked Assam Rifles (India’s oldest paramilitary force) to reinforce the Indo-Myanmar border in Nagaland in order to prevent any form of disturbance before the polls. The state has been suffering insurgent movements and cross-border militant infiltration.

north-east assembly elections
Before EVMs, the Ballot-system was used for the voting process. Wikimedia Commons

5. To increase the participation of women, the Election Commission has installed 60 Pink booths that will be managed by women staff. The booths will be placed in every constituency.

6. 86,890 votes in Meghalaya aged between 18 and 19 years will be exercising their vote for the first time. To encourage these first-time voters, the EC felicitated them on National Voters Day on January 25.

7. The Election Commission will monitor the elections live through webcast and CCTV cameras to ensure a fair and free election.

8.  Around 193 polling booths in Meghalaya will be directly webcasted to the Chief Electoral Officer or District Electoral Officer and Election Commission of India.

ALSO READ: Russia’s Last appeal to US Voters: Russia has no intention of interfering in America’s Presidential Elections

Tripura

  • Ramendra Chandra is the current speaker of the Eleventh Legislative Assembly.
  • Since 1993, the CPI(M) has been in power in the state.
  • While BJP has 7 MLAs in the state assembly and is also the main opposition party.
  • Manik Sarkar, the Chief Minister of Tripura, is a Politburo Member of Communist Party of India (Marxist).
  • He became the Chief Minister for the fourth time after 2013 Assembly Elections.
  • Manik Sarkar is known for his honesty and low monetary resources.

Meghalaya

  • The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly was constituted as a directly elected body in 1972 comprising 60 members.
  • 50.4% registered voters were women (outnumbering men) in the final electoral rolls of the state.
  • With a total population of 3.2 million, Meghalaya has a literacy rate of 74.4%.
  • Unlike Tripura, no one in Meghalaya registered for the third gender option in the final rolls.
  • 597 polling stations have been increased from 2,485 in 2013 to 3,082 in 2018. It’s an increase of about 24%.
north-east assembly elections
The Election Commission of India has set 60 Pink Booths. Wikimedia Commons

Nagaland

  • On 1 December 1963, Nagaland became a state of India. Also, the first Nagaland Legislative Assembly was formed on 11 February 1964.
  • The strength of the state assembly was increased to 60 members in 1974.
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the assembly election in the state will be held on schedule amidst a demand by the state’s civil society groups for deferring the polls to facilitate a solution to the vexed Naga insurgency issue.
  • The expectations for a lasting peace have soared in Nagaland, which had been hit by insurgency for decades after the Centre and the NSCN-IM signed a framework agreement in 2015.