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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
  • “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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Ever Thought of Adopting An Animal? Tripura Zoo Gives You The Opportunity

According to the official, the name of the individual or the institution that adopts an animal is also to be displayed at the enclosure of such animals.

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With greater publicity, the adoption scheme must be popularised as most people do not know about the noble plan. Pixabay

Ever dreamt of adopting a lion, a crocodile or a Himalayan black bear or any wild animal?

If yes, here’s your opportunity to do so in Tripura – except that you cannot take the animal home.

According to a senior Tripura wildlife official, any institution or individual can adopt an animal by annually paying between Rs 5,020 and Rs 2,81,000 for its upkeep at the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo, located in western Tripura’s Sepahijala District.

The scheme encourages people to participate in the conservation of wildlife, especially endangered species.

Tripura’s Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Dvijendra Kumar Sharma said: “To those who adopt an animal, the sanctuary authorities issue certificates of adoption and publish their names in leading newspapers and provide complimentary passes to visit the zoo, besides other privileges.

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The scheme encourages people to participate in the conservation of wildlife, especially endangered species. Pixabay

“Adoption of an animal is noble not only for individuals but for his family too. An adoption makes a great gift for birthdays, anniversaries and are always unique,” Sharma told IANS.

Animals listed for adoption are lion, crocodile, clouded leopard, Himalayan black bear, binturong, hornbill, peacock, common leopard, hoolock gibbon, slow loris, pig-tailed macaque, pelican, capped langur, spectacled langur, leopard cat and even a vulture.

According to the official, the name of the individual or the institution that adopts an animal is also to be displayed at the enclosure of such animals.

Sharma, a popular author on biodiversity and forests, said that so far state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and three other individuals have adopted a Royal Bengal Tiger, a python, a peacock and a clouded leopard.

An official of the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo said that two Royal Bengal Tigers (one male and one female) recently died of disease and talks were on with the Central Zoo to bring two more Royal Bengal Tigers from other zoos in the country.

animals
According to the official, the name of the individual or the institution that adopts an animal is also to be displayed at the enclosure of such animals. Pixabay

“We are trying to replicate the model of people’s participation in wildlife management followed in the Central Zoo and other zoos in the country, especially in southern states,” said Sharma, a senior Indian Forest Service officer.

“I always loved animals and the environment. That’s why I adopted a clouded leopard. The caretaker of the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo Madhab Chandra Deb inspired me to adopt an animal,” Axis Bank Ltd Senior Vice President Karan Butalia told IANS on the phone from Delhi.

Former Tripura Minister Jawahar Saha’s engineer daughter Mahashweta Saha and an associate professor (Zoology) of state-run Ramthakur College Sharmistha Banerjee adopted a python and a peacock (peafowl) respectively.

“With greater publicity, the adoption scheme must be popularised as most people do not know about the noble plan,” Banerjee told IANS.

Also Read: The Unconventional Way of Learning: Textbooks Come Alive in Gujarat’s Schools

The Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo (25 km south of Agartala), set up in 1972 within a sanctuary and home to 655 animals belonging to 55 different species, is the first zoo in eastern and northeastern India where adoption of animals had started a few years ago.

Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo’s Head Keeper Madhab Chandra Deb told IANS: “My love for animals since childhood attracted the top forest officials and they gave me a government job. I request all people including tourists and visitors to extend their love and support to the animals and also adopt them.” (IANS)