The unique and traditional "Ker Puja" of the tribals will begin in Tripura on Friday night for the well-being of the people and to ward off evil spirits.
Sponsored by the state government, "Ker Puja" is one of the important events in Tripura's cultural calendar. Elaborate arrangements are made to ensure that the event passes off peacefully and with all traditional rituals.
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 31-hour-long "Ker Puja".
The literal meaning of 'Ker' in tribal Kokborok language is 'specified area'.
"Ker Puja starts at 10 p.m. on Friday night and would continue uninterrupted for over 31 hours," a senior West Tripura district official said quoting the government notification.
"Pregnant women and sick people 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. If there is a birth or a death, then a family has to pay a fine as well.
The rituals are carried out at the government's expense as per an agreement between the Tripura government and the erstwhile royal family.
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 sacrifice of birds, animals and offerings characterise this popular puja," the official said.
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.
At the end of the 517-year rule by 184 kings, on October 15, 1949, the erstwhile princely state of Tripura came under the control of the Indian government, according to a merger agreement signed with Kanchan Prabha Devi, then regent maharani.
The agreement made it obligatory for the Tripura government to continue the sponsorship of 18 temples, pujas and festivals across the state earlier organised by the royal families. And it continues to this day.