Born To Optimism
Inspired by the gay abandon of the birds, the sweet fragrance of the flowers, the people of Tripura are born optimists, cheerful by temperament, freedom loving and happy go lucky.
Tribals whose only company at one time was wild animals and reptiles of all varieties inhabit the state; but now the winds of modernisation and change blow in all parts. The weather here is heavy and stuffy, but change is coming about everywhere.
Tripura - Natural Delight
The first aspect of Tripura, which does not seem to have changed with time is the sheer beauty of the place. It is not the breathtaking beauty that one finds in Kashmir or in Lakshadweep or even in many parts of Kerala; there are no daunting peaks that mark the horizon in Himachal Pradesh or parts of Uttaranchal or the heavenly magnificence of sunsets over the sea. No doubt, Khowai, Manu and Gomati rivers lack the challenge - that the Brahmaputra in Assam poses - as they pass through deep gorges or flow through open plains.
The beauty of Tripura, as in most of the northeast, lies in its sylvan spread and simplicity of the people who live there. The small 'Tilas' (hillocks) do not present the same challenge as the mighty hills and dales of the Himalayas or the Vindhyas. But for the people who inhabit them and try to eke out a living from cultivating them, the challenge is no less daunting.
Surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides with an international frontier of 1,000-kms, Tripura has a tenuous link with the rest of the country through Cachar district of Assam. It is the north easternmost part of the country with an area of more than 10,000-sq-kms.
The hill ranges, which broadly run from north to south, losing altitude till they merge into the plains of Bangladesh, divide the territory into broad parallel valleys, the area of which consists of low undulating Tilas.
All the hill ranges were at one time thickly forested areas with lush under growth. But due to unrestricted felling and the practice of shifting cultivation known as "Jhuming", extensive bare patches are discernible. But this age-old practice seems to be on the way out. Many of the tribal people now seem to have adopted horticulture as a way of life.
Tribals always had a vested interest in maintaining forests. With the help of the forest department, this interest now seems to have become an obsession, especially in the Udaipur-Amarpur tract. The Longtherai range is now green and lush and the Teak tree very much in evidence everywhere, especially on the roadsides.
Apart from its physical beauty, Tripura has another important claim to fame - it is perhaps the only area where the Bodos still largely retain their identity and speech. A substantial population in Tripura has been able to retain its medieval political and cultural milieu and its old "Kak Barak" (now called Tripuri) language.
Of the frontier kingdoms mentioned in the Ashokan pillar, now kept in the Allahabad Fort, only Tripura is still in existence. It is traditionally considered the chosen abode of Lord Shiva, Hinduism having taken deep roots among the Tripuris by the end of the 15th century. Tripura is also a "Pithasthan", a place of pilgrimage, the place where the right Toe of Sati fell after she was cut to pieces by Shiva. In fact, this place is now marked by the Matabari temple of Udaipur.
A visit to Matabari is a must. It is a serene place but the real surprise was in store when one visits the temple of the 14 Gods or the "Chaturdas Devtabari" in old Agartala.
In Tripura, the Bodos have adjusted their culture and myths to that of the Hindus. For ages, the Chaturdas Devta has been the ruling deity of Tripura. During a certain annual festival called Khar Puja. The high priest called "Chantai" is declared king for the duration of the festival. A boundary line is drawn around the Puja area and no one steps out of this restricted area for a week. Its high priest, the Chantai, holds a position in society equal to that of a Brahmin. In this respect, Tripura is a crucible in which one can study the evolution of Indian civilisation.
Indian culture and civilisation can be called a grand synthesis, and Tripura is a unique example of this. The state also exemplifies how culture can survive amidst poverty and reinforces the fact that beauty is not just skin deep, but goes deeper in the lives and customs of the people.