OLD AND WOMEN
To discussabout the role and
place of the old and the woman in a Tripuri society, one should first cast his
eye in a family consisting of the old and woman together with other members.
Theirs being the patriarchal family, the father (in his absence the next elderly
male person) controls and directs the family members. He has to look after the
family and reserves sole right to punish or rebuke anyone doing anything against
the norm and discipline of the family.
The workload in a family is
shared equally by the male and female members. Hard work such as construction of
house, ploughing of paddy land, cutting of jungles for jhum, felling of trees
etc. are the works of the male persons. Besides rearing the children, the women
folk are engaged in planting, harvesting, paddy husking, collection of firewoods,
fetching of water, preparation of rice beer, cooking and other such domestic or
house hold works.
The father being the head or
all in all in a family, controls the family in all matters and his decision in
any matter is supreme and final. The female counter parts, as a matter of fact,
has no voice in such decisions though they are consulted usually.
In early days the daughters
were treated a bit differently from the boys because of the prevailing
matrimonial system. Previously the bridegroom had to go to the bride's home
before their marriage. 'l'his system now-a-days is no longer in vogue.
Notwithstanding the reforms in the system, a few bridegrooms in remote areas
have to go to the bride's home just for the custom's sake and for a very short
period. It Is, however, worth mentioning here that this distinction in
matrimonial affair has practically no bearing upon the relation of the sons and
daughters with their parents. Both the sons and the daughters are affectionate
and dear to their parents and never treated with any partiality.
The elderly woman in the
family is respected and honoured equally with the elderly male members by the
juniors of either sex. In matters of a girl's marriage in a family the decision
of the oldest male member is supreme and final. The daughter has to entirely
depend upon the decision of the father and in his absence, the other elderly
male members in the family. But with the advent of time, due to the impact of
modernisation and acculturation, cases of personal choice or selection is now
threatening the age old traditional custom and they occur particularly among the
urban and literate groups.
As regards their sex life, a
woman in her conjugal life is supposed to satisfy the sex urges of her husband.
The Tripuris are mostly monogamous and very few of them are married to more than
one wife at a time On the contrary the woman never gets married to more than one
at a time.
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Respects to the seniors by the juniors in the Tripuri
family is strictly adhered to. The elder sister in a family is respected by all
the young male and female members and in case of the mother's absence or death,
she takes up the mother's responsibility and brings up the young brothers and
sisters. While the mother is alive the elder sister helps her mother at her best
in domestic and other family affairs.
Smoking is entirely free in
the Tripuri family in rural areas. The parents and their sons and daughters
smoke freely in the family. But now-a-days with the touch of education some
restrictions in smoking behaviour have crept into their family life. Liquor is
permitted in the Tripuri society and the country beer is taken by them off and
on. The female members who are habituated to the drink, take it only after the
elderly male members have taken it and before giving a sip to the wine, they
have to salute the elderly persons present serially according to their
Position of Woman in a hamlet:
Women are always debarred from taking any active part in village administration.
They are never selected nor chosen for the village council. It is a clear sign
of male dominance in their society. The woman is treated as intellectually
inferior and incapable of taking wise decisions. Still it is evident that the
wife of a village headman gets to sonic extent the regard from woman folk as the
wife of a 'Sardar'. Whenever any meeting of the village council is held, the
woman can attend it as a listener but cannot raise any objection, make any
comments or pass any opinion, since their comments are not entertained. This
inhibition or hurdle can only be overcome by the woman folk only when their
educational standard is geared up.
In a village feast, puja or
any ceremonies the woman folk cannot take any active part. They always are
confined to the kitchen, cooking for the guests and invitees. The old woman of
course, sits with the old man to gossip for long and takes rice beer with them
with an exchange of enchanting words.
Woman and property:
Among the Tripuris the woman folk can have a share of their parents property if
they demand it or they derive a share of the property as per their parents
desire. But this share or portion of inheritance is not equal. The brother is
always the greater beneficiary. After the marriage of a daughter, the father
hands over a part of landed property, if he owns enough landed property to his
daughter. If he brings a boy as 'Ghar Jamai' it is mandatory to share a part of
his landed property with the daughter.
The wife of the deceased
husband generally looks after the property with the help of menfolk related to
her husband till her children are grown up. In case of death of the father, the
mother derives a share or her husband's property while it is distributed among
the children. However, the property is managed and looked after by the menfolk,
women can make some earning by selling rice beer and by selling reared goats,
hens, and figs which makes up the deficit in family budget. Sometimes this money
is spent by the womanfolk for their personal or private needs.
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Women and Religion:
The religious beliefs and practices of the Tripuris of Tripura depend almost
entirely on the Hindu mythology. They worship different Hindu Gods and Goddesses
such as Kali, Durga, Laxmi, Lord Krishna, Mahadeva, etc. But in worshipping
these Gods they follow their own rites and rituals which are a bit different
from those of caste Hindus. Besides, these common deities, the Tripuris have
some of their own traditional deities and majority of them are male in
character. Among the male deities, Garia, Lampra, Wathop, etc. are the principal
deities. Female deities are very few in number and the chief among them are 'Naksumatai'
The Tripuri tribal priest who
is called 'Ochai' is a male, The women are debarred from active participation in
any religious ceremonies except the 'Randhakmatai' 'Saklakniatai' etc.
Therefore, on investigation, it appears that the male in Tripuri society
dominates even in the religious circle. The Women can participate or perform the
rites in very few religious ceremonies. In matrimonial ceremonies, two women
called 'Ayajuk' and two males named 'Aia' are required to be present to perform
The case is different
now-a-days with the urban Tripuri women and they are involved in various
religious activities. In most cases, household goddess like 'Laxmi' is
worshipped by the women. Only worship of 'Laxmi' in 'Laxmi' Purnima during the
full moon in Aswin, Kartika (Just after the Durga Puja) needs to be performed by
a Brahmin priest. In many pujas or religious festivals, the women take active
part or extend their helping hand to their male counterparts in performing the
worships according to the shastra.
Women & Adultery:
Free mixing of grown up boys and girls is not permitted in Tripuri society,
especially in interior regions. This inhibition, of course, is disappearing by
degrees particularly among the educated mass and in urban areas. Since free
mixing is not allowed between the sexes, a few cases of clandestine sex relation
in adultery happen in the society. Although they are very conservative in
respect of young boys and girls, they are liberal towards offenders of these
If an unmarried girl gets
pregnant by a boy due to illicit sex relation, the boy remains hound to merry
that girl, otherwise, after the birth of the baby, the man in fault has to bear
the expenses of the child for am period decided by the society. The unmarried
mother in subsequent time can marry a person of her choice or marry anybody who
comes forward to take her as a wife. There is not much restrictions in such
On the contrary the society
is very liberal towards the male members in the cases of adultery. If a husband
commits any adultery, voluntary or accidental, his wife is supposed not to mind
that. The wife and the society look at it with mercy. But the illicit or
clandestine sex relation of a woman is never treated with such mercy, rather
treated as a sin and crime.
In order to maintain
discipline in the society some definite norms and ideals are adhered to. The
eldest male in a family is always regarded as the chief and he is the only
authority who controls its members and pro- Wets them as well. In any domestic
matters his consent is imperative. He represents the family in village meetings
and all such village gatherings. lie being the sole authority of the family
arranges the major family earnings and has to bear the burden of marriage
expenses of sons and daughters and other family members and also the expenditure
of religious ceremonies, birth and death rituals etc.
The women generally do not
argue with the head of the family even if he directs them wrongly. It is
indecent according to the community decorum. The women are expected to behave
with the elder male in keeping with their age and relation. When a man in a
heated moment or in an agitated mood utters any filthy words, the women are to
remain silent. It is even so found that some husbands sometimes beat their wives
and in those cases also the wives remain subdued. All these expose the monopoly
of dominance of the male over the female; specially of the husbands over their
wives in the Tripuri community.
The male member in charge
(headman) of the family may be an old infirm or idle man but he commands the
respect and obedience in all domestic affairs. It is observed in a few families
that some members, particularly the mother bereft of the supreme power of the
father, give their rational views regarding family administration. Though the
honour and supreme power of the family headman is widely accepted in their
society, a different attitude among the young members in some families in recent
days are also noticeable. If the headman in the family lacks personality and
ability, it is seen that their sons and daughters dare disobey them. Of the
young boys who have come to urban contract and have been influenced by the urban
manners, a section of them go back to their village and show their disregard
towards the old custom.
In the old times, the place
of the old, irrespective of sex, in the Tripuri community, was great indeed. In
all social as well as domestic matters their consent and counsel would be
sought. The judgement or opinion passed by them were followed with respect. With
the advent of modernisation the role and importance of the old in the community
is gradually diminishing. However, till date, wherever a ceremony takes place
the oldmen of the villages are invited to participate and their seats are
arranged separately. When the country beer is offered to them in any ceremonial
gathering or in any meeting, the senior most old man takes it first and then the
other old embers take the beer serially according to their age. This rule of
course does not always hold good. It is observed that in a group of old persons
if an old man is older than the oldest man by any relation he will take the rice
beer first. It is also observed, that if an old person is not habituated to such
drinks tie would at least touch the bottle or glass of wine and then the
remaining persons will take it.
Though a trend of defying
the status of the old by the young generations, especially by the urban and
modernised group is evident, the importance and powerful status of the old is
still prevalent. On festival arid ceremonial occasions the juniors bow down and
touch the feet of the seniors to show respect. There's no denying of it that the
tribal community has also undergone a change and its customs and rules have been
modified a great deal. The village-wise respect for the old is no longer found
now. The village wise homage to the old is now narrowed to family and relatives.
On the occasion of Pous Sankranti (Hangrai) the juniors are seen to show their,
respects to the seniors by the tradition bound system. First of all the juniors
drink the feet washing water of the old and then bow down to touch the feet of
the seniors irrespective of sex. The old in return bless the young. This custom
cited above, is not practised now in urban and semi-urban areas of the Tripuri
community. Here the juniors simply bow down and touch the feet of the old to
show their regard. With the introduction o the village panchayat system by the
Government the status and importance of the old in the village adfliinistration
has decreased to a greater degree.
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VILLAGE ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM
The Tripuris are the widely
populated tribe of Tripura. In population they comprise the largest nummber
among other tribes. Gregarious as they are in nature, they live in a place
mostly dominated by their own people. Therefore, where ever they resided, a
system of self government evolved in their society. In order to look after the
collective interest, solve the individual problems and to perform community
worship and to solve village disputes a council was usually formed. The council
consisted of a few members chosen or selected by the villagers. The Chief of the
council was called the 'Sardar' or 'Chokdri' varying from place to place. The
council had its chief (Sardar or Chokdiri), Secretary to the Chief (Karbari)
messenger (Khandal) and members. Women were debarred from participating in the
The assignments of the council members were as given
(a) Chokdiri: The village
head. He was empowered to make norms and rules in consultation with the members
and he controlled the activities of the council. The residence of the Chokdiri
was treated as the office of the council
(b) Karbari: The Secretary to
the Chief of the village council who maintained the records and collected
information to brief the Chief.
(c) Khandal: The messenger
who circulated the council's judgement or decision among the villagers.
The village council was
formed in a meeting attended by all the adult villagers. Through discussion an
old and efficient man of good reputation and dynamic personality was selected
for the honourable post of Chief or village headman.
The other members were
similarly selected through discussion. The tenure of the council was stipulated
for a period of one year. If the council functioned smoothly and satisfactorily
the term of the council could he extended to any number of years. In case of
irregular and illegal activity, the villagers had the right to dissolve the
council at any moment or expel any number thereof if his conduct or activity was
found to be wrong. When a member was expelled, a new member was recruited to
fill up the vacant post.
At present there is no
scheduled time for forming the council body as they do it as and when convenient
on their part. But in early days it was customary to form the council body in a
gathering on the eve of 'Jhum' cultivation.
The council's decision was
final and supreme in every matter. It decided the time and place of worship and
in some cases dictated the procedures in any conventional matters. When any such
occasions arose the members sat together in the Chokdiri's house to discuss the
result in the village. Besides the usual session of the council, whenever the
council members sat together for any emergent issue the date and subject of' the
meeting was circulated beforehand among the villagers.
The council had to solve many problems of different
1) Land dispute between individuals.
2) Breach of village customs and norms.
3) Harassment of women by Romeos.
4) Disputes on marriage.
5) Cases of personal choice of boys and girls.
6) Quarrel between villagers on any issue.
7) Mode and date of any worship.
When any of the foregoing
complains or disputes came up to the village council, the members assembled in
the Chokdiri's house to exchange their views and to finalise a date for an open
session of the council attended by the involved parties or persons and elder
villagers. The 'Khandal' accordingly circulated the message in the village in
general and to the involved parties and persons in particular. On the scheduled
date at the mentioned place all assembled to hear the final hearing and
In the meeting the persons
who were involved in the disputes expressed their views and put up witness in
their support. The village headman or chief then consulted his members on the
basis of individual delivery and witness and passed the verdict.
The village council would
solve the problem or decide the disputes through bilateral discussions.
Sometimes the offenders were penalised with economic fine. The fine could be
realised either in cash or kind. The degree of fine varied on the basis of the
offence. In rare occasions, the council would go to the extent of flogging the
offenders for a serious offence or defying the rule. The fine, in most cases was
confined to few bottles of rice beer which were to be distributed among the
An example of village
council's judgement learnt to have been done by the council is given here. When
a girl became pregnant before her marriage the case was forwarded to the
council. The council identified the boy and arranged their ceremonial marriage.
In similar cases if the boy and girl bore any blood relation the boy and the
girl were convicted and excommunicated. In such case, the boy and the girl would
come back to the village if they agreed to offer a feast to the villagers. Then
their marriage would become legal and the couple got social acceptance.
Till today, in some pockets
of the Tripuri areas, the village administrative system is found to have
remained active to some extent. It will not be out of place to mention the
modification the village administrative.
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Even in the last part of the
twentieth century, it is observed that a good number of Tripuris of the interior
are having superstitious outlook. A few instances are given below:
i) If sometimes a hen lays an
egg of very small size then it is treated us a had symptom for the family. The
house owner then rounds the egg three times around his body and throws it out in
the western direction to avoid any inauspicious happening which is considered
harmful for the family.
ii) When any domesticated pig
or goat sits in a straight way then it is treated as inauspicious for the
family. In such cases they never keep the pig or goat alive. They kill the
animal and cat its meat or sell it out.
iii) The Tripuris are in belief that whenever a hen
crows like a cock any type of danger may take place within the family in the
near or distant future.
iv) The Tripuris, particularly the aged fellows, believe
that if any corner of the granary cracks then any person of the family will die.
v) Some of them are in belief
that whenever a Fewang (a kind of wolves) looking towards a house wails on
Tuesday or Saturday then any person of that particular house may die. vi) in the
forest where the deer eats soil the Tripuris never cultivate 'jhum' there, since
they believe that if anybody cultivates 'jhum' in that place any untoward
incidents may take place in the family. According to them any deer having
received any injury in its body if somehow can reach that place then it is able
to heal its injury by eating the soil.
vii) Many of the Tripuris
suspend an earthen pot with some symbolic signs on it over the main door. The
pot is first sanctified with mantras by the Ochai. It is done with a view to
keep away the evil spirits or to protect them from the evil sign of the spirit.
viii) For protection of the
household in many occasions many Tripuris prefer to drive a sanctified nail with
mantras by the Ochai in each of the four corners of the house. Thereafter the
Ochai lays stone on the nails in the four corners with spells of some mantras
and covers the nail and stone with soil. The driving of sanctified nail with
mantras is nothing but a protective device from any kind of harm done by the
enemy. It is believed that the duration of this protective device stands for a
span of twelve years. On expiry of that period this type of procedure may have
to be repeated by the Ochai.
ix) It is also noticed that
some of the Tripuris prefer amulets to hangup in the four corners of the house
and at top of the main door ns a precautionary measure against the harm caused
by the enemy.
x) If in the evening of any
rare occasion a cock crows on the top of the house facing the west, it bespeaks
a danger in the near or distant future for the family.
xi) Whenever the dove coos on
top of the house specially in the morning then it is believed by the Tripuris
that any member of the family may fall sick or any bad news from the relatives
xii) At the time of going out
if anybody sees a naked boy or a girl they take that the journey will be
xiii) Early in the morning if
anybody sees a married man or woman who has no issue then it is taken as an
inauspicious day for the man who has seen it.
xiv) If any passer by sees a
snake at the right side of the path then it is taken as a bad symptom.
xv) On the first day of paddy
plantation many Tripuris till this day maintain some superstitious out look. On
that day they do not eat 'Chakui' (a kind of curry prepared by the water
filtered from ash i.e. alkali and any sour thing. Soap is also not used on that
day. The aforesaid prohibition is observed on the basis of the belief that the
paddy will he less productive if they do not follow it. Moreover, on that day
they plant a plant of an esculent root in the belief that the paddy will grow as
hale and healthy as like the esculent root.
xvi) On the first day of the
harvesting the householder, in empty stomach, cuts a few bunches of paddy plant
and hang it in the corner of the house and worship it by showing incense.
xvii) In the interior, most
of the aged Tripuris believe in mantras. They believe that the man who possesses
this craft can kill man, animal and living trees etc. by the power of his
xviii) Among the rural
Tripuris major section gives its verdict on the power of mantra. They still
depend on Ochai the village priest, who performs medical treatment also to get
rid of any disease or illness,
xxiv) Within the family, if
anybody dreams any person to sleep nakedly, then it is believed that financial
loss may take place in the
xxv) If a person dreams to
drown anybody in the water some of them believe that member of the family may
die or some other loss may come.
xxvi) If anybody dreams
elephant approaching the house then it is believed that paddy cultivation will
be much better this year.
xxvii) Some of them believe
that if in the dream he walks with an umbrella his honour and prestige will
xxviii) Some of them are in
the belief that dreaming of the rising .un or moon is a good sign for
strengthening prosperity and wealth.
xxix) It is also believed
that a dream of sunset or moonset augers some thing bad for the family.
xxx) To dream to extort a cow
or a buffalo is believed to be a good omen for the family.
xxxi) Among the Tripuris some
have superstitions regarding the delivery of the pig. When a female pig delivers
two male issues and a female issue at her first delivery they take it as bad
omen for the family.
xxxii) The Tripuris,
specially the women never like to take any twin fruit. They believe that eating
a twin fruit is a sin. The twin fruits are believed to have been twin in their
early life whatever that might be.
xxxiii) If the stack of straw
of a householder gets burnt, the Tripuris believe that any type of harm may
occur in the family of the householder in that year.
xxxiv) If the platform which
is made on the oven of the kitchen room to keep utensils and other things,
breaks down then it is believed that any danger or loss may occur in the family.
xxxv) Some Tripuri people
believe that when the platform, where the firewoods are kept, breaks down
automatically then either any member of the family may do of any danger of loss
xxxvi) At the time of
departure from the house, if somebody sees an empty pitcher then it is believed
that his journey will be abortive.
xxxvii) During the course of
journey if anybody hears the bleat of a deer it is treated as bad omen.
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