Written By Rabindra Debbarma, Translated from Kokborok By Luna Debbarma
Do you remember seeing or learning about a tool which was used to grind grains? If you grew up in India, I’m sure you’ve seen it at least once in your life. Nowadays, these tools or machines are hardly ever seen. In Tripura, a lot of tribal villages still continue to use this tool, but the number is steadily declining.
Ever since machines arrived to replace the function of this traditional tool, our people stopped using the grinding tool, due to the huge time investment it requires. Why use an old tool when a new one can do the work in half the time? Our ancestors used the grinding tool, also known as ‘Deng gwi’ in Kokborok, to grind rice throughout the whole year and, once upon a time, you’d find this tool in almost every household. My grandparents reminisce of the time when the sound of the grinding tool echoed through the village, lighting up the atmosphere and the mood.
The grinding tool is primarily made of the sal tree, and sometimes it can also be made from a koroi tree. Its length is about 3-4 meters, and its girth is approximately 10-12 inches. A part of the grinding tool is flattened to accommodate the foot. A round hole is made 2 feet from the standing end, and a sharpened wood piece is inserted into it.
One foot into the ground, we make a round hole where we insert a well-cut wood piece which is about 1.5 feet in length. Then we place a round rod which is known as ‘Gula’ in Kokborok. Two feet from the grinding tool we place two wood pieces on either side of it to balance it. The two pieces are embedded inside the ground so that the tool is stable.
When one steps on one end of the tool, the other end gets lifted. We have to step on it and then release it. This has to be repeated again and again for the tool to function. The grinding tool is not only used to grind rice but a variety of different grains. We could use the grinding tool alone, or with a group of people. To use the tool alone, we need a bamboo stick, known as ‘kathi’ in Kokborok. We keep the kathi on the tip of the grinding tool so as to move the rice. So, by stepping on it and moving the rice using the kathi, a person can use the tool alone. We also dig the ground near the grinding tool and place bamboos in it for support.
This tool has been used in Tripura’s tribal families for a very long time, but it is, unfortunately, disappearing from our houses. It is important to preserve our traditions and culture to ensure that the generations after us can learn about them and they aren’t lost forever.
About the author: Rabindra Debbarma lives in Tripura. He is a beekeeper and is working towards growing his bee farm. he loves to travel and learn about what’s new in the world.