Tripura is a state of numerous and vibrant festivals. The mixed population in the state has contributed to the diverse festivals that are celebrated here.
Kharchi Puja is the second biggest festival of Tripura, after the Durga Puja. It is the annual worship of the house deities of the royal family of Tripura. The 14 deities are worshipped for the welfare of Tripura and its people. The festival is conducted in the Chaturdash Devta Temple in old Agartala. It begins on the eighth day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) in the month of ‘Ashar’ in July or August and goes on for a week.
The word ‘Kharchi’ comes from ‘Khya’ which means ‘Earth’. This Puja is done to worship the earth. The rituals are of tribal origin, which includes worshipping the fourteen gods and Mother Earth. Legends state that the Kharchi Puja is performed to cleanse the earth through the chanting of mantras or hymns, drum beats and bathing 14 family deities of Tripura’s royal Manikya dynasty.
These deities are Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartik, Ganesha, Brahma, Abadhi or the water-god, Chandra, Ganga, Agni, Kamdev and Himadri or the Himalayas. The Kokborok names of the fourteen deities are Lampra, Akhatra, Bikhatra, Burasa, Thumnairok, Bonirok, Sangroma, Mwtaikotor,Twima, Songram, Noksumwtai, Mailuma, Khuluma, and Swkal mwtai.
On the day of the Puja, the gods are carried to river Saidra by the priests or the “Chanti”, they are bathed in the holy water and are brought back to the temple. Then they are placed in the temple by performing Puja.
The Puja lasts for 7 days and on every single day, there are huge crowds at the temple. Thousands of people, both tribal and non-tribal, visit the Chaturdash Devta Temple during the time of the festival. There are offerings like sweets, flowers and goat. Many cultural programs are also organized. A huge fair is also arranged on this occasion and different tribes and communities take part in it. They wish one another joy, success and happiness. Kharchi removes the barriers that separate the tribal people and community people from one another and increases unity among the dwellers of Tripura. During the festival, worshippers pray to God for their peace and prosperity.
The Chaturdash Devta temple is a Hindu temple situated near old Agartala. This temple was built in 1761 in honour of fourteen deities, together called the Chaturdasha Devta, by King Krishna Manikya of Tripura. These deities are ceremoniously worshipped during Kharchi Puja. The temple is fondly called the Chaudah Devata Mandir.
The fourteen deities are the main attraction of the temple. The King of Tripura started worshipping only these fourteen Gods and Goddesses and this has been prevalent for a long time. There is no other God that the people of this region worship, that’s why there are no other shrines in the vicinity of the temple.
This is a time of joyful celebration, vibrant colours and unity. This year, due to the lockdown, the Kharchi Puja was organized on a much smaller scale, with children below 10 and adults above 60 years of age being banned from entering temple premises. No offerings were made this year, and animal sacrifices were prohibited. Devotees were allowed to visit the temple whilst following social distancing.
Everyone who celebrates this festival is eagerly waiting for next year’s Kharchi Puja, so we can enjoy the mela, the culture and the festivities again.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.