Translated from Kokborok by Sentu Debbarma
India is a country of diverse Gods and Goddesses. Every religion, every state and every community has a unique tradition and customs for worshipping their deities. This is also the case in Tripura, which is home to 19 tribal communities. Out of the many Gods and Goddesses here, Rondokmwtai and Noksumwtai are two of the most important.
Mr Kumar Debbarma, a 70-year-old man from Jurania, Tripura, belongs to the indigenous community of the state. He is a knowledgeable person when it comes to understanding the culture of the Tripuri people, especially their religious beliefs. Mr Debbarma informs about two important deities revered among the Boroks called ‘Rondokmwtai’ and ‘Noksumwtai’. ‘Mwtai’ is the Kokborok word for ‘god’ and it is a gender-neutral term, i.e. it can be used as a suffix for both male and female Gods.
Mr Debbarma said, “In Tripura, there are different types of tribal communities living in different parts of the state. Some of them live in towns and cities and many of them live in villages. In this state, the tribal people who live in villages worship ‘Rondokmwtai’ and ‘Noksumwtai’ for the spiritual well-being and prosperity of the family. That is why in villages most of the homes used to have the idols of these Gods and Goddesses.”
He adds that many tribal families have left the villages and moved to the cities where they increasingly worship idols of other Gods and Goddesses. “Nowadays due to religious conversions and modernization, few families worship our traditional deities such as ‘Rondokmwtai’ and ‘Noksumwtai’. Even in villages these idols are slowly and gradually disappearing,” Mr Debbarma said.
Mr Kumar Debbarma has five members in his family. He said, “Our family has been worshipping these Gods and Goddesses for many generations. Their blessings have kept us healthy and wealthy.”
The rondok is an indigenous pot made of clay. It is where the Borok people store the first harvest of the season. Tripura is primarily an agricultural state where much of the population is employed in cultivating paddy. Rice and paddy, therefore, are important elements of worship.
According to tradition, two rondoks are kept near the bedside close to the head of the sleeper. Rondokmwtai is believed to bless these pots. Every year, prayers are offered twice—the first one when the paddy has ripened—and the second time when the first grains are brought home. The two pots in the ‘Rondokmwtai’ also symbolises one male God (Kholoma) and one female Goddess (Maluma).
Mr Debbarma also informs me that the grains are stored in the pot rondoks as a form of gratitude to God for a bountiful harvest. The grains also provide seeds for the next planting season thereby continuing the cycle of production.
Noksumwtai’ is the Goddess who is worshipped alongside ‘Rondokmwtai’. Without Rondokmwtai, Noksumwtai cannot be worshipped. Noksumwtai is the Goddess of protection. Mr Debbarma said, “Naksumwtai is very sensitive and needs to be worshipped properly. The family must never ignore her even by mistake as she can take offence and cause harm.”
Noksumwtai is of three types namely Somtiho, Komtiho and Maa Bisiri. It is believed that if a person offends one of the Goddesses, he or she suffers from ill-health. Earlier, in such cases, the village shaman would be summoned to cure the person by offering prayers.
One of the traditions followed in worshipping ‘Rondokmwtai’ is to hang a few bunches of ripened paddy plants near it. These plants need to be plucked before the harvest has been initiated.
The Rondokmwtai and Noksumwtai are our traditional deities and I hope more tribals remember their history and keep the traditional worship of these deities alive.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.