Translated from Kokborok by Manisha Debbarma
The Borok people of Tripura have traditionally followed their own indigenous mode of worship. Their supreme God is called ‘Goria’ who is worshipped by the Jamatia and Debbarma communities who address him as “Baba” meaning father. He is worshipped in the form of a ‘rondok’ or an earthen pot where rice is stored.
The preparation of the worship begins by crushing and grinding sticky-rice into a powder. Madhumala Debbarma who shows us the process says, “Grinding sticky rice (uncooked) is for making patties. We prepare these patties as offerings while worshipping our Baba Goria.” She further adds that in Tripuri culture, the festival of Goria puja called “Sena” coincides with the Bengali New Year.
Madhumala Debbarma also says, “For many centuries, Baba Goria has been worshipped by Tripuri people. During Goria puja, we worship the ‘rondok’ as an emblem of his spirit. During this puja, we also worship the goddess Mailuma who is the Tripuri version of goddess Laxmi of the Hindu religion.”
During Goria puja rituals, the idol of goddess Laxmi is brought out of the rondok, given a bath, and sindoor is applied on her. The old rice from the rondok is replaced by newly harvested rice. The dressed and bathed idol of Laxmi is then placed on top of the rondok and worshipped.
Apart from being worshipped during Goria puja, Mailuma (Laxmi) goddess has a separate day of worship called Hojagiri which coincides with Laxmi puja celebrated in the rest of the country. Hojagiri day is held during the English month of October, a week after Durga Puja has ended. On this day we celebrate and worship the Mailuma goddess. Once again, the idol is brought out of the rondok and given a bath. Some families also place the idol on a cradle and swing her on it.
On the day of Goria puja, we wake up early at 3 AM- 4 AM and take a bath. We clean the house and tidy it up for guests. Freshly sliced onions are fried in the pan and the smoke is used, alongside regular incense and candles, to cleanse the house while making the “ololololo” sound with our mouths. The incense and candles are carried around every corner of the house to seek blessings from God.
After that, the earthen pot is prepared or made ready for worshipping the Goria God. During the puja, the fried patties or pie which is made of rice flour, water, and sugar is offered as prasad to God. Other items offered are banana, buffalo grass, batasha and fresh fruits. The worship also includes herbs such as basil, leaves of wood apple, fresh flowers etc. In some families, the prasad and the herbs are spread on top of a ‘risa’ that is folded and placed before the worship place. Risa is the upper garment worn by Borok women.
After the completion of prayers, the prasad is removed and distributed to guests. The pot is then covered with the risa and kept aside.
Roma Debbarma, a young girl out to celebrate the festival, says, “Today is the day of our Baba Goria and today we will worship and celebrate him. Worshipping God means praying to him to bestow us with a long life and to show us the way to goodness. That’s what we ask and pray for while worshipping our God Baba Goria”.
Roma Debbarma also adds, “For puja we collect banana leaves, fresh flowers, and wood-apple leaves from our garden. Then we buy incense sticks, candles, and coal as an offering for the God. During the puja, the “ulolololo” sound is made three times and is repeated when the worship is over.”
There are 19 tribes in Tripura. The Debbarma tribe is one of them. To see the rules of worshipping our God Baba Goria, you can join us on the day of the puja. It takes place in the month of Boisakh when harvesting of paddy is over and fresh rice is brought home. The festival is called ‘Sena’ in Kok Borok and involves offering the newly harvested rice to Goria. The day is marked by a lot of fun, frolic, and feasting as every household celebrates by cooking the best dishes and inviting friends over.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.