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Tripura, the land of History and Legends


Like the herbal medicine of India, which has turned into Ayurvedic, the Tripuri people also possesses the trait to extract medicine from various plants, leaves, roots, bark etc. to cure the illness of men as well as animals. In that context it is assumed that the Ayurvedic form of medical treatment was originally conceptualized by the Tripuri people vis-a-vis Kirata. The first Aryan migrants had even no knowledge of Himalaya, as the earliest book of knowledge, Rig Veda had mentioned only once about it; what to talk about the plants and herbs growing in it. it was  only in latest Veda, that is in Atharva, details of herbal medicinal property was mentioned, that by the time they had come in contact and civilisational exchanges had taken place between the Kiratas and Aryans.

Methods and procedure that the Tripuri tribe applies to cure disease or to heal a wound of man bear similarity with other tribes of the northeast India. Two methods, viz, the folk medicine and magic are generally applied in this respect. Both the methods are believed to be primitive. While the magical method deals with the supernatural belief, the folk medicine is based on natural or physical aspects. The Tripuris have a great belief and reliance on magic and folk medicine.

The Ochai is generally the specialist in the art of magic. With the performance of magical rites he is believed to be able to cure a diseased man. At times he also plays the role of the village physician. In some cases, they call in the Ochai for the treatment of disease. After observing the diseased person, the Ochai comes to know why and how that man has fallen ill. If any evil spirit be responsible for the illness, the Ochai performs magical rites as a device of treatment to drive away the evil spirit that caused the illness. To drive away the spirit the Ochai sometimes blows over the patient with utterances of mantras which is said to be effective and curative for the ailment. Otherwise, for this purpose, the Ochai performs worship. In this worship he sacrifices fowls, pigeons, goats etc. and utters mantras to remove the spirit. These mantras are different for different illness and the animals to be sacrificed in the worship also vary.

Besides, for various diseases the Ochai prescribes or applies folk medicine as a mode of treatment. When he ascertains that the illness is caused by disease and not by evil spirits then he depends upon the folk medicine. The village priest or the other men who performs the job of medical practitioner in the village is very careful and practical not to leak out the secrecy of the mode of treatment and the ingredients of folk medicine.

The mode of treatment varies according to category and intensity of the disease. The folk medicine practitioner prescribes medicine Of the basis of his diagnosis. Sometimes he prescribes an ointment to rub on the body. Sometimes he gives folk-medicine to tie with the body for a specific period. In a few cases he prescribes a medicine to swallow. The medical practitioner also prescribes amulet prepared by himself to cure the disease. This amulet contains various types of roots, leaves and many other things. On many occasions this very amulet is sanctified with mantras.

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As the folk medicine practitioner solely maintains his secrecy of the mode of treatment it is not at all possible to know the names of the medicine. We can only put a few examples of treatment as done by the practitioner. These are as follows:

(l) To remove the speck on the eye the Ochai cum medical practitioner treats the patients by taking seven pieces of onion. On the first clay of the treatment the Ochai bites a piece of onion and gives a blow from the mouth on the affected eyes of the patient and thereafter he utters charms and incantations. He recites charms and incantations seven times and each time he bites a piece of onion and blasts a blow from the mouth. On the second day the Ochai uses his charms and incantations on the affected eyes of the patient five times in the aforesaid way. The next day the Ochai performs the treatment three times in the similar way and the disease is cured. If this treatment fails, they apply another mode of treatment for the same disease of the eye. In this case they apply juice of a leaf of a specific tree in the eye for three to four days and the disease is cured.

(2) If anybody suffers from fever, they advise him to take the juice of a creeper, named 'Songdari' in Tripuri, with sugar.

 (3) Those who suffer from loss of appetite take a medicine for normalisation of the feeling of appetite. They grind the seed of a little tree named 'Tharai' and take it with water.

(4) Sometimes they apply a composite herb to stop the bleeding from a cut by grinding the leaf of 'Masundui', 'Sambrema' and 'Durba' grass together.

(5) To cure throat pain they are used to take the juice of the root of a tree named 'Tokkhi Seleng'. To collect this very type of root a rule is to he followed. The root of the 'Tokkhiseleng' tree which is bent towards west is to be collected for medicine by stopping the breath.

(6) A special device is applied for the remedy of the ulcer caused at the backside of the children's ear. For this disease they collect the mushroom on the dead tree named 'Muikhumu Kwchauk' and after burning it rub the ash of that mushroom on the ulcer. It is noticed that this medicine is effective to cure the disease.

(7) If eruptions spread out on the body of a child a medicine prepared by mixing 'Til Oil' (sesame oil )and the juice of the roots of a tree named 'Rou' is rubbed on the body.

(8) To get rid of the attack of the freckles they apply a medicine prepared from the seed of a little tree named 'Muitapi' to the affected place of the body for at least three to four days in a row.

(9) A medicine prepared by mixing the coconut oil and lime water is prescribed to apply on the sore caused by burn.

(10) If eruption spreads in the facial part of a person, the inner soil of the oven is applied for remedy.

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 (11) When the little children suffer from high fever they are rubbed with a medicine prepared from the juice of a little plant called 'Sak Kuchang' to reduce the temperature.

(12) Some-time they prescribe the flower and leaf of 'Khum-Jhumka' or Uribar (jaba) to be rubbed on the body alter grinding it properly to reduce the high fever.

(13) If anybody suffers from tooth ache he is attended by the Ochai. The Ochai keeps a cowrie and some durba grass on a banana leaf in front of the patient. '[he Ochai thereafter spells out some mantras with the aforesaid articles and remove the worms from the teeth. Thus the Ochai can cure the tooth ache.

(14) Those who suffer from vomiting tendency, indigestion or irregular clearance of bowels eat a salt after baking it properly to remove the aforesaid troubles.

(15) If any child discharges liquid yellow stool they generally prescribe the juice of a tree named 'Chethuang' or powder of the seed of 'Thaithap' tree for treatment.

(16) When anybody suffers from stomach flatulence they prescribe the fried leaves of a plant named Dukhupui' to eat. At the time of colic pain the Ochai' rubs the stomach with mastered oil and the water of 'Hukka' with enchanting mantras. The Ochai rubs the stomach of the patient seven limes and every time of rubbing he spells mantras. It is noticed that after the performance of this rite by the Ochai the pain of the stomach subsides.

(18) If the joint of a limb is bruised or injured by any means they prescribe the leaf of a little tree named 'Dankalas' and lime to rub on the injured part for remedy.

(19) At the time of fever if anybody suffers from had headache they then fasten the forehead with a piece of cloth putting the roots of plaintain in it.

 (20) When a man suddenly feels biting pain in the stomach then he takes ginger consecrated by mantras from the Ochai as medicine for remedy.

 (21) If anybody takes poison he is then given to eat uncooked 'Berma' (dryfish) and egg mixed with water as medicine to take out the poison from the stomach. They act promptly upon the poison taken and causes vomiting of the poison. It is reported by the villagers that the patient is bound to vomit as the uncooked dry fish and egg bear offensive odour.

 (22) They are in belief that if any child suffers from hydrocil then he is to get a bite on testicle by the fish named 'Latiabarak' (latafish) for remedy.

 (23) If within a month or more after the delivery any mother discharges liquid stool she is given to eat the root of a little tree named 'Samsunduru' (Lajjabati or touch me not) sanctified by mantras as medicine.

(24) After the delivery if any mother's breast milk does not emerge and the breast becomes stiff then a gourd leaf soaked in hot water for sometime is to be rubbed on the breast and thereafter the milk begins secreting and the breast turns normal.

 (25) Sometimes at the lime of suffering from the boil or carbuncle they give a medicine prepared with the leaf of marigold, soap and dissolved lime for applying on the boil and that is efficacious.

(26) For dysentery they prescribe a medicine prepared by pounding the bark of a tree named 'Bothai' and sugar. For this purpose the bark is to be soaked in water and then it is pounded with sugar. This medicine is prescribed to eat always in empty stomach.

(27) When the children suffer from cold they prescribe honey as medicine for remedy.

(28) After eating 'Muitu' (an esculent root) if anybody feels itching in the throat he is given to chew betel leaf with nut and lime to get relief.

(29) The smart pain caused by the piercing of Singhi fish's prickle is removed by applying the pupil of the 'Puthi' fish.

(30) If the fish bone prickles in the throat of a man the Ochai then swallows a ball of the boiled rice three to four times. Every time of eating the small rice ball he spells mantras. After the performance of this rite by the Ochai the fish bone which pricked in the throat of the man is removed. A mystery is noticed here that the man in whose throat the fish hone. is prickled is not at all offered to eat the boiled rice balls sanctified by mantras. Instead the Ochai himself eats the rice balls sanctified by mantras to remove the fish bone and ultimately he gets through.

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(31) If a man having finished his bath feels any troubles he then sprinkles salt, purified with mantras by the Ochai, in the water where he took bath. It is reported by the villagers that sometimes it occurs owing to the activities of the malevolent deity. So to get relief from this sort of troubles caused by the malevolent deity they always depend upon the Ochai who with his magical activities able to relive the man from his sufferings.

 (32) A medicine is prescribed for the children when they suffer terribly from cough. This medicine is prepared with the gall of 'Muisele' (python) and the seeds of orange. This medicine, after grinding them properly, is offered for eating.

 (33) When somebody feels troubles from 'hiccough' then he is given the bark of 'Lambag' tree to tie in the hand for relief. It is noticed that the bark is tied in the hand in a single breath.

(34) If urine of a person is not discharged properly or his urinary tract pains then he is prescribed to eat the juice prepared by pounding the bark of a tree for remedy. The name of the tree is not disclosed to preserve the secrecy.

(35) If anybody suffers from scab then he is prescribed to apply an ointment prepared from the bark of a tree named 'Abithi' and sulphur for remedy. It can he mentioned here that this 'Abithi' is used for catching the fish after poisoning the water. For this purpose they spread the juice of the bark in the water and the water becomes poisonous and the fish of the water floats up. That is why the name of the tree is 'Abithi'. In Kok borok 'Aa' means fish and 'bithi' means medicine.

 (36) Among the Tripuris some people know to heal the headache through magical performance. If anybody suffers from headache then the man who knows the secret to cure the headache utters mantras viz. 'Ongting' Ongknia, Ongchua du saha pha' etc. and rub mustard oil on the head of the patient three times and at the time of nibhing oil he utters the aforesaid mantras. Along with the mantras he spells the name of the patient.

(37) If anybody's nail is damaged by any means then they prescribe the blood of 'Kuichcha'a sort of eel to apply on the damaged nail as medicine, for three days and it is cured.

(38) If sometimes an ant accidentally enters inside the ear of a person then they pour some mustard oil inside the ear to kill the ant.

(39) When some one is confounded by suffering from high fever he is then prescribed to eat the blood of 'Kuichcha' (eel fish) along with water as medicine to bring down the temperature.

 (40) When a man feels pain to discharge urine or his urine is not discharged properly then he is advised to eat the seeds of the 'Tukma' plant as medicine. The seeds are to be soaked in water and when they are fully wet then they are to be taken.

(41) For the illness caused by dog bite the Tripuris till now are greatly dependent upon the medicine man or the Ochai particularly those who are staying in remote places. If a man gets the bite of a dog, he goes to the Ochai for treatment. The Ochai then makes three to four balls of boiled rice. All these rice balls are sanctified with mantras and prescribed to the patient to eat the blood of 'Kuichcha' along with water as medicine to bring is fully cured with these rice balls sanctified by mantras by the Ochai.

(42) If any little child discharges stool every now and then, then the loot of a tree (which is not to be disclosed) is collected looking westward and by stopping the breath. Then the root is tied on the ear of the child. When the stomach is cured and the discharge of stool is normalised, the root is thrown into the water.

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(43) If anytime a bamboo-split or any type of thorn pierces into the body, the Ochai gives the person a ripen banana after sanctifying it with mantras to eat. And it is reported that after eating the sanctified banana the split comes out within three hours.

(44) Among the Tripuris a few persons are also able to join the broken hone in a human body. The man who knows the medicine, takes the leaf of two types of trees, one kind of a creeping plant, the bark of a tree, the inner flesh of a snail or the yolk of an egg and grinds all these articles collectively. After grinding these articles the paste is applied on the wound and it is bound with a piece of cloth for seven days. After seven days the broken bone gets joined.

Another mode of treatment was also noticed during the survey. Sonic persons in the remote places are also able to join the broken hone of the human body only by tying a creeper around the wound. The creeper which is tied on the affected spot is not disclosed.

Whatever be the name of these creepers, barks and the leaves of the tree used for joining the broken bone, it is a fact that in the interior places till now a few persons are present who are able to join the broken bone within the body with these folk medicines.


(45) To set right the twisted joint of the human body caused by any accident they prescribe folk medicine. They first rub on the twisted spot the fat of pork. There after, a sickle is burnt and a small hole is made on the spot with the sickle. Thereafter the leaves of a tree named 'Kerang' and a special variety of rice named 'Kaon' are boiled in a bamboo pipe collectively. A plaster is made and it is applied properly on the twisted spot. This pound medicine s applied and bandaged with a piece of cloth for some days for remedy.

(46) To get relief from the neck pains they prescribe a medicine for the patient. The leaf of arum after being smeared by the fat of pork is heated and the medicine-man touches the neck with it repeatedly. If this medicine is applied repeatedly the pain is cured.

(47) Sometimes they prescribe the leaf of 'Basok' tree to get relief from the suffering of cough. The leaves of 'Basok' are to be boiled with ginger, black pepper etc. in water and this boiled juice is taken for remedy of cough.

(48) When the little children suffer from cough then they rub the fat of pig preserved for long on the chest and back for cure.

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From the aforesaid facts we can draw an outline of the mode of treatment and remedy by the Tripuris of their sufferings and diseases and also for their general health. It is to be mentioned that the health of the Tripuris, particularly those who are staying in the remote places are more or less sound. Since time immemorial they have been wholly dependent upon their own mode of treatments.

Even in this last part of the twentieth century it is noticed that at places at the time of suffering from any disease they first depend upon their folk medicine and magical rites. After the performance of magical rites and application of folk medicine if anybody fails to cure himself of the disease then he wants to take modern medical treatment.

By any means, I cannot sneer at their belief in folk medicine as they are successful in the treatment of diseases to some extent. Though they mainly depend upon their own way of treatment to cure the diseases that does not of course mean that the medicine applied or prescribed by themselves are sufficient or accurate for remedy.

It was observed at the time of investigation that a certain percentage of the Tripuri specially the older generation of the rural Tripuri express their apathy for modern mode of treatment.

This may he so that religion has created a hurdle against their acceptance of modern medical facilities. Since the major portion of the rural Tripuri are credulous people, whenever they suffer from a disease which is tint cured by the magical rites or folk medicine they come to the conclusion that this disease is caused by a malevolent deity or by an enemy who performs some magical deeds.

Another reason which disheartens the rural Tripuris on modern medical treatment is the insufficient medical aid in the interior. It is won h mentioning here that adequate numbers of primary health centres or dispensaries are not there in the remote places where most of them dwell.

Now-a-days the dispensaries which are maintained in the remote areas are helpful to them to some extent. But there is a version to go to them as the communication system from their areas is yet to be improved. Let these people be provided with modern medical facilities. The economically and educationally advanced group can only shoulder this great responsibility with sympathy to free them of their ignorance which is based on superstition and religion. The folk medicine which is practiced by them is alright. But their traditional belief on the chronic diseases to have effected by mischievous deities or evil spirits cannot be accepted particularly in the modern era. So it is our responsibility to make them understand the good effects of modern medical treatment with sympathy and co-operation and providing them with medical facilities. Along with it the communication system has to be improved to enable the people to come for the aid of modern medical facilities available at their nearest places.

It is a hopeful sign that with the upliftment of literacy the rural Tripuri, particularly the younger generations, are realizing the importance and usefulness of modern medical treatment and are extending their hands for it.

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