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Tripura, the land of History and Legends


Place of Old and Women in Society

  Village Administration 


To discussabout the role and place of the old and the woman in a Tripuri society, one should first cast his eye in a family consisting of the old and woman together with other members. Theirs being the patriarchal family, the father (in his absence the next elderly male person) controls and directs the family members. He has to look after the family and reserves sole right to punish or rebuke anyone doing anything against the norm and discipline of the family.

The workload in a family is shared equally by the male and female members. Hard work such as construction of house, ploughing of paddy land, cutting of jungles for jhum, felling of trees etc. are the works of the male persons. Besides rearing the children, the women folk are engaged in planting, harvesting, paddy husking, collection of firewoods, fetching of water, preparation of rice beer, cooking and other such domestic or house hold works.

The father being the head or all in all in a family, controls the family in all matters and his decision in any matter is supreme and final. The female counter parts, as a matter of fact, has no voice in such decisions though they are consulted usually.

In early days the daughters were treated a bit differently from the boys because of the prevailing matrimonial system. Previously the bridegroom had to go to the bride's home before their marriage. 'l'his system now-a-days is no longer in vogue. Notwithstanding the reforms in the system, a few bridegrooms in remote areas have to go to the bride's home just for the custom's sake and for a very short period. It Is, however, worth mentioning here that this distinction in matrimonial affair has practically no bearing upon the relation of the sons and daughters with their parents. Both the sons and the daughters are affectionate and dear to their parents and never treated with any partiality.

The elderly woman in the family is respected and honoured equally with the elderly male members by the juniors of either sex. In matters of a girl's marriage in a family the decision of the oldest male member is supreme and final. The daughter has to entirely depend upon the decision of the father and in his absence, the other elderly male members in the family. But with the advent of time, due to the impact of modernisation and acculturation, cases of personal choice or selection is now threatening the age old traditional custom and they occur particularly among the urban and literate groups.

As regards their sex life, a woman in her conjugal life is supposed to satisfy the sex urges of her husband. The Tripuris are mostly monogamous and very few of them are married to more than one wife at a time On the contrary the woman never gets married to more than one at a time.

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 Respects to the seniors by the juniors in the Tripuri family is strictly adhered to. The elder sister in a family is respected by all the young male and female members and in case of the mother's absence or death, she takes up the mother's responsibility and brings up the young brothers and sisters. While the mother is alive the elder sister helps her mother at her best in domestic and other family affairs.

Smoking is entirely free in the Tripuri family in rural areas. The parents and their sons and daughters smoke freely in the family. But now-a-days with the touch of education some restrictions in smoking behaviour have crept into their family life. Liquor is permitted in the Tripuri society and the country beer is taken by them off and on. The female members who are habituated to the drink, take it only after the elderly male members have taken it and before giving a sip to the wine, they have to salute the elderly persons present serially according to their seniority.

Position of Woman in a hamlet:
Women are always debarred from taking any active part in village administration. They are never selected nor chosen for the village council. It is a clear sign of male dominance in their society. The woman is treated as intellectually inferior and incapable of taking wise decisions. Still it is evident that the wife of a village headman gets to sonic extent the regard from woman folk as the wife of a 'Sardar'. Whenever any meeting of the village council is held, the woman can attend it as a listener but cannot raise any objection, make any comments or pass any opinion, since their comments are not entertained. This inhibition or hurdle can only be overcome by the woman folk only when their educational standard is geared up.

In a village feast, puja or any ceremonies the woman folk cannot take any active part. They always are confined to the kitchen, cooking for the guests and invitees. The old woman of course, sits with the old man to gossip for long and takes rice beer with them with an exchange of enchanting words.

Woman and property:
Among the Tripuris the woman folk can have a share of their parents property if they demand it or they derive a share of the property as per their parents desire. But this share or portion of inheritance is not equal. The brother is always the greater beneficiary. After the marriage of a daughter, the father hands over a part of landed property, if he owns enough landed property to his daughter. If he brings a boy as 'Ghar Jamai' it is mandatory to share a part of his landed property with the daughter.

The wife of the deceased husband generally looks after the property with the help of menfolk related to her husband till her children are grown up. In case of death of the father, the mother derives a share or her husband's property while it is distributed among the children. However, the property is managed and looked after by the menfolk, women can make some earning by selling rice beer and by selling reared goats, hens, and figs which makes up the deficit in family budget. Sometimes this money is spent by the womanfolk for their personal or private needs.

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Women and Religion:
The religious beliefs and practices of the Tripuris of Tripura depend almost entirely on the Hindu mythology. They worship different Hindu Gods and Goddesses such as Kali, Durga, Laxmi, Lord Krishna, Mahadeva, etc. But in worshipping these Gods they follow their own rites and rituals which are a bit different from those of caste Hindus. Besides, these common deities, the Tripuris have some of their own traditional deities and majority of them are male in character. Among the male deities, Garia, Lampra, Wathop, etc. are the principal deities. Female deities are very few in number and the chief among them are 'Naksumatai' etc.

The Tripuri tribal priest who is called 'Ochai' is a male, The women are debarred from active participation in any religious ceremonies except the 'Randhakmatai'  'Saklakniatai' etc. Therefore, on investigation, it appears that the male in Tripuri society dominates even in the religious circle. The Women can participate or perform the rites in very few religious ceremonies. In matrimonial ceremonies, two women called 'Ayajuk' and two males named 'Aia' are required to be present to perform the rites.

The case is different now-a-days with the urban Tripuri women and they are involved in various religious activities. In most cases, household goddess like 'Laxmi' is worshipped by the women. Only worship of 'Laxmi' in 'Laxmi' Purnima during the full moon in Aswin, Kartika (Just after the Durga Puja) needs to be performed by a Brahmin priest. In many pujas or religious festivals, the women take active part or extend their helping hand to their male counterparts in performing the worships according to the shastra.

Women & Adultery:
Free mixing of grown up boys and girls is not permitted in Tripuri society, especially in interior regions. This inhibition, of course, is disappearing by degrees particularly among the educated mass and in urban areas. Since free mixing is not allowed between the sexes, a few cases of clandestine sex relation in adultery happen in the society. Although they are very conservative in respect of young boys and girls, they are liberal towards offenders of these social taboos.

If an unmarried girl gets pregnant by a boy due to illicit sex relation, the boy remains hound to merry that girl, otherwise, after the birth of the baby, the man in fault has to bear the expenses of the child for am period decided by the society. The unmarried mother in subsequent time can marry a person of her choice or marry anybody who comes forward to take her as a wife. There is not much restrictions in such eases.

On the contrary the society is very liberal towards the male members in the cases of adultery. If a husband commits any adultery, voluntary or accidental, his wife is supposed not to mind that. The wife and the society look at it with mercy. But the illicit or clandestine sex relation of a woman is never treated with such mercy, rather treated as a sin and crime.

In order to maintain discipline in the society some definite norms and ideals are adhered to. The eldest male in a family is always regarded as the chief and he is the only authority who controls its members and pro- Wets them as well. In any domestic matters his consent is imperative. He represents the family in village meetings and all such village gatherings. lie being the sole authority of the family arranges the major family earnings and has to bear the burden of marriage expenses of sons and daughters and other family members and also the expenditure of religious ceremonies, birth and death rituals etc.

The women generally do not argue with the head of the family even if he directs them wrongly. It is indecent according to the community decorum. The women are expected to behave with the elder male in keeping with their age and relation. When a man in a heated moment or in an agitated mood utters any filthy words, the women are to remain silent. It is even so found that some husbands sometimes beat their wives and in those cases also the wives remain subdued. All these expose the monopoly of dominance of the male over the female; specially of the husbands over their wives in the Tripuri community.

The male member in charge (headman) of the family may be an old infirm or idle man but he commands the respect and obedience in all domestic affairs. It is observed in a few families that some members, particularly the mother bereft of the supreme power of the father, give their rational views regarding family administration. Though the honour and supreme power of the family headman is widely accepted in their society, a different attitude among the young members in some families in recent days are also noticeable. If the headman in the family lacks personality and ability, it is seen that their sons and daughters dare disobey them. Of the young boys who have come to urban contract and have been influenced by the urban manners, a section of them go back to their village and show their disregard towards the old custom.

In the old times, the place of the old, irrespective of sex, in the Tripuri community, was great indeed. In all social as well as domestic matters their consent and counsel would be sought. The judgement or opinion passed by them were followed with respect. With the advent of modernisation the role and importance of the old in the community is gradually diminishing. However, till date, wherever a ceremony takes place the oldmen of the villages are invited to participate and their seats are arranged separately. When the country beer is offered to them in any ceremonial gathering or in any meeting, the senior most old man takes it first and then the other old embers take the beer serially according to their age. This rule of course does not always hold good. It is observed that in a group of old persons if an old man is older than the oldest man by any relation he will take the rice beer first. It is also observed, that if an old person is not habituated to such drinks tie would at least touch the bottle or glass of wine and then the remaining persons will take it.

Though a trend of defying the status of the old by the young generations, especially by the urban and modernised group is evident, the importance and powerful status of the old is still prevalent. On festival arid ceremonial occasions the juniors bow down and touch the feet of the seniors to show respect. There's no denying of it that the tribal community has also undergone a change and its customs and rules have been modified a great deal. The village-wise respect for the old is no longer found now. The village wise homage to the old is now narrowed to family and relatives. On the occasion of Pous Sankranti (Hangrai) the juniors are seen to show their, respects to the seniors by the tradition bound system. First of all the juniors drink the feet washing water of the old and then bow down to touch the feet of the seniors irrespective of sex. The old in return bless the young. This custom cited above, is not practised now in urban and semi-urban areas of the Tripuri community. Here the juniors simply bow down and touch the feet of the old to show their regard. With the introduction o the village panchayat system by the Government the status and importance of the old in the village adfliinistration has decreased to a greater degree.

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The Tripuris are the widely populated tribe of Tripura. In population they comprise the largest nummber among other tribes. Gregarious as they are in nature, they live in a place mostly dominated by their own people. Therefore, where ever they resided, a system of self government evolved in their society. In order to look after the collective interest, solve the individual problems and to perform community worship and to solve village disputes a council was usually formed. The council consisted of a few members chosen or selected by the villagers. The Chief of the council was called the 'Sardar' or 'Chokdri' varying from place to place. The council had its chief (Sardar or Chokdiri), Secretary to the Chief (Karbari) messenger (Khandal) and members. Women were debarred from participating in the council.

The assignments of the council members were as given below:

(a) Chokdiri: The village head. He was empowered to make norms and rules in consultation with the members and he controlled the activities of the council. The residence of the Chokdiri was treated as the office of the council

(b) Karbari: The Secretary to the Chief of the village council who maintained the records and collected information to brief the Chief.

(c) Khandal: The messenger who circulated the council's judgement or decision among the villagers.

The village council was formed in a meeting attended by all the adult villagers. Through discussion an old and efficient man of good reputation and dynamic personality was selected for the honourable post of Chief or village headman.

The other members were similarly selected through discussion. The tenure of the council was stipulated for a period of one year. If the council functioned smoothly and satisfactorily the term of the council could he extended to any number of years. In case of irregular and illegal activity, the villagers had the right to dissolve the council at any moment or expel any number thereof if his conduct or activity was found to be wrong. When a member was expelled, a new member was recruited to fill up the vacant post.

At present there is no scheduled time for forming the council body as they do it as and when convenient on their part. But in early days it was customary to form the council body in a gathering on the eve of 'Jhum' cultivation.

The council's decision was final and supreme in every matter. It decided the time and place of worship and in some cases dictated the procedures in any conventional matters. When any such occasions arose the members sat together in the Chokdiri's house to discuss the result in the village. Besides the usual session of the council, whenever the council members sat together for any emergent issue the date and subject of' the meeting was circulated beforehand among the villagers.

The council had to solve many problems of different categories, viz.

1) Land dispute between individuals.

2) Breach of village customs and norms.

3) Harassment of women by Romeos.

4) Disputes on marriage.

5) Cases of personal choice of boys and girls.

6) Quarrel between villagers on any issue.

7) Mode and date of any worship.

When any of the foregoing complains or disputes came up to the village council, the members assembled in the Chokdiri's house to exchange their views and to finalise a date for an open session of the council attended by the involved parties or persons and elder villagers. The 'Khandal' accordingly circulated the message in the village in general and to the involved parties and persons in particular. On the scheduled date at the mentioned place all assembled to hear the final hearing and judgement.

In the meeting the persons who were involved in the disputes expressed their views and put up witness in their support. The village headman or chief then consulted his members on the basis of individual delivery and witness and passed the verdict.

The village council would solve the problem or decide the disputes through bilateral discussions. Sometimes the offenders were penalised with economic fine. The fine could be realised either in cash or kind. The degree of fine varied on the basis of the offence. In rare occasions, the council would go to the extent of flogging the offenders for a serious offence or defying the rule. The fine, in most cases was confined to few bottles of rice beer which were to be distributed among the council members.

An example of village council's judgement learnt to have been done by the council is given here. When a girl became pregnant before her marriage the case was forwarded to the council. The council identified the boy and arranged their ceremonial marriage. In similar cases if the boy and girl bore any blood relation the boy and the girl were convicted and excommunicated. In such case, the boy and the girl would come back to the village if they agreed to offer a feast to the villagers. Then their marriage would become legal and the couple got social acceptance.

Till today, in some pockets of the Tripuri areas, the village administrative system is found to have remained active to some extent. It will not be out of place to mention the modification the village administrative.

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Even in the last part of the twentieth century, it is observed that a good number of Tripuris of the interior are having superstitious outlook. A few instances are given below:

i) If sometimes a hen lays an egg of very small size then it is treated us a had symptom for the family. The house owner then rounds the egg three times around his body and throws it out in the western direction to avoid any inauspicious happening which is considered harmful for the family.

ii) When any domesticated pig or goat sits in a straight way then it is treated as inauspicious for the family. In such cases they never keep the pig or goat alive. They kill the animal and cat its meat or sell it out.

iii) The Tripuris are in belief that whenever a hen crows like a cock any type of danger may take place within the family in the near or distant future.

iv) The Tripuris, particularly the aged fellows, believe that if any corner of the granary cracks then any person of the family will die.

v) Some of them are in belief that whenever a Fewang (a kind of wolves) looking towards a house wails on Tuesday or Saturday then any person of that particular house may die. vi) in the forest where the deer eats soil the Tripuris never cultivate 'jhum' there, since they believe that if anybody cultivates 'jhum' in that place any untoward incidents may take place in the family. According to them any deer having received any injury in its body if somehow can reach that place then it is able to heal its injury by eating the soil.

vii) Many of the Tripuris suspend an earthen pot with some symbolic signs on it over the main door. The pot is first sanctified with mantras by the Ochai. It is done with a view to keep away the evil spirits or to protect them from the evil sign of the spirit.

viii) For protection of the household in many occasions many Tripuris prefer to drive a sanctified nail with mantras by the Ochai in each of the four corners of the house. Thereafter the Ochai lays stone on the nails in the four corners with spells of some mantras and covers the nail and stone with soil. The driving of sanctified nail with mantras is nothing but a protective device from any kind of harm done by the enemy. It is believed that the duration of this protective device stands for a span of twelve years. On expiry of that period this type of procedure may have to be repeated by the Ochai.

ix) It is also noticed that some of the Tripuris prefer amulets to hangup in the four corners of the house and at top of the main door ns a precautionary measure against the harm caused by the enemy.

x) If in the evening of any rare occasion a cock crows on the top of the house facing the west, it bespeaks a danger in the near or distant future for the family.

xi) Whenever the dove coos on top of the house specially in the morning then it is believed by the Tripuris that any member of the family may fall sick or any bad news from the relatives will come.

xii) At the time of going out if anybody sees a naked boy or a girl they take that the journey will be unsuccessful.

xiii) Early in the morning if anybody sees a married man or woman who has no issue then it is taken as an inauspicious day for the man who has seen it.

xiv) If any passer by sees a snake at the right side of the path then it is taken as a bad symptom.

xv) On the first day of paddy plantation many Tripuris till this day maintain some superstitious out look. On that day they do not eat 'Chakui' (a kind of curry prepared by the water filtered from ash i.e. alkali and any sour thing. Soap is also not used on that day. The aforesaid prohibition is observed on the basis of the belief that the paddy will he less productive if they do not follow it. Moreover, on that day they plant a plant of an esculent root in the belief that the paddy will grow as hale and healthy as like the esculent root.

xvi) On the first day of the harvesting the householder, in empty stomach, cuts a few bunches of paddy plant and hang it in the corner of the house and worship it by showing incense.

xvii) In the interior, most of the aged Tripuris believe in mantras. They believe that the man who possesses this craft can kill man, animal and living trees etc. by the power of his mantra.

xviii) Among the rural Tripuris major section gives its verdict on the power of mantra. They still depend on Ochai the village priest, who performs medical treatment also to get rid of any disease or illness,

xxiv) Within the family, if anybody dreams any person to sleep nakedly, then it is believed that financial loss may take place in the


xxv) If a person dreams to drown anybody in the water some of them believe that member of the family may die or some other loss may come.

xxvi) If anybody dreams elephant approaching the house then it is believed that paddy cultivation will be much better this year.

xxvii) Some of them believe that if in the dream he walks with an umbrella his honour and prestige will increase.

xxviii) Some of them are in the belief that dreaming of the rising .un or moon is a good sign for strengthening prosperity and wealth.

xxix) It is also believed that a dream of sunset or moonset augers some thing bad for the family.

xxx) To dream to extort a cow or a buffalo is believed to be a good omen for the family.

xxxi) Among the Tripuris some have superstitions regarding the delivery of the pig. When a female pig delivers two male issues and a female issue at her first delivery they take it as bad omen for the family.

xxxii) The Tripuris, specially the women never like to take any twin fruit. They believe that eating a twin fruit is a sin. The twin fruits are believed to have been twin in their early life whatever that might be.

xxxiii) If the stack of straw of a householder gets burnt, the Tripuris believe that any type of harm may occur in the family of the householder in that year.

xxxiv) If the platform which is made on the oven of the kitchen room to keep utensils and other things, breaks down then it is believed that any danger or loss may occur in the family.

xxxv) Some Tripuri people believe that when the platform, where the firewoods are kept, breaks down automatically then either any member of the family may do of any danger of loss may occur.

xxxvi) At the time of departure from the house, if somebody sees an empty pitcher then it is believed that his journey will be abortive.

xxxvii) During the course of journey if anybody hears the bleat of a deer it is treated as bad omen.

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