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Art & Culture of Tripura

Tripura encloses a rich cultural heritage of music, fine arts, performing arts, and handicrafts. Being dominated by the Bengalis, the state's prevalent culture is Bengali. As it has numerous diverse ethno-linguistic groups, such as, Tripuris, Jamatia, Reang, Noatia, Koloi, Murasing, Chakma, Halam, Garo, Kuki, Lushai, Mogh, Munda, Oraon, Santhal, and Uchoi, a composite culture has emerged on the whole. A brief discussion about the art & culture of Tripura, follows.

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Tripuri couple in traditional dress.
People

The majority of the state's population comprises of Bengalis, Manipuris and 19 different tribal communities. In fact, Tripura is also home to thousands of migrants from West Bengal and Bangladesh. The tribal people follow their customs and religion with the highest regard. Tripura, despite having 19 Scheduled Tribes that form about 40% of population, is largely a Bengali community. Regardless of practicing different religions and notions, the people live in harmony with each other.

Language

Bengali is spoken and understood by more than 50% of the state's population. However, Kokborok (also called Tripuri) as well as Bengali are the official languages of Tripura. The other major language spoken in the state is Manipuri. The tribal communities have their own dialects for communication. English is liberally used for official and administrative purposes.

Religion

Hinduism is the most practiced religion in Tripura. Both Bengalis and Tripuris follow Hinduism with ardent fervor. Islam, Buddhism and Christianity are also followed by people in minority. However, most of the tribals are adherents of animist-Shaktism. Brahmin priests, known as Chantais, are believed to be the custodians of religion (dharma). The main gods worshipped by the people are Lord Shiva and Goddess Tripureshwari. Besides, many fertility gods are also worshipped.

Cuisine

Once again, the strong influence of Bengali community is visible in the cuisine of Tripura, as Rice and Fish make the essential ingredients. People prefer eating non-vegetarian delicacies on top of vegetarian food. In most of the families, one can see preparation of authentic Bengali food. Pork, chicken, mutton, beef, turtle, fish, prawns, crabs, and frogs are consumed profusely by the non-vegetarians. Some of the traditional Tripuri delicacies are Chakhwi, Mwkhwi, and Muitru.

Music

Music is integral to the tribal lifestyle. Some of the aboriginal instruments, developed in Tripura, are Sarinda, Khamb (Drum), Lebang, Do- Tara, Chongpreng, Khengrong, and Sumui (a kind of flute). Be it the occasion of marriage, religious ceremony or other festival, songs are sung to commemorate each event in the state. The renowned musicians, Sachin Dev Burman and Rahul Dev Burman, belonged to Tripura.

Folk culture of the tribal and non-tribal people of the state forms the backbone of Tripura's cultural tradition. This is reflected as much in the delicately rhythmic physical movement of the 'Hoza Giri' dance of the Reang tribesmen as in the collective musical recitation of 'Manasa Mangal' or 'Kirtan' (devotional songs in chorus) of the non-tribals.

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Children in Tripura prepare for a traditional dance.
Dance

Dance is a vital constituent of the tribal way of life. Where some dance forms are exclusive to some occasions, there are many others to mark celebration of different events. For example, Garia dance symbolizes the prosperity of the people, Hai Hak and Cheraw dances depict the confinement of Lusai woman. In Tripura, Basanta Raas is a delightful dance form of the Hindu Manipuris. Apart from the above-mentioned, there are many other dance forms, like Hojagiri, Bihu, Wangala, Sangraiaka, Chimithang, Padisha, Abhangma, Gajan, Dhamail, Sari and Rabindra, which belong to and are performed by different communities.

Apart from this, the 'Garia' dance of the tribals, organized on the occasion of New Year festivities and worship of 'Garia', and 'Dhamail' dance of the non-tribals, organized on familial occasions like wedding ceremony in rural areas as well as musical duels (Kabi Gaan) between two rival rhyme-makers on public platforms form the staple of Tripura's folk culture. Enriched by myths and legends of tribal society over the past half a millennium, Tripura's folk culture now confronts a major threat from so-called modernity. Gone are the days when rhythmic movement of artists in 'Garia' or 'Dhamail' dance would keep viewers awake all through the night. These forms of culture have been falling prey to invasion of modernity as western musical instruments like guitar, mandolin etc keep replacing the traditional instruments like indigenous drums and flutes and western 'break dance' push aside the pristine purity of the 'Garia' dance or 'Dhamail'.

However, cultural programmes, marked by songs and dances, associated with birth anniversaries of great poets and lyricists Rabindra Nath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam add colour and charm to the state's multi-layered cultural mosaic enriched by contributions from many streams of sub-culture.

Fairs & Festivals

Since Tripura is mainly subjugated by the Hindus, the festivals common in rest of the country are mostly celebrated here. For example, festivals like Durga Puja, Navaratri, Vijayadashami, Dol Jatra (Holi), Pous Sankranti, Ashokashtmi, and Diwali are the most celebrated festivals. Besides, there are many other festivals that are unique to Tripura. Some of the important tribal festivals are Garia, Ker Ganga and Gajan. Other state festivals are Rabindra/Nazrul Festival (May), Boat Festival (August), and the Orange and Tourism festival (November).

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Handicraft: speciality of Tripura.
Art & Craft

The novelty of the state's art & craft comes alive in its handicrafts and handlooms. Handloom products make the vital part of the economy of Tripura. Silk, cane and bamboo works are some of the main industries. Here skilled artisans craft a fascinating variety of handiwork using simple materials, such as, bamboo, cane, palm leaves and ordinary yarn. Some of the popular handicraft items are bamboo screens, lamp stands, baskets, ivory work, tablemats, sitalpati, woodcarving, silver ornaments and other crafts.


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