Ker Puja, a celebration several centuries old, is being observed in Tripura with great zeal. Ker Puja is celebrated two weeks after Kharchi Puja in the Royal Palace at Agartala with financial support from the state government.
Ker is considered the guardian deity of Vaastu Devata of Tripura since the Manikya dynasty started ruling the state. Ker is worshiped to protect the state from the evil spirit and black magic.
Ker means ‘boundary’ or ‘specified area’ in ‘Kokborok’ spoken by the tribals here.
No one can go outside the boundary specified by the organisers of Ker during the two and half days of celebrations.
The ‘chantais’, or head priest, is regarded as a king during this celebration. A large piece of bamboo is bent to replicate the image of Ker.
It is generally believed that the former rulers used to perform this Puja for the general welfare of the people of the state. Strict rituals have to be followed in the celebration.
Keshab Bhattacharjee, the royal priest said, “This worshiping is for the welfare of the tribal and non-tribal people of the state of Tripura. It has been taking place since the time of Maharaja Dhanya Manikya. The first phase will take up to noon, then again crackers will be burst and only after that people can come out but now restriction is there and only the priest is allowed to come out of the room. Ker means area and the 14 gods and goddesses are worshiped so the area of the state is protected from all evils and welfare of the people within this area.”
Even families facing emergencies like birth or death have to pay fine to go beyond the ‘Ker’ boundary around the royal palace.
They may even have to bear the entire cost of the celebration as a fine if the reason for moving out is not considered valid enough.
The area in and around the royal palace here has been notified for the ‘Ker Puja’ by the West Tripura district magistrate.
During the royal times, the entire area from Puran Habeli – the erstwhile capital of Tripura and around 12 km east of this capital was under Ker notification and all kinds of amusement, recreation and ceremonies were banned in the notified areas.
Tripura police personnel fire guns before the beginning of the rituals and at the end of it.
Ker Puja was initiated to safeguard the people from diseases, destitution and external aggression.
Offerings and sacrifices constitute an important aspect of Ker Puja and eggs, pigeons and homemade liquor are offered to citizens.
At the end of the 517 years of rule by 184 kings, the erstwhile princely state of Tripura merged into the Indian union on October 15, 1949, by an agreement between Maharani Kanchan Prabha Devi and the Indian Union.
The agreement makes it mandatory for the Tripura government to continue with the sponsorship of several temples and organise religious festivals done by the Tripura royals.
Tripura is the only state in India where the state government is in the forefront of funding many specified religious festivals of both tribals and non-tribals, though the Communists once ruled the state.