Alcoholic drinks and animals including goat, pigeons and buffaloes are offered as items of sacrifice in a 300-year-old Durga Puja sponsored by the Tripura government.
To maintain the royal family’s traditional sanctity, the government has for the past seven decades been bearing the entire expenditure of Durga Puja at the Durgabari temple.
The Durgabari temple, established by the erstwhile royal kings, is located in front of the 117-year-old Ujjayanta Palace. The five-day festivity began in Tripura on Monday with ‘Maha Sasthi’ or ‘Bodhan’ – the welcoming of Durga idols.
“Tripura is the only state where the government, be it Left or non-Left, is at the forefront of funding such a Hindu religious festival. The tradition has been going on since Tripura’s merger with the Indian union,” Subhash Das, a writer and a former civil service officer, said.
The Tripura merger agreement made it mandatory for the government to continue the sponsorship of temples run by the Hindu princely rulers.
A full-fledged division – “Public Place of Worship (PPW)” or “Debarchan Vibhag” – under district magistrates in four of Tripura’s eight districts now bears this responsibility and the entire expenditure of several temples, including that of Durgabari.
Before starting the five-day worship of Durga, a procession led by the head priest goes to the palace to seek the consent of the former royal family to begin the puja at Durgabari temple, said Pandit Dulal Bhattacharjee, the head priest.
“A young buffalo, several goats, pigeons, alcoholic drink, fish, meat, egg, ginger, many fruits are sacrificed during the five-day festival at Durgabari – all at government expense,” said a priest.
Dulal Bhattacharjee said it was on the final day of ‘Dashami’ that the real splendour of the festival comes to the fore.
“The idols of Durgabari are the first to be immersed at Dashamighat with full state honours, with the police band playing the national song.”
According to Tripura Police, a total of 2,527 community pujas have been organised across the state.