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Buisu - The New Year Festival of Tripuri People

- Dr. Atul Debburma


The change of year that follows to the next is not only known to human being but also to all the animals and other living things, even the plants could perceive the change of the year, that is why the flowers bloom, bear fruits. The animals realize the changes of the year, that is why birds chirp during changes of particular season, enjoy the arrival of spring. Some animals migrate from one region to another with the change of season which signals the changes of year. Tripuri people were basically agrarians, that is why they were very much dependant on weather and changes in the seasons. They were experts in anticipating the weather changes, arrival of monsoon etc. and in fact the experienced senior citizens of the community were highly capable of predicting the arrival of monsoon and their forecasts were not far off the mark than the modern satellite based predictions.

Hari Buisu: The New Year festival of Tripuri people is Buisu. It is used to be observed with pomp and show for three consecutive days, these are ‘Hari Buisu’, ‘Buisu’, ‘Bisikwtal’. The first day of the festival is called as ‘Hari Buisu’, this day is dedicated to the domestic animals. The domestic animals like cows, buffalos, goats, dogs, cats, etc which have served us for the year round without any refusal, are treated with  love and respect on this day. The children would go out early in the morning to the nearby jungle to collect different types of the wild flowers and they would make garland out of it. The domestic animals are given bath early in the morning, they are garlanded with different flowers. A vermilion tilak is also applied by some families, specially to the cows. The animals are served with good feeds on the ‘Hari buisu’ day and even if they do some mistakes by consuming household items they are allowed to go set scot free and forgiven for the day. The women folk prepare curry with 108 types of different vegetables on Hari Buisu day to be consumed by all the family members. It helps in curing much illness, as these vegetable of 108 varieties combination have different medicinal properties.

The women would take out all the earthen broken pot out of the kitchen and through it out. They would clean all the house and household utensils. At the same time they would take out all the new cloths from the traditional cane made almirha called ‘Khutruk’ which are preserved for various occasions and dry those in the sun. The ladies would take out mud from the pond, wet field or river etc and plaster the walls and floors of every room of the house with it. The women folk would arrange all the necessary ingredients and ancillary items for preparing various traditional cakes and dishes on these days.

Buisu: The women would wake up early in the morning before the crack of dawn take bath and start preparing different kinds of cakes from different types of aromatic rices and different types of delicious curries. On the day of Buisu the family members remember the near and dear ones who had passed away in the previous year. They offer homemade  cakes and dishes to the departed souls. The girls who have just married in the last year would come to visit their parents homes on this day along with their respective grooms. The near and dear ones are invited, a grand feast is served. The families of a para or hemlet would gather in chokdiri or village headman’s home and have a community celebration of Buisu festival. Every household would bring their prepared dishes and they would mutually share all the dishes and cakes with each other and distribute to all those present in the gathering. The younger ones would go house to to house to taste different types of cakes. The elders would relish different types of homemade beverage tol their hearts’ content. They would dance and make fun throughout the day till they retire in the late evening.

Bisikwtal: The New Year day is marked with new hopes and aspiration. They would make cakes and prepare delicious dishes. The Goria puja, a form of Lord Ganesh begins this day that continues for seven days. The household would install Goria’s idol in the middle of the courtyard and worship begins his worship. Among the Jamatiya sub-tribe, the community celebration of Baba Goria begins on this new year day. The young girls and boys would go from house to house to pray and dance in front of Goria’s deity and take the alms/ offerings from the household that continue for seven days.

The Buisu Day: The Hari Buisu is celebrated on the 2nd last day of Chaitra month of Indian religious calendar which roughly corresponds to 13th of April, Buisu on last day of Chaitra that is on 14th and Bisikwtal or new year on 15th of April.

History of Tripura Era: There were more than 550 princely states in India at the time of independence; Tripura is one of the few states which had its own era. The Tripura Era was introduced by Hamtorfa alias Jhujharufa alias Birraj to commemorate his victory over large part of Bengal covering up to river Ganges in the year 512 Saka era. The Tripura Era used to follow the Saka era (SE) as it was the leading era prevalent at that time. The dates were same as that of Saka era but the new year is on the 1st of Vaisakh instead of 1st Chaitra of Saka era.

Attempt to Christianize Tripura Era: There was an attempt to Christianize the Tripuri people’s New Year celebration Buisu festival by some group of people. A false research was done to discover New Year day of Tripura era by some group, which found that the New Year day of Tripuri people was on 22nd of December. The conspiracy was to merge three days of Buisu celebration with X-mass celebration on 25th of December and indirectly compel the Hindu Sanatani Tripuri people to celebrate X-mass. There was no historical record, cultural evidence or religious proof of celebrating Tripuri New Year on 22nd of December. It was arbitrarily decided and shrewdly planned to fix just three days before Christmas so as to merge with it.

Tripura Era followes Saka Era: There are plenty of records to prove that Tripuri new year falls on 15th of April each year other than leap year on which it corresponds to 14th of April.  The simple way to find it is search in the royal historical records of Tripura which are available in different libraries. In most of such historical records two dates system were used to be inscribed simultaneously. These records are some 300 years and above years old. Here are some proofs:

(1) In the Rajmala third volume, the royal chronicle of Tripura, (page no.85) a copper plate is mentioned, in which the king Govinda Manikya donated a portion of land to a Brahmin. There the following dates were inscribed 1594 Son, 1081 Tripura Era date 7th Falgun. The SE and the Tripura Era used the same date and month.

(2) In the fourth volume of Rajmala king Govinda Manikya’s another copper plate of land donation had been mentioned. (Rajmala-Vol-IV, page-132). The date mentioned is ‘Saka 1599 son 1089 Tripura Era 11 Aswin’. It also proves that the Tripura Era followed same date and months of SE, though the era is different.

(3) Another evidence from the king Kalyan Manikya dating 1650 AD also directly proves that Tripura Era followed same date and months of SE. (History of the land system and managements by NC Debbarma page-149).

(4) In one more such undisputed evidence the Saka Era, Tripura Era and Bangabda or Assam Era having the same date and months can be proved from the book “History of Tripura” by E.F Sandys. He had compared the various calendars and its months and dates. There is record for Tripura era, Saka era and Bengali era.

There are numerous examples which provide evidences that Tripura Era and the SE had the same counting months and dates in the past. But after the calendar reform of 1957, the date counting were divided into two systems, one for Civil calendar and the other for religious calendar, which resulted difference between the SE and Tripura Era dates and months as Tripura Era followes the religious calendar.

New Year of Tripura Era: From the historical records it has been proved that the Tripura Era and SE followed same months and date, but SE New Year was in the months of Chaitra whereas that of Tripura Era was the 1st of Baisakh. It can be proved by the following record.

There is one clear cut document which definitely proves that the new year of Tripura Era was on 1st of Baisakh. The list of school holidays 1906 AD of Royal Tripura government states that 1st Baisakh is holiday due to New Year day of Tripura Era.

Cultural Heritages : The Bisu or Buisu is a festival of Tripuri people which is celebrated in the 1st of Baisakh. It is nothing but the New Year celebration of Tripura era. Bisi means year and Buisu means New Year festival to welcome the year ahead. The Bisu or Bihu is also celebrated by all the tribes of the north eastern states, as the new year festival. This fact can be substantiated by the following facts.

1. The Bodo also celebrates Bisu as Boisagu, to mark the new year arrival. It has been stated by Thomas Pullopillil and Jacob Allukal in the book ‘The Bodos-children of Bullum Buther’, “Boisagu a corruption of two formations Bosorni Agu meaning beginning of a year of new year. A great social festival is celebrated in the month of Baisakha (mid of April) for seven days beginning from the days of chaitra sankranti….”

2. Similarly many other tribes also celebrate the New Year arrival festivals Bihu in the 1st of Baisakh. These includes dimasa, various tribes of Naga, the Mizos, the Chakmas, the Mogs, the Arunachali tribes, the Manipuris, the Ahoms and many more. This is illustrated in the book ‘Folk Lore of North East India, by Kamal Narayan Choudhuri. There he had mentioned as follows: “Thus it becomes clear that Bihu is originally a Shan and Mongoloid festival which has undergone a process of assimilation and refinement.”

3. The fact that the new year festival in the Baisakh month is not of the Bengali people trade mark which many of Tripuri people presumes, for which these western minded people are propagating and accordingly wants to translocate the  Tripura Era’s New Year to 22nd of Dec. But it is from this Indo-Mongoloid people that it has been assimilated to the Bengali culture. This theory had been accepter by Dr. Amalendu Mitra in his book ‘Rarher Sanskriti o Dhormothakur. ’

4. Another documents of 1837 AD also indicates that the new year of Tripuri people was in the middle of April which falls in the 1st of Baisakh. One Englishman Robert Collin mentioned it clearly in his book, ‘The journey to India’ as follows:

“Hilly Tripura was springly sonorous in the middle part of April. Its people were very merrymaking, singing, dancing to observe their great festival of New Year. They were so homely and pleasures I never witness.” (My Journey to India page-120 by Robert Collin).

So from the documents stated above it is clear that the Bisu or Buisu of Tripuri or the Boisagu of Bodos was originally the new year celebration of the greater Bodo/Borok people in the month of Baisakh, not of Bengalis, as propagated by many of our foreign influenced Tripuri brothers. On the contrary Bengali speaking people have assimilated our culture into their own.

New Year celebration of other people of North East India: All the people of the north east celebrate the new year or spring festival in the mid April and it is not only the Tripuri people. The Mog celebrates Sangkrain on the same day, the Chakmas celebrate it as Biju, the Ahoms and all the tribes like Mising, Rabha, Hajong, Dimasa, Karbi also celebrate new year Bihu on the same day. The Manipuris celebrate it as Chairoba and the Mizo celebrates it as Chapcharkut.

South East Asian country’s New Year: Like the Buisu or Boisagu or Bihu of north east people, many South East Asian countries also celebrate their new year in the middle of the April. Their New Year is also celebrated for 3-4 days like our Buisu or Boisagu which is also celebrated for 3-4 days.

1. Burma-Myanmar New Year: a) “The Burmese New Year, which is based on the Fixed Zodiac system, falls on or around April 16. Thingyan means change. Cula thingyan (or small change) occurs every month. Maha thingyan (or big change) occurs once a year. The Burmese considers it to occur in Meiktha on or around April 13 and lasting three or four days.” (source- fathertimes.net).

b) “The Burmese New Year falls on the second week of April. The New Year is ushered by three days of water festivals.” (source-myanmardotcom.com)

2. Thailand New Year: a) “Thai New Year is celebrated every year from 13th to 15th April. Thai New Year, also known, as Songkran is the time to rejoice for the Thai people all over the world.”  (source-travour.com).

b) “The Thai New Year celebration always is held on April 12, 13 and 14 officially but an entire week will be filled with fun in Chiangmai.” (Source-chianmai.com)

3. Khmer-Kambodia New Year: a) “In Cambodia, Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival, and also it is the greatest national holiday because it is three days festival and sometimes can be of four days. Khmer New Year begins on April 13th or on April 14th, depending on the “MohaSangkran,” which is the ancient horoscope.” (Source-ethnomed.com).

b) “Usually, according to the solar calendar, the Khmer New Year falls on the 13th of April although sometimes it falls on the 14th of April.”  (Source-mot.gov.kh)

4. Laos New Year: “Usually Lao New Year or Koudsongkhane organised in April 13 to 16 in every year.” (Source-mounglao.com)

From the above stated evidences it has become clear that the New Year celebration the 1st of Baisakh, whether in the form of Buisu/Boisagu or in any other name is originally of Mongoloid people, within India and other South East Asian countries, not of Bengali or other wise. So there is no reason to celebrate Tripura Era New Year day on 22nd of December simply to follow the western culture.

Historical back ground of the Tring : Tring is a booklet which is compilation of opinion regarding the New Year of Tripura Era, was composed in the year 1994 by some over enthusistic groups who wanted to change Tripuri new year.  The Tripura Era was used in all the official works during the royal rule in Tripura, continued during post independence till mid 70s but discontinued due to obscure reason. Many distinguished persons of Tripuri people from diverse field were interviewed and sought what should be the New Year day of Tripura Era, in order to revive Tripura Era and in all opinions of 21 persons were collected. The opinions of these people can be classified into seven categories and it is given below:

1. So called BE 1st Vaisakh-14/15 April as Tripura Era New year - 5

2. SE 1st Vaisakh -22/23 April as Tripura Era New year - 7

3. Either 1st Vaisakh of BE or 1st Vaisakh of SE as Tripura Era New year - 2

4. Any day between Kartik-Agrahayn as Tripura Era New year - 2

5. No comment about it - 3

6. 1st Pous-15th Dec. as Tripura Era New year - 1

7. Any day between 15 Dec to 15 Jan of Christian Era - 1

(BE=Bengali era, SE=Saka era)

From the analysis of the above tabulation it is obvious that most of the distinguished persons gave their opinion regarding Tripura Era New Year in favour of 1st Baisakh of so called BE or of SE. As per the historical records, we know that the date and months were exactly same among the SE, Tripura Era and BE. Most of these persons interviewed were probably unaware of these facts that is why they differed, but as we know it now that the dates and months between SE, BE are now different because of calendar reform, practically all of the dates were same. If we analysis the booklets opinion, one can find that 14 out of 21 people favoured 1st Baisakh-(15th April) as New Year of Tripura Era. This opinion of distinguished persons can also be considered to take a decision about the New Year of Tripura Era and in a largest democratic setup of the world like ours, the majority’s opinion should have been accepted, which is 1st baisakh-(14/15th April). But this fact was also over looked just to favour the western culture and the compilers of the opinion fixed the New Year date of Tripura Era undemocratically on 22nd of Dec, just 3 days before the Christmas to coincide with it.

This is nothing but the desperate attempt to wipe out and exterminate the 5000 years old Tripuri Civilization, culture, custom, religious and historical heritages from the face of world. But the people of this ancient state Tripura did not sit idle and watch as silent spectators of the conspiracy. Many educated and intellectuals protested against the vested interested western people motive. There have been many argument and placement of records and documents through the news papers, booklets and leaflets were distributed to reveal the truth of Tripuri new year and the people were ultimately made aware of their culture and now people are again spontaneously celebrating their new year Buisu in the month of Baisakh. Truth alone triumphs!