TRIPURA Located in India's Northeast region, Tripura is the smallest of the seven hill states, the "Seven Sisters." The climate is generally hot and humid. Tripura is bordered by Bangladesh on the north, the south, and the west, Assam on the northeast, and Mizoram on the east. The monsoon usually begins in April and lasts until September. The population of nineteen tribes, led by Tripuris (over 50% of tribals), Reangs, and Chakma, who speak a variety of languages and dialects, and immigrant Bengalis, was about 3 million in 2004. The main languages spoken are Bengali, Kakbarak, and Manipuri, although Bengali is the official language. Animism plays a large part in the life of the tribals, but the largest number of people follow Buddhism, followed by Christianity and Hinduism.
The state is divided into the four districts of North, South, and West Tripura, where the capital Agartala is located, and Dhalai. Just over 50 percent of the state is covered by forest, and the landscape is composed of picturesque hills and dales and green, deep valleys. Less than 25 percent of the land is suitable for agriculture, with rice being the main crop. The main rivers are the Gomati, the largest and the one considered to be the most sacred, the Khowati, Manu, Haorah, and Muhari. Dunbar Falls is one of the most sacred places in the state.
The early history of the state is told in legend and is said to have played a role in the Battle of Kurukshetra. Some seventy-four Tripuri rajas ruled Tripura and were called "Manikya." In about 1280, Muslims invaded the state, and this was followed by settlers from Bengal and Burma. The Bengali sultan ruled until 1515, but in 1586, the Mughals defeated Jasodhara Manikya, and he ceded a part of the state to them. The state was ceded to the British in 1761.
The tribals followed jhuming, or slash-and-burn agriculture, or shifting irrigation, which has led to soil erosion and ecological degradation and depletion. Large-scale jhuming was banned by the government in 1952. The per capita income is well below the national average, and more than 80 percent of the people live below the poverty line. In addition, the state bore the brunt of massive immigration from East Pakistan and Bengal. The Bengalis brought with them plow cultivation and forced the tribals from the plains to the hills, where they fell into the clutches of Bengali moneylenders and traders.
On 15 October 1949 Tripura entered the Indian Union as a state. It became a Union Territory on 21 January 1972, and Ujjayanta Palace became the Legislative Assembly. Though the Communists had championed the cause of the Tripuris, they created the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti, a separatist party, on 10 June 1967; their demands included more autonomy and the recognition of the Kakbarak language as an official language. In 1978 a secret military organization, the Tripura National Volunteers, was formed, aimed at achieving complete independence for the state, and they committed hit-and-run attacks and assassinations of Bengalis, who responded through their Amra Bengali. Communal tension has never dissipated.
Roger D. Long
Pakem, B. Regionalism in India: With Special Reference to North-East India. New Delhi: Har-Anand Publications, 1993.
Ray, Syamal Kumar. India's North-East and the Travails of Tripura. Kolkata: Minerva Associates, 2003.
Tripura (trĬ´pŏŏrä), state (2001 provisional pop. 3,191,168), 4,036 sq mi (10,453 sq km), NE India, bordered by Bangladesh on the north, west, and south, and on the east by the states of Assam and Mizoram. The capital is Agartala. Tripura lies in a mountainous region but has lush lowlands with cane brakes, swamps, and dense jungles. The population, which is mainly engaged in agriculture, is predominantly Hindu. Bengali is the main language. Tripura is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to an elected unicameral legislature. The states of Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, and Tripura and the union territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have a common governor appointed by India's president. The 16th-century Hindu temple at Radhakishorepur is much visited.
The region was the center of a long-lived kingdom that reached its apogee in the 15th cent. Though the region was annexed by the Mughal empire in 1733 and passed under British rule in the 19th cent., the original kingdom did not disappear until it joined India in 1949. Tripura became a union territory in 1956 and a state in 1972. In the 1970s many Bengali-speaking immigrants began arriving from Bangladesh; by the 1980s their presence had led to clashes with indigenous tribes, and sparked a armed indigenous separatist movement.