Tripura is known for its composite cultural tradition to which both tribals and non-tribals contribute. This spirit is reflected as much in the delicately rhythmic physical movement of the 'Hozagiri' dance of the Reang tribe as in the collective musical recitation of 'Manasa Mangal' or 'Kirtan' of the non-tribals. The royal family of Tripura had always been a great patron of art and culture. After the coming of democratic set-up the state government has continued the tradition by according enough attention to the preservation and promotion of art and culture. Different fairs and festivals are now being organized at the behest of the government. Vernacular languages are being promoted by getting various literary works and songs of Rabindranath Tagore translated into local languages.
A unique feature of the socio-cultural environment of the state is people of both tribal and non-tribal communities equally participate and enjoy various festivals. Whether it is Garia, Durga Puja, Buddha Purnima, Kharchi, Pous Sankranti, Bijhu or Christmas festivity floats in the social ambience throughout the state, thus cementing the social texture further.
Some of the major festivals and dances of the state are:
It is one of the major festivals of Tripuris and some other Kakborok speaking communities. Celebrated in the month of Baisakh (April) for 7 days it symbolizes devotion and prosperity. Garia is said to be the deity of benevolent spirit of household. Garia dance is based on this festival. The priest known as Ochai performs puja while festivity engulfs all during the festival. Youngsters sing, dance and play drums during the puja.
A bamboo pole that symbolizes the Lord Garia, the deity of livestock and wealth, is worshipped with flowers and garland. The main ingredients with which the Garia Puja is conducted are cotton thread, rice, riccha, fowl chick, rice beer, wine, earthen pots, eggs and wine. According to the age old tradition, the fowl is sacrificed before the deity and the blood of the fowl is strewn before the Lord to get his blessing.
The performance of the Garia Carnival is in agreement to the Ochai instructions. During the festival no one is allowed to cross the shadow of the symbolic god Garia, in fear of making him annoyed while doing so. During the Garia Festival the children play drums, sing and dance before the Lord Garia to appease him.
Basically celebrated by the Bengali Hindus in the month of September- October, Durga Puja is the worship of Goddess Durga. The volume and dimension of Durga Puja has expanded so much that even non-Bengalis and non-Hindus equally enjoy the occasion. The festival marks the victory of good over evil.
Buddhist people celebrate this occasion to mark the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha. It falls in the month of April. Although the occasion is celebrated all over the state, the historical Buddhist temple Venuban Vihar at Agartala becomes the centre of attractions wherein it is celebrated in a grand manner.
This festival has still linked the past with the present. It is said that this festival or puja was commenced by the royal family of Tripura when the capital of princely Tripura was at Old Agartala. Now it is a universal festival that sees the confluence of people of different walks of life. Only head images of fourteen deities are worshipped during Kharchi. The government has come up with helping hand by sponsoring this festival since last several years. Not only religious worship and prayer, but cultural programmes also become its attractions during festival days falling in July.
On the occasion of Poush Sankranti a grand fair is held at Tirthamukh. Both tribals and non-tribals assemble there for paying holy tribute to their ancestors. The pious people coming here also take holy bath in the confluence of water of Raima and Sarma river, as a part of this holy affair.
Bijhu is the biggest festival of the Chakma tribe. Beginning on the last day of Chaitra of Bengali calendar year this festival goes on for three days. Prayer to Lord Buddha, lot of festive eating, music, dance, games and sports – all these become main activities during this festival. Further, it reflects their Jhum-based livelihood and social practices which are depicted through Bijhu dance. Falling in mid-April every year now a state-level festival is organized with the assistance of the state government.
This festival is celebrated by the Mog community on the full moon day of Ashwin of Bengali calendar year. Men and women go to the Buddhist temple during the day and in the evening they release paper and toy boats in the river. They believe that Lord Buddha sets out his journey through the land of darkness and lighted candles are placed to illuminate this path.
With the spread of Christianity especially among some tribes of Tripura, Christmas is now a big festival. The interesting feature is that not only Christians but also other religion-followers now started enjoying the occasion equally. Shopping, cakes, decoration, lighting etc. mark the day.
This festival is observed in Tripura Sundari Temple, Matabari, Udaipur, Gomati district and also all over the state every year in October/ November. This is one of the fifty-one Hindu pithas of India which is recognised as a holy and sacred place in Tripura. Devotees from both tribals and non-tribals observe this festival with great enthusiasm and take bath in the lake of the temple paying their homage to Mother Kali. A grand fair is also organised during this festival for two days.