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|Tripura - 188,220 (2011)|
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Reang (Bru) are one of the Tripuri clan of the Indian state of Mizoram and Tripura. The Bru can be found all over the Tripura state in India. However, they may also be found in Assam. They speak the Reang dialect of Kokborok language which is of Tibeto-Burman origin and is locally referred to as Kau Bru.
In 2018, following the Union Home Ministry's decision to give voting rights to around 30,000 people who had fled from Mizoram to Tripura in 1997 in the wake of inter-community violence, The Election Commission asked the State of Mizoram to revise its rolls for the 2018 polls and include the members of the internally-displaced community. As many as 32,876 people of the Reang tribe were set to be repatriated to Mizoram after a tripartite agreement was signed between the Centre, Tripura and Mizoram government. On 16 January 2020, a quadripartite agreement was signed among the Centre, state governments of Tripura and Mizoram and Bru-Reang representatives to facilitate permanent settlement of Bru IDPs( Internally displaced people's) from Mizoram in Tripura, benefitting around 34,000 IDPs .
The history of Bru (Reangs)
The Bru are the second most populous tribe in Tripura. According to the legend, a Tripuri prince who was once exiled by the King made his way, along with his followers, to the Mayani Thalang area of Lushai hills and founded a state over there. He proclaimed himself King and his descendants too ruled over the break-away state for generations. As it sometimes happens, there came a time when there was no heir to succeed to the throne, leading to anarchy in the kingdom. At around the same time, bitter feud and internal vendetta saw four chiefs of the following sub tribes Twikluha, Yongsika, Paisika, Tuibruha leave their hearth and home along with their entourages to migrate back to the state of Tripura. It was a long and arduous journey, fraught with danger and the travellers had to make more than a couple of attempts before they successfully made their way up the Dombur hill.
At the time, Mahendra Manikya ruled the kingdom of Tripura. The chiefs made many attempts to reach the King to request asylum. They approached ministers, bureaucrats, and courtiers for help in arranging a meeting with the King but with no success. By this time, they had exhausted their supplies and were rather anxious to catch the attention of the King. Finally in desperation, they breached the dam on the Gumti river where worshippers had gathered for prayers. This was a serious crime and all of them were immediately apprehended and brought before the king. The crime was a serious one and merited capital punishment. But before the King could pass his judgement, the chiefs managed to send word to the Queen Gunoboti. They begged her for help and she persuaded the King to forgive them. The chiefs swore fealty to the Queen and to the throne of Tripura and settled down in the Kingdom. Popular legend has it that the Queen even offered the chiefs breast milk, to symbolise their new parent-child relationship, in a large brass pan which was given to the chiefs along with other valuable things, carefully preserved by Reangs to date.
Historical population figures
In 1971 the Reang were the second largest of the scheduled tribes in Tripura. There were 64,722 people accounted for in the Reang tribe in Tripura that year. In 1961 the Reang had numbered 56,597 and in 1951 they had numbered 8,471. According to the 2001 census, there were 165,103 Reang in Tripura and 1,88,220 in 2011
Occupation, culture and custom
The Reangs are primarily an agrarian tribe. In the past, they mostly practised the Huk or Jhum cultivation like most other Tripuri tribes. However today, most of them have adopted modern agricultural practices. Many occupy high posts in the bureaucracy and a few have even started their own businesses.
The Reang are an endogamous tribe who have had very little contact with the Bengali or other sub-tribe of Tripura. Recently, however[when?] inter-tribe marriages and inter-caste wedding have taken place. The marriage system is similar to other Tripuri tribe of Tripura. There is no dowry system, but the bridegroom has to spend a period of two years in the (future) father-in-law's house for before marriage is performed. There are two types of marriages;
Marriages between close relatives are not frowned upon but are no longer as frequent. Cross-cousin marriage among the Reang is accidental. Child marriage is not allowed and widow remarriage is permitted. Recent widows are required to wait a whole year before wearing any ornaments and both widows, as well as widowers, are mandated twelve months of mourning during which they are forbidden from any form of entertainment. Remarriage is only allowed after a year of mourning. Bru society today is monogamous.
Marriage is arranged through the matchmaker Andra, who negotiates the bride price with the bride's parents. Marriage is settled to the satisfaction of both parties and performed by the Ochai. The marriage is celebrated simply but well in the Kausungmo, where pork, fowl, rice, rice beer are served. The marriage laws of the Reang are few but well defined. The Reang widower, for instance, is not permitted to marry a virgin.[clarification needed] The marriage bond is very strong and men cannot divorce without the consent of their wives. If any Reang is accused of extramarital relationships and the accusations are proved true, a strict punishment and a heavy penalty is imposed on both parties.
Dress and ornaments
Like the other Tripuri, the traditional dress of the Reang is simple and plain. Men traditionally wear a hand woven loin cloth and a piece of cloth as a wrapper for the upper body. Along with this a piece of woven cloth is wrapped around the head by Kamsoi and is known as Kamsoi maitang. The women wear a long cloth called Mnai, a wraparound; from the waist to down to the knees, a Risa covering the chest, and Rikatouh for covering the whole upper half of the body. The fabric is usually woven by the Reang women and very colourful. However modernisation has caught up with the Bru and most urban Reang no longer wear their traditional costumes.
The Reang women are very fond of personal adornment and, like other Tripuris, favour ornaments, flowers, and cosmetics. Silver ornaments, especially the necklace of silver coins, the Rangbauh have a pride of place and bestow high status. The other ornaments are Sanghai dunang, Nabak, Angkli, Taar, Tro, Chandraha, Beingi, etc.
Dance and music
Dance is an integral part of Reang life. The Hojagiri folk dance of Reang sub tribe is rather well known all over the world. 'Buisu', not 'bihu' is the most popular festival of reang tribes, naisingpara hojagiri group is the most popular groups all among them, late maniram reang is the founder of naisingpara hojagiri dance group. hojagiri is more popular in tripura than other states.
Most of the disputed and differences are settled by the people of Kotor dofa, that is by the Rai and Kaskau of respective sub tribe. It is done through the customary law of the Reangs. Whenever a disputes arise in the between the member of the community, a meeting is called by the Rai. All relevant arguments are heard and then justice is done according to the principle of natural justice. Whatever verdict or punishment is pronounced in the judgment it is implemented with firm hand and payments of penalty etc. are made then and there.
Religious belief and practices
Like other Tripuri people, the Reang are polytheists and believe in multiple Gods and Goddesses. At the heart of the pantheon of divinities are the fourteen Gods and Goddess of Tripura. Their important festivals are the same those of prevailing in Tripura. These are, Buisi, Ker, Gonga Mtai, Goria, Chitragupra, Hojagiri, Katangi Puja, Lampra Uóhthoh. Laxmi puja is the very famous puja, which is celebrate on karthik poornima, Religious observances are community-based and every family in the clan or village must contribute their share of payment or tithe known locally as Khain.
All religious festivals are arranged during an annual meeting of chiefs. In such meetings political, social, and religious matters of importance are discussed and decided by the majority.
The deities of the Reangs are similar those of other Tripuri people. These are:
- Sibrai', the supreme deity or Mtai Ktor
- Tuima, the presiding deity of river,
- Mainouhma, the goddess of paddy,
- Khuluhma, the goddess of cotton,
- Goroia, the god of wealth prosperity, well being, and war,
- Kalaia, brother of Goria,
- Sangrongma, Mother Earth,
- Hathaikchuma, the goddess of the hills,
- Buraha, the god of the jungle,
- Thuhnairou, the god of death,
- Bonirou, the god of evil spirits,
- Nouhsuma, the goddess of households
Worshipping of the deities
The rituals of worship are similar to the mainstream Tripuri. An Aokchai or priest performs all ceremonies aided by an assistant. A green bamboo pole is used to represent the deity. Different types of life stock such as fowl, pig, goat eggs, etc. are offered as sacrifice during worship. The place of worship is usually located at a distance from the main village. Offerings are dedicated in the names of the deities before the Wathop or green bamboo pole which represents the divine. However the Rangtouk and Nouhsuma pujas are held indoors inside the house only. Two earthen pots are filled with newly grown rice and at top of the pot some oval pebbles especially collected from huk are placed. The pebbles are called "Fortune stones". The pots (Rongtouh) are decorated with the rice powder, vermilion, and garlands. Typically, one is named Mainouhgma while the other is called Khuluhgma.
Rituals on birth of a baby
The birth of a baby is accompanied by many rituals. Several pujas like Kebengma, Abu suma, Khongkhonok kama, bachao kama, Mai tuma etc. are conducted for the welfare of the newborn. Fowl, prawns, and several leaves of trees are needed for these rituals. As the child grows up, a special form of worship has to be performed. Bukhuksni the seven-guardian deities of witches are propriated with the sacrifice of a pig, four fowls, and other living beings.
Ceremony on death
The Reang use cremation to dispose of the mortal remains of the dead. Obsequies are performed in three stages: maibaumi, Broksakami and Kthuinaimo.
The corpse is first bathed with the Chobtui or "alkali water/soap", and Mairungtwi that is "water obtained from the washing of raw rice". After that it is dressed with new clean Rikatouh, the head is dressed with another piece of rikatouh and wrapped just like headgear. In case of a female corpse, the rnai and rsa are used. A fowl is then sacrificed at the feet of the corpse. Later, an earthen pot filled with fish and rice placed at the feat of the deceased and it is followed by dance rituals through the night. Rice beer is distributed to all mourners except the family members of the deceased. The next morning the body is placed on a pyre and cremated.
Laotou or the deceased soul remains under the control of the Sisi Manji the son of Buraha, for a year and it is said that Sisi Manji is the protector of the soul. On the day of the Kathainaimi, the widow offers dried rice, meat, fish, fruits, and wine in the name of Laotau and Sisi Manji on the smangnouh and then takes the burnt bones or ashes to the charainouh. It is worshiped for over a period of one year or until the next hangrai, when it is immersed in any river or in Gomati River at Dumbur. In short the religious culture of the Reang is similar to that of other Tripuri of Tripura.
The Displaced Reangs
Since 1997, tens of thousands of Reangs are living as refugees in Tripura and Assam. However, the number has declined (from 50,000 plus to 28,686 as of 2017) as a result of voluntary repatriation to Mizoram, extremely low birth rates (only 6,685 of the 28,686 refugees are below 18 years of age) and high death rates. The Tripura government has acknowledged that among the refugees the number of deaths is more than the number of births (during 1997-00, there were a total of 1,595 births and 1,670 deaths). According to the Bru Refugee Committee, in 1997 a total of 35,822 individuals were living as refugees (out of them 6,166 being minors).
Voting rights for Reang refugees are under threat, as the Mizo NGOs have constantly opposed their participation in the election process. Out of the 40 assembly constituencies, Reangs are a majority in two (50% in Mamit, 68% in Hachhek, 27% in Thorang), and in combination with the Chakmas (5% in Mamit, 30% in Thorang, 80% in West Tuipui and 98% in Tuichawng), they have a small chance to win one or more seats.
Death in Displaced camps
Displaced Brus from Mizoram have claimed that four members of the community, including a four-month-old infant, had died of starvation at the refugee camps in Tripura. Mizorum Bru Displanced People's Forum (MBDPF) said four had died because the refugees were running out of food. Hunger has forced them to resort to a road blockade, the forum added.
- "Bru people to get voting rights: Ministry". The Hindu. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
- "Bru tribals from Mizoram to permanently settle in Tripura". Retrieved 16 January 2020.
- "Tripura, the land of fourteen gods and million statues".
- Gan-Chaudhuri, Jagadis. Tripura: The Land and its People. (Delhi: Leeladevi Publications, 1980) p. 10
- "Living in camps, thousands of Bru-Raeng children in Tripura have never heard of school".
- "Brus claim starvation as 4 die in Tripura camps". The Hindu. 5 November 2019.