Reang or Riang are one of the 21 scheduled tribes of the Indian state of Tripura. The correct nomenclature for this ethnic group is actually Bru although the name reang was accidentally incorporated by the Indian government during a census count. The Bru can be found mainly in the North Tripura, Dhalai and the South Tripura districts of Tripura state in India. However, they may also be found in Mizoram, Assam, Manipur and Bangladesh. They speak the Reang dialect of Kokborok language which is of Tibeto-Burmese origin and is locally referred to as Kau Bru.
- 1 The history of Bru (Reangs)
- 2 Meska and Molsoi groups
- 3 Ktor dopha
- 4 Occupation, culture and custom
- 5 Religious belief and practices
- 6 References
The history of Bru (Reangs)
The Bru are the second most populous tribe of Tripura after the Tripuris. 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 difficult 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 river Gumti 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 symbolize their new parent-child relationship, in a large brass pan which was gifted to the chiefs along with other valuable things, carefully preserved by Reangs till date.
Historical population figures
In 1971 the Riang were the second largest of the scheduled tribes in Tripura. There were 64,722 people accounted for in the Riang tribe in Tripura that year. In 1961 the Riang had numbered 56,597 and in 1951 they had numbered 8,471. According to the 2001 census, there were 165,103 Reang in Tripura.
Meska and Molsoi groups
The Reang clans are divided into two groups:
The Meska group
The Meska group is further divided into seven sub groups or dopha. These are as follows:
- Meska :- 'meska' word is derived from the word 'Maiskah' which means Straw of paddy tree after extracted crops, but 'meska' does not mean the 'lemon tree' edited by pranab kumar reang of tripura, gachiram para in the Kau Bru language.
- Msa :- "Msa" means tiger in Kau Bru. In the manner of Romulus and Remus of ancient Rome, the founding father of this Dopha was said to be raised by a tiger.
- Chorkhi :- "Chorkhi" means Spinning wheel in Kau Bru. The name owes itself to a Reang chief who was talking ill of his own daughter-in-law. His friends began spinning the spinning wheel to drown out his voice. The descendents of this indiscreet chief are called Chorkhi.
- Raikchaoh :- "Rai" means cane in Kau Bru, "kchaoh" means red in Kaubru. The founding father of this Dopha used to wear an armlet made of cane that was dyed bright red.
- wairem :- "wai" means tie, "rem" means mix/hybrid in Kau Bru. It is said that they are descendant of a Reang man and a Kuki woman.
- Tauma yakcho :- "Tauma" means hen, "yakcho" means toeless. The feet of the early members of this Dopha resembled that of a hen.
- Tuimuiyaphaoh :- "Tuimayaphaoh" means tortoise(i.e. tortoise especially lap of tortoise edited by pranab kumar reang of Tripura, gachiram para) in Reang dialect. The founding father of this dopha suffered from white patches that disfigured his chest, rather like the tortoise.
The Molsoi group
The Molsoi group is sub-divided into six groups, which are as follows:
- Molsoi :- "Molsoi" is the derivative of msoi which means msoi in Kau Bru. The early members of this tribe settled down in a lush valley teeming with deer. Since they were called by that name.
- Apeto :- "Apeto" is a type of fish in Kau Bru. The founding father of this Dopha is said to have had a large belly, rather like that of the Apet fish.
- Nouhkham :- "Nouh" means house, "kham" means burnt in Kau Bru. The origin of this name are rooted in an unfortunate fire which burnt down the house of the founding father of this Dopha.
- Chongpreng :- "Chongpreng" is a type of musical instrument. The founding fathers of this Dopha eked out a living playing this musical instrument as they were suffering from the "gungri" disease.
- Yaohstam :- "Yaohstam" means ring of finger. The founding father of this Dopha had a rather handsome ring which he used to display proudly to others. This dopha has no living members.
- Reang kachko :- "Kachko" means chief in Kaubru, the founding father of this Dopha were the original chiefs of Reang.
The 13 dophas or sub-groups of the Reangs listed above have 26 chiefs or heads, designated as Kotor Dopha. Kotor means head and dopha means clan or group. The chiefs are divided into two categories:
Rai and his circle
- Rai :- "Rai" means Raja or Chieftain
- Chapiya Khan :- Heir Apparent to the Chief
- Dor kalim :- Priest or Shaman
- Doloi :- Assistant to the Chief or his right-hand man
- Bandari :- Procurement Officer/ Manager of the stores or Bhandar of the Rai
- Kanda :- Servant and holder of umbrella of Rai
- Doya Hajari:- Drum player
- Muriya :- Trumpet player
- Dugria :- Attendant to the priest.
- Dauwa :- Arranger of the worship rituals
- Siakrak :- distributor of fruit of the sacrificial rituals
Kaskau and his council
- Kaskau :- The chief minister
- Yaksung :- Assistant to the chief minister
- Hajra :- Servant of Kaskau
- Kangreng :- Umbrella holder of Kaskau
- Kormo : Servant of Yaksung
- Khan Galim: Umbrella holder of Yaksung
- Khandol :- The collector of food and other required articles
The people who perform the roles listed above are exempted from taxation.
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. Educated reangs however shy away from agriculture and seek government jobs. 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 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 bride-groom has to spend to father-in-law's house for two years 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 Kokswmgma, 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 get marry a virgin. 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. The women wear a long cloth called Rnai, 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 moderization 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.
Dance and music
Dance is an integral part of Reang life. The Hojagiri folk dance of Riang sub tribe is rather well known all over the world.bihu is the most populer festival of reang tribes, naisingpara hojagiri group is the most populer groups all among them, late maniram reang is the founder of naisingpara hojagiri dance group. hojagiri is popular in tripura than other state.
Most of the disputed and differences are settled by the people of Kotor dofa, that is by the Rai and Kasko 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 Ker, Gonga Mwtai, Goria, Chitragupra, Hojagiri, Katangi Puja, Lampra Uathop. laxmi pooja is the very famous pooja, which is celebrate on karthik poornima, Religious observancse 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 main-stream Tripuri. An Okchai 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 (Rongtuk) 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. Bukhuksini 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 Mairangtwi 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 charainogh. 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.
- Gan-Chaudhuri, Jagadis. Tripura: The Land and its People. (Delhi: Leeladevi Publications, 1980) p. 10