Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Wednesday inaugurated the seven-day famous "Kharchi Puja" in the state's erstwhile capital Puran Habeli.
The centuries-old Puja was inaugurated by the Chief Minister in the presence of a host of ministers, dignitaries and people from different parts of the country, officials said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has greeted everyone, especially the people of Tripura on the occasion of the auspicious Puja.
"Greetings to everyone, especially the people of Tripura on the start of the auspicious Kharchi Puja. May Chaturdash Devata bless everyone with happiness, good health and prosperity", the Prime Minister said in a tweet.
Deb said a big "mela" (fair) has been organised in connection with the "Kharchi Puja" where the main themes are "save water" and "drugs free Tripura".
The annual "Kharchi Puja" and festival is meant to cleanse the sins of mortal souls. Originally a Hindu tribals' festivity, it is now observed by all communities and religions.
With colourful marquees, illuminations, religious rites and chanting of "mantras" amid drum beats, the festival features 14 deities -- Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartik, Ganesha, Brahma, Abadhi (God of water), Chandra, Ganga, Agni, Kamdev and Himadri (Himalaya). As per the tradition, the week-long festival began with a colourful procession.
All deities and priests were escorted by Tripura Police personnel, who also presented a guard of honour to the chief royal priest known as "Raj Chantaia".
Thousands of devotees joined them en route to Howrah river for the customary bath.
"The worship starts with the dipping of 14 deities in the Howrah river, followed by the sacrifice of 108 animals in the presence of hundreds of thousands of devotees, all at government expense," writer and historian Salil Debbarma told IANS.
For the past several decades, the Tripura government has been bearing the festival's expenses, living up to the agreement with the erstwhile royal family of Tripura.
"The state government is abiding by the 1949 merger agreement with the royal family to uphold the faith of the tribals year after year," Debbarma said, adding that "Kharchi Puja" is the biggest festival for the Hindu tribals in the northeastern region.
On an average, 10-15 lakh people gather from all over the country and neighbouring Bangladesh to join "Kharchi Puja".
At the end of the 517-year rule by 184 kings, on October 15, 1949, the erstwhile princely state of Tripura came under the control of the Indian government after a merger agreement was signed between Kanchan Prabha Devi, then regent maharani, and the Indian Governor General.
The merger agreement made it mandatory for the Tripura government to continue the sponsorship of 14 temples including the Mata Tripura Sundari Temple (one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in the country) run by the Hindu princely rulers.
This continued for around seven decades. A full-fledged division - "Public Place of Worship (PPW)" or "Debarchan Vibhag" - under district magistrates in four of Tripura's eight districts now bears this responsibility and the entire expenditure of these temples in Tripura.
Debbarma said: "For over 78 years and until 1838, Puran Habeli was the capital of then undivided Tripura, which included large parts of Sylhet, Brahmanbaria and Comilla districts of then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh."
It was king Krishna Manikya Bahadur (1760-1761) who shifted the capital from southern Tripura's Udaipur to Puran Habeli in 1760.
The temple of 14 Gods constructed at that time still stands. In 1838, the capital was shifted to Agartala from Puran Habeli by king Krishna Kishore Manikya Bahadur (1830-1849).