Introduction / History
The Tipera are primarily concentrated in the Tripura Plains, which are located in the state of Tripura, northeastern India. As their name suggests, they are indigenous to this area. They are the largest tribe in the state, and their land once extended over much of Bengal, Assam, and northern Burma. The ruling family over this vast region belonged to the Tipera tribe.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Tipera's native language, Kok Borok, is a Baric language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman language family. The phrase kok borok literally means "language people." Kok Borok is the mother tongue of a majority of the tribes in Tripura, and it is the language used in primary schools. There are three main dialects of Kok Borok: Debbarma, Riang, and Halam.
The Bodo, who are ancestors of the Tipera, were once the most important Indo-Mongoloid people in all of eastern India. Even now, their Tiperan descendants have special legal privileges.
In Tripura, many of the state services are reserved for "scheduled tribe" candidates. (The scheduled tribes formerly belonged to a class known as "the untouchables." When India became independent in 1947, "untouchability" was abolished by law.) Today, due to the official state policy of favoring indigenous tribes in matters of social justice and economic affairs, the Tipera have preference in public services, education, land grants, and resettlement projects.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Tipera are primarily farmers. Traditionally, they lived as semi-nomads and used the slash and burn method of farming. However, in 1976, the government moved the Tipera to the plains and introduced them to settled cultivation. They are still trying to adjust to this new lifestyle. Those living in the plains grow jute, rice, wheat, and sugar cane. Their biggest fear is the seasonal cyclones that flood the area and cause much damage to the crops and villages.
Not all of the Tipera are farmers or farm laborers; some work in the state's industries. They include weaving cloth, milling rice and flour, canning fruit, and producing bamboo and leather items.
The Tipera are known as poor, careless, and not at all industrious. Without a medical college in Tripura State, their state of health is understandably poor. In addition, they have no access to pure drinking water.
There are very few towns in the plains region. The Tipera generally live in small village settlements that are located near the river valleys. Their tiny, one-room houses are made of temporary materials-usually mud or bamboo. A few houses have tin walls, and there is occasionally a home made of wood with a tile roof. Each village is divided into clans and castes, and is run by a headman.
The Tipera only marry within their own tribe. Polygamy is permitted, but rare. Young people are free to choose their own marriage partners, although they must first receive permission from their parents. Promiscuity before marriage is freely tolerated among the Tipera, but accidental pregnancies lead to immediate marriage. Married couples usually do not have their own homes until they have had several children.
Tipera women are especially fond of wearing jewelry, which can be bought from Bengali craftsmen.
The Tipera practice ethnic religions, which include worshiping the gods of fire, water, and the forest. The Tipera believe that they must appease these spirits in order to have bountiful harvests. They believe that they are surrounded by spirits that affect their welfare and health. They also believe that after death each man goes to the "underworld" and begins re-living his previous life.
What Are Their Needs?
The Tipera living in the plains have a greater exposure to technology than those in the more remote regions. However, they also have more exposure to other religions; they are surrounded by Hindus, Buddhists, and Lamaists. Christian laborers are needed to go into the plains and share the love of Christ with this tribe.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Tipera.
* Pray that Tipera believers will have opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Tipera towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of India's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will raise up teams of intercessors who will stand in the gap for these precious people.
Bethany World Prayer Center