Land of Tripura
The state is having three districts with ten sub-divisions. The three districts are: Tripura West with Agartala as its head quarter (which is also the state capital), Tripura North and Tripura South with Kailasahar and Udaipur respectively as district head-quarters. The state lies approximately between latitude 22 56° and 24° 32 North and longitude 91° 10 and 92° 21 East. Bordered by Bangladesh on the West, South and North, by Assam on the North-East and by Mizoram on the East, the state is connected with the rest of India by only one road which runs through the hills to the border of Cachar district in Assam. Now Tripura is connected by railways up to Manughat.
The climate of the state is generally hot and humid. The average maximum temperature is 35° C in May-June and the average minimum 10.5° C in December-January. The average rainfall is in the neighbourhood of 230 cm per annum. The monsoon starts generally in April and continues upto September. The principal seasons of the state are similar to those of the neighbouring states. Summer starts in March and continues upto May, and is followed by the rainy season extending over about three-four months (May-August).
The pleasant season has a comparatively small lease of life lasting only for about two months (September and October). Then follows winter which continues upto February. There are valleys covering about 40 per cent of the state's area; the soil there is rich alluvial, deposits fertile with, and, therefore, suitable for the cultivation of paddy, jute, oil seeds, pulses, fruits and vegetables. About 270,000 hectares of land (net) area are put to cultivation of which in about 175,000 hectares cultivation takes place more than once, thus bringing the gross area of cultivation to 445,000 hectares. But due to heavy pressure of population on land the average agricultural holding is quite small.
The state's reserved forest covers an area of 3588 sq. km. or about 34 per cent of the total area (1990-91). Inclusive of some area proposed to be reserved (259 sq.km.) and unclassified forest area (2445 sq.km.) the total forest area of the State should be 6292 sq. km. or about 60 per cent of the total area. The total quantity of timber, firewood and bamboo produced in the forest in 1990-91 is reported to be' of about 184,400 cubic meters of which the proportion of timber is only 27.1 per cent, and those of firewood and bamboo are respectively 53.7 and 19.2 per cent.
The Gumti, the Khowai, the Manu, the Haorah, the Muhuri and are some important rivers of Tripura. The first one, Gumti or Gumti, is the largest river which "receives a number of south-flowing streams and cuts across the ranges in a steep-sided valley from east to west before emerging out of the hills near Radhakishorepur. There are a number of waterfalls in its channel through the Dombur hill, and the landscape in the neighbourhood is exceedingly picturesque. The Gumti is considered to be the most sacred of all the rivers in Tripura. As in north India, the Ganges is loved and respected by all and considered to be the symbol' of hopes and fears. In Tripura the river Gumati is believed to gush down the earth from its heavenly abode. As legends has, the elder of the two daughters of a priest fall in love with the coursed prince in disguise of python, who got married with him. This angered priest father, killed the python, who in the eyes of elder daughter used to be a handsome prince got shocked and sadden by this, and killed herself, by drowning in the water flowing where the head of python was buried, and the younger sister also followed the same path. The two sisters formed two rivers namely Raima and Saima, the two joins to form the river Gumti. The place where head of python was buried, sweetest fragrance flower Khumpui had grown from this place the Gumti river is considered to have originated. From this Khum (flower) +Twi (Water)> khumtwi> gumtwi>gumti>gomoti and derived. that is why Gumti is most sacred river to Tripuri People. The source of the river is taken to be Tirthamukh, where in lies the beautiful Dombur falls believed to be one of the most important holy places. On Pous Sankranti (or Makar Sankranti) day, which is Hangrai to Tripuri people, hundreds of thousands gather at the river mouth and take a holy dip in the sacred river. The religious sentiment has found expression in the name of the river Gumti and its source Dumbur. The latter has derived from the Tripuri Word dungur meaning deep water fall.
According to some, the names of the two rivers, Gumti and Manu, suggest early colonisation of Tripura by the Aryans. But in truth is not so, it is only the recent phenomenon and corrupt pronunciation of Tripuri names. For Gumti is said to be a tributary of the river Saraju over whose bank the capital of Ayodhya stood. But this has no basis and authenticity, like the Haorah river is corrupt form of Tripuri word Saidra (saidra>haidra>haodra>haorah) to which the indigenous Tripuri still call by this name. This clearly shows the influence of the indo-aryan influxes in Tripura. The famous pilgrim spot in Tripura, Unakoti, is only about ten kilometres away form Kailasahar. Further, a few names in hills of Tripura like Hryshyamukh, Tirthamukh, etc., also suggest a link with Sanskrit language. Thus from the names of the hills and rivers of Tripura it seems the Tripuri had come in contact in the distant past with the indo-Aryans. None of the rivers of the state is said to have undergone any sudden or abrupt change. In different places river banks appears differently. In the hills they are of steep and rugged rocks covered with fern and other plants; in the plains they are abrupt but not very high. The river-beds are usually sandy in the hills and clayey in the plains. There are no artificial canal systems in the state. In the low-lying areas there are numerous swamps and marshes. Inland water-traffic is conspicuous by its absence.
The flora of Tripura, Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya Arunachala Pradesh and Bangladesh are mostly common. The greater part of the territory of Tripura was, even 60 years ago, densely covered with primeval forests. Even today the mountainous eastern part of the state is covered with deciduous and evergreen forests. Different types of plants, herbs, grasses, creepers, bamboos, trees, vegetables, roots and fruits are available in both primeval forests and cultivated fields. Pineapple, mango, lichi, guava, betel-nut and leaf, lemon, banana, jackfruit, orange and black berries are abundantly available. The trees commonly\available in the forests are: Amalaki (Emblica myrobalan), Amda (hog plum Spondias piunata), Balda (Terminalia balerica), Chalita (Dillenia Indica), Chamal (Artocarpus chaplasha), chhatim (Alstonia scholaris), Dongar (Ficus hispida), Gamir (Gmelina,arborea), Garjan (Dipterocarpus turbinatus), Hargaial (Dillenia pentagyna), Jir (Ficus retusa) Karai (Albizia procera), Mandar (Erythrina indica). popatoon (Toona liliata), Royna (Aphanomixis polystachya), SOIzalu (Cassia fistula), Udal (Sberclllia villosa), Vat (Ficus bengalensis), etc.
In plant composition the state may be divided mainly into two regions: (a) evergreen and (b) most deciduous forests. The former is characterised by a large number of species whose lower middle and top canopies remain evergreen with tall clear trunks. The other species in the forest may be deciduous or semi-deciduous but their presence does not affect the evergreen nature of the forest as a whole. Bamboos and canes are grown in abundance and small palms are common. There are numerous climbers in such type of forests. The undergrowth is often a tangle of canes. A large number of herbaceous species comprises ground vegetation. Evergreen forests which once covered almost the entire area of the state were in the past practically inaccessible, and, therefore, had an unhindered growth. Most of the areas in Dharmanagar, Kailasahar, Bilonia, Sabrum and Kamalpur sub-divisions, and the portion of the Sadar sub-division including Teliamura were covered with these luxuriant tropical evergreen forests. But the depletion of the forests began with World War II to meet the increasing demand for wood products. The primitive method of shifting cultivation by the tribals (jhooming) also contributed greatly towards decimating the forest areas. At present, the evergreen forest is limited only to areas not suitable for Jhoom and plough cultivation, viz., in patches of stiff non-cultivable hill slopes and rocky river-banks. Most deciduous forest can be sub-divided into two categories, viz., those characterised by the presence of Sal (Shorea Robusta Gaertn), and those by the absence of it, called moist deciduous mixed forest. The former category is found in the Bilonia, Udaipur, Sonamura and Sadar subdivisions. In certain areas particularly in Sonamura and Sadar sub-divisions, the Sal forest areas have been reduced to a secondary savannah where much of the area Considerable breakthrough seems to have been achieved with the successful introduction of rubber plantation in Tripura· since mid-sixties. While in 1965 rubber plantation was confined to an area of 49 hectares only, in December 1975, the area was extended to about 575 hectares and in 1995-96 the Forest Development and Plantation Corporation has brought 6,641 hectares of land under rubber cultivation. The production of rubber has gone up from 28.18 metric tons in 1977-78 to 1,850 tons in 1995-96 enabling the Corporation to earn Rs 6.51 crores. The Corporation has set up 43 rubber processing centres in the state, and hopes to achieve a target of producing 10,000 tons of rubber bringing 55,000 hectares of land under its cultivation by the year 2000. Apart from increasing production, the scheme also aims at the rehabilitation of the shifting cultivators. The Tripura Rehabilitation Plantation Corporation claims to have rehabilitated already 1966 families by 1995-96. The state government and the Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous District Council have taken a joint initiative to rehabilitate about 15,000 tribal shifting cultivators in rubber plantation scheme. In fact rubber has been identified as one of the thrust areas in Tripura, in view of its suitability to the terrain and the acceptability amongst the people. Studies have shown that about 100,000 hectares of area in the state can be brought under rubber plantation. The area under rubber cultivation at present is estimated to be about 23,500 hectares, which is the second largest, after Kerala. The yield @ 1,500 kg per hectare and the quality of rubber are also comparable to Kerala’s plantations. In fact, Tripura has recently been declared the "Second Rubber Capital of India" by the Rubber Board.
The state government has taken up an ambitious programme to increase the area under rubber plantations by another 20,000 MT by the end of Ninth Plan i.e., by 2001-02 AD, with assistance from the Central Government, the Rubber Board and the World Bank. As a result, it is expected that the rubber production, which is presently about 5,000 MT per annum, will increase to about 20,000 MT. The state government is very keen to promote processing of rubber and setting up of rubber-based industries in the state. TFDPC (a state government undertaking) has already set up a Centrifugal Latex Processing factory, with installed capacity of 5.76 TPD, which is being increased to 13.44 TPD. The state government is also setting up a Process-cum-Product Development Centre at a cost of Rs.12 million , with a view to create basic infrastructure for promotion of rubber-based industries. The availability of good quantity of high quality rubber offers ample scope for setting up of rubber-based industries in the state.
The dominant form of life in all the water covering the surface of the earth is the fishes, the largest class of vertebrates. There is hardly a lake, stream, river or pond that does not contain some kind of fish. The rivers in Tripura flow into the river Meghna in Bangladesh, and this has somewhat reduced the scope of availability of river fishes in the State. However, during monsoon (June-August) when the rivers swell enormously and inundate the adjoining low-lying areas, certain fishes, viz., cartelagenous rays and large-sized catfishes migrate from the major rivers of Bangladesh into the territory. One important migratory fish, Hilsa is not generally found. In the rivers and jheels of Tripura are found fishes of the species chital and pholui belonging to the group Notopteridae. Fishes related to the group cytariophysi, viz., carps, catfishes and loaches are also commonly found in almost all rivers. Small in size but bright and silvery in colour, some of their species like chela, laltari, chapkhori (or chapila), etc., are popular among the common people for their taste and moderate price. The major carps of the subfamily cyprininae belonging to the species laltla, rui, lallibaush, ghania. bhagna, mrigal, etc., are also raised by the households in their own ponds and tanks. Smaller varieties of the same origin like sarputi, puti, etc., and different varieties of pabda (silvery white fish) belonging to the Silundae family are also found in abundance in jheels, tanks and rivers. These fishes are quite tasty and nutritious, and are often a good source of income. 'Aristocrats' among them are rui, katla andpabda. Other fishes having their common habitat in shallow waters and small streams found throughout the State are tangra, gulasha, aeer, bojori, all belonging to the family Bagridae; singh or singhee of the family saccobranchidae, kakaya (or kai), chanda, the only species representing, respectively, the families of xenentodontidae and centropomidae. Most of these fishes make excellent dishes and are liked much by the people. The state's large marshy and water areas offer ample scope for a good crop of closed-water fishes every year. The State's fishery department has taken steps in this direction. Training facilities are offered to the actual pisciculturists in technical aspects and material assistance is extended for induced breeding of high-yielding varieties of crops. The production offish has exceeded 21,000metric tons in 1990-91from 12,000in 1986-87.The Gumti reservoir is exploited for pisciculture by members of fishermen's .co-operative societies which include the tribals of the adjoining areas. The marketing of fish collected from the reservoir is done through five permanent fish stalls established in five major towns of the state.
The perching birds considered as the most advanced group of birds, they account for more than one-half of all modem avian species. An important distinguishing feature is their keen sense of organs, a highly efficient nervous system and a high rate of body activity that produces the highest body temperature found in the animal kingdom. Small to medium sized, and feet adopted for holding onto branches, most of these birds have a well-developed voice apparatus and are distinguished by their songs and calls.
The most important species of perching birds found in Tripura are: the jungle crow or Dora kak (c. Macrorhynchus), red bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer and jocosus), green bulbul (c.aurifrous), king crow or pechya (Dicrurus adsimilis), Mynah (Acredotheris tristis), house sparrow (Passer domesticlls) or chorai, Indian Tree Pie (Dendrocitta vagabllnda) or taroka, and common babbler (Turdoides caudatlls) or chilchil. Also found in the same group are Jerdon's chlorpsis, a grass green bird of an approximate size of a bulbul, the song birds shama (copsychus malabaricus) having almost the same size as that of a bulbul, with a bit long tail, magpie robin (c.saularis) or doyel and the tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) or tuntuni, as it is popularly known, the crop-raiding baya weaver bird (Ploceus philippinus) or babui which move about in flocks and the black-headed oriole or haldi pakhi, etc. Babul birds are of the size of a sparrow with its upper parts streaked heavily with dark brown and the breast with yellow colour. The haldi pakhis are of the size of a mynah and are sometimes found near human habitations.
It is quite interesting to see the making of a nest by the green-coloured little tuntunif with a few pieces of leaves and grass. Like any other bird's nests, their attempts in building a nest display a fine workmanship; it is indeed remarkable in view of the fact that the birds have only their beak and legs to serve as tools. The forests in the vicinity of Rudrasagar beel are the nesting grounds of a variety of birds.
Noted for their beauty, colour and variety and some for their call or song are tuntuni, bulbul, mynah or maina, haldi pakhi, slim but long-tailed bhating, glossy steel coloured and sparrow-sized migratory species of swallow (Hinmdo rustica) or balia and munia. During the summer months. one hears the songs of the Indian cuckoo (Cuculus micropternus), popularly known as bou-katha-kao. It has derived this name as its call sounds somewhat like this which, if translated literally into English, means 'My lady, speak out'. In Rudrasagar beel of Sonamura sub-division is seen pancowri, a cormorant-like water bird of the size of a kite. Its colour is black with silvery streaks on the back and soft brown head and neck and whitish chin and throat. With a long and pointed bill, slender and snake-like neck, the bird feeds on fish, crabs, frogs, etc.
The other avian fauna of Tripura include jungle fowl, owl, kite, parrot, kingfisher, woodpecker, vultures, flowerpicker, duck, pigeon, etc. Besides myriads of protozoans, there are spongilla, coelenterates, helminth-parasites, butterflies, locusts, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, musseh, slugs and snails. The common wild mammalia at present on the wane due to economic development and urbanaisation are elephant, bison, deer, leopard, jackal, monkey, cat, pig, dog, etc. By far the most valuable wild life of the state is the elephant which are sometimes seen in herds in the forests