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Kirit Pradyut Deb Barman Manikya Bahadur, head of the Tripura royal family, speaks about his dynasty and its Shillong link with RR
KIRIT PRADYUT Deb Barman Manikya Bahadur, also known as Maharaja PBK Manikya, heads the Tripura royal dynasty that was close to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and now strikes a balance with the Left Front government in that state.
After the Mikado dynasty in Japan, the Tripura royalty has the longest unbroken chain of 185 kings. “Our state treasure funded Rs20000 to Shantiniketan for its upkeep. On Tagore’s insistence, the then Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya in 1928 funded inventor Jagadish Chandra Bose for his higher studies in England,” Pradyut said.
Tripura was an independent hill realm merged with India in 1949. Soldiers of the kingdom fought alongside the British during World War 2 to stop the march of the Japanese army in the Northeast. Pradyut’s granduncle was subsequently awarded the Burma Star.
Two of Tagore’s books, Bisorjon and Mukut, were based on the dynasty that awarded him the Bharat Bhaskar, the only recognition for the Nobel laureate in India. The award was given by Bir Bikram Manikya in 1940. “Tagore was too old to come and receive the award and so he was given the award in Shantiniketan. He first visited Tripura in 1888 at the invitation of the Tripura court,” said Pradyut, adding Tagore enjoyed a relationship with three Tripura kings – Radha Kishor Manikya, Bir Bikram Manikya and Bir Chandra Manikya.
Tripura Castle, a royal heritage hotel based in Shillong, has in a guestroom a bed and a desk that Tagore used. “We brought the furniture from Tripura,” said Pradyut. His grandfather, who bought the castle as a summer resort, had built Neermahal (Lake Palace) besides the region’s first airport at Agartala.
About Royal Tripura Foundation (RTF), Pradyut said that it sponsors 150 students annually to pursue their fields of education. “RTF also supports social organizations and Tripura Student Federation,” he said. It has started an English medium school in Maichang, one of the most backward villages in Tripura, conducts three health camps annually, mostly in Dhalai, which is largely affected by meningitis and conducts sporting activities.
“The Manikya Cup is organized every year to encourage football among the Tripura youth. RTF is also into properly tapping water resources besides providing ambulance services,” said Pradyut whose mother was recently conferred with an award by Dhaka for accommodating 50,000 refugees in the Tripura palace compound during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Identifying religious tourism as a potential money-spinner for Tripura, Pradyut slammed the Left Front government for neglecting Neermahal and other monuments linked to the royalty. He also criticized the Tripura government for frequently taking the royalty to court and trying to obliterate any signs of Manikya dynasty. “The renaming of roads and places is an attempt to delete the name of the indigenous kingdom and create a perception that it never existed,” he said.
“The people are angry and there is an expectation that RTF will bail them out of any problem. The CPM is a threat to the state as it tries to undermine the tribal cultures and traditions,” Pradyut said.