Unakoti is one of the most famous and amazing tourist destinations of Tripura. A mountain surrounded by carved sculptures on the hills of one less than one crore deities, as the name means in Bengali, is bound to mesmerize any visitor with its magical charm. These sculptured hills are situated in the Unakoti District, Kailasahar subdivision in Tripura. It is a Shaivite place of worship of the Pal-era which as per carbon dating was old as 7th to 9th centuries. Apart from the sculptures, one cannot miss the tantalizing waterfalls there. One can wonder on what spell usage these sculptures were chiseled at that early period of history.
Unakoti is situated 10kms from Kailasahar and 178kms from Agartala, capital city of Tripura. Before four decades the road accessibility was not good, however the scenario is changed after the roads developed. A diversion road runs from Dharmanagar-Kailasahar connecting road upto the place of pilgrimage. One can avail buses from Agartala city or Dharmanagar train route or simply hire a cab to visit Unakoti. The journey takes 20 minutes from Kailasahar and 45 minutes from Dharmanagar. There are also many Government lodges and resorts to stay in Kailasahar for the visitors.
Sculptures at Unakoti
Idols of Gods and Goddesses are scattered on the hilly terrains. At the main peak there are sculptures of Uma-Maheshwar, five faced Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Hanuman and Ravana. The sculpture of Shiva on the mountain is famous as the Lord of Unakoti called as “Unakoteshwar” or “Kaal Bhairab” which is 30 feet in height. The four faced sculpture of Durga is very prominent except one face is damaged. On the other hand four huge Nandi Bull scultures are found still buried half below the earth.
A beautiful spring is descending down the hill terraces which has filled the cavern, called “Sikakund” and then danced down in sprightly space. There is a cool and refreshing pond named “Cherra”. Every year during Makar Sankranti and Ashokastami there a big fair is organized and people from all over India and abroad also visits Unakoti to take a dip in the Holy water of Sitakund and worship Lord Shiva there. Many Buddhists visit Unakoti for meditations.
Mythological Significance of Unakoti
There is a legend that once Lord Shiva along with all other Gods wanted to visit Banaras or Varanasi. When they reached Raghunandan Hill they decided to spend the night over there. However, at dawn only Mahadev woke up for the rest of the journey. Lord Shiva got angry on all other Gods since nobody woke up to continue the travel, so he left alone and cursed the others to turn into stone carvings and remain on the hills forever.
Another story tells about a sculpture called, Kalu Kamar who in his dream was instructed to build one crore Gods sculptures. However he created one less than one crore sculptures and the last one he did not complete. Thus the name given “Unakoti” one less than a crore.
History of Unakoti
A 15th generation descendant of King Jujhar Fa, a Shiva disciple who started the Tripurabda (Tripura Calender), prayed for Lord Shiva in a village called Chhambulnagar on the banks of the river Mau. It is mentioned in “Rajmala”, that Chhambulnagar was situated near Unakati. Some believe that Shiva resides in Kailash and hence the name of the place Kailasahar comes from.
Ashokastami festival is held in Unakoti at a very large scale and a huge fair also is organized during this period. This festival is celebrated every year during March/April. The Holy bathe in the Sitakund and the fair are the two magnetic attractions for tourists all over. Along with Ashokastami, Shiva ratri and Makar Sankranti are the other two important festivals at Unakoti. Many rituals and customs are performed during these festivals. Many saints or sadhus will visit this fair from the Himalayas and perform some secret religious rituals.
Conservation of Unakoti
Due to earlier neglect towards the site, many sculptures have suffered degradation. From the time that Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has adopted Unakoti, the condition has improved. However a lot of excavations are still remaining to be undertaken. Government of India has applied in UNESCO to declare Unakoti as one of the World Heritage Sites and has also granted Rs 12 crore to the state for developing the area and continues the historical excavations. With the sculpted surrounding hills, the sacred springs, the birds chirping and the peaceful connection with nature and spiritual world will always uplift Unakoti as one of the best tourist places to visit in India.