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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tripura - visiting the North east state

Tripura a mesmerizing nature’s treasure-trove
Vintage forests - surving with nature

Tripura is one of the seven states in the north eastern part of India, located between 22°56” North and 24° 32” North Latitude and between 90° 09” East and 92° 20” East Longitude. It has extensive international border with Bangladesh and is bounded on the north, west, south and south-east by Bangladesh with east side having a common boundary with Assam and Mizoram. There is a common belief that the name of the state has originated from the presiding deity ‘Tripura Sundari’- the presiding deity of the land which is famous as one of the 51 peeths (Peeth - As per mythology, Lord Vishnu had cut off the body of Mata Sati into 51 pieces by Sudarshana Chakra and all these pieces fell at different places throughout the country) reverend by Hindu Pilgrims. Another theory is that the name of the state was originally ‘Tupira’ – meaning land adjoining water. It is stated that in the past, the kingdom of Tripura extended upto the Bay of Bengal, when its ruler were stated to have held fort from Garo Hills to Arakans. History of Tripura as an administrative unit dates back to the days of Maharajas, when the territory was a Indian sovereign state. It was an independent administrative unit under the Maharajas even during British Rule. It is significant to note that all though Tripura was conquered by British armed forces way back in 1761, no Political agents was appointed in the State till 1871 – till after a gap of over 100 years. The agreement of merger through accession was signed by the then Regent Maharani of Tripura on September 9, 1947 while Government of India took over the administration on October 15, 1949. Tripura attained full statehood on January 21, 1972.

The total area of Tripura is about 10,491 Square Kms. out of which the state has about 6,291 Sq. kms. under forest cover. The state is connected with rest of India through Assam by a railway track running from Guwahati to Lumding, then between Lumding & Badarpur by narrow gauge which runs through the North Cachar Hills and from Badarpur again by Broad gauge to Kumarghat via Karimganj-Panisagar-Dharmanagar, which is at a distance of 140 km from the capital town Agartala. By road also Tripura is well connected by the National Highway No.44 which connects Agartala with Sillong in Meghalaya and Guwahati in Assam. The journey time by road between Dhaka and Agartala is approximately 3 (three) hours. Agartala, capital of Tripura is also connected by air with Calcutta and Guwahati. The state has three more small Airports at Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailasahar, where during the past i.e. 1970’s the Indian Airlines used to offer services but now a days only small-chartered planes can land after prior information & permission from the concerned authorities.


Within the confines of its small geographical area, Tripura offers plenty of attractions for the tourists in the form of magnificent palaces (Ujjayanta Palace and Kunjaban Palace at Agartala and Neermahal - Lake Palace at Melaghar), splendid rock-cut carvings and stone images (Unakoti near Kailashahar, Debtamura near Amarpur and Pilak in Belonia Sub-divisions), important temples of Hindus and Buddhists including the famous Mata Tripureswari temple (one of the 51 Pithasthans as per Hindu mythology ) at Udaipur, vast natural as well as artificial lakes namely Dumboor lake in Gandacherra subdivision, Rudrasagar at Melaghar, Amarsagar, Jagannath Dighi, Kalyan Sagar, etc. at Udaipur, the beautiful hill station of Jampui hill Mizoram, wild life sanctuaries at Sepahijala, Gumti, Rowa and Trishna and richcultural heritage of Tribals, Bengalis and Manipuri communities residing in the state. For further details one can log onto http://tripura.nic.in/ttourism1.htm.

These places of tourist interests can be categorized into following categories –
1) Palaces - The former Maharajas had constructed beautiful palaces in different locations of the state. These palaces provide a glimpse of the royal past of this erstwhile princely state. The main palaces are – UjjayantaPalace, Kunjaban Palace, Malancha Niwas & Neermahal.
# Neermahal - Is situated 53 kms. from Agartala. This magnificent lake palace was constructed as a summer resort in 1930 by late Maharaja Birbikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur in the middle of a natural lake called Rudrasagar having an area of 5.35 Sq.Km., it is the only lake palace in the entire eastern India. The palace complex is a fusion of Hindu and Mughal architecture. There are mainly two parts of the palace - one on the western side known as Andar Mahal which was used by the royal family and another on the eastern side which was used for the security personnel and servants. There is a beautiful garden laid in the western side of the palace. In the garden there is an open stage where drama, theatre, etc. use to be organized. Maharajas used to go by motor boat to the palace from Rajaghat. There is a motor boat ghat inside the palace upto which the motor boat could go and there are two separate sets of stairs at the motor boat ghat - one for Maharaja and one for Maharani. During the winters a number of migratory birds also flock in the lake surrounding Neermahal.


Nature's bounty - Bamboo transported free by the river
2) Rock cut& Hindu temples - Tripura has beautiful rock cut carvings and stone images at Unakoti, Debtamura and Pilak. Most of these carvings are huge in size and made on vertical walls exposed to the open sky and have motifs attributable to both Hindu as well as Buddhist religions. The rock cut temples are located at Unakoti, Debatamura & Pilak. The notable Hindu temples are Mata Tripureshwari temple at Udaipur, Fourteen Goddess Temple at Old Agartala, Bhuveneshwari Temple at Udaipur, Benuban Vihar at Agartala etc. Some of the notable temples are -

i) Mata Tripuraeshwari Temple – Is situated in Udaipur which is about 55 Kms. from Agartala. The main temple is located almost 3 Kms. from main city of Udaipur, district headquarter of South Tripura District. This temple isone of the 51 pithasthans in India as per Hindu mythology. As per mythology, Lord Vishnu had cut off the body of Mata Sati into 51 pieces by Sudarshana Chakra and all these pieces fell at different places throughout the country and these places are known as pithasthans. It is said that 'right foot' of Mata Sati fell at Matabari. This pithasthan is also known as Kurma Pith because the shape of the temple premises resembles to that of "Kurma" namely tortoise. Inside the temple, the idol of Maa Kali is kept which is made of 'reddish black Kastic pathar.' Maa Kali’ is worshipped in her 'Soroshi' form in this temple. There is an idol of smaller size of Maa Kali called 'Chotto Maa 'and this image used to be carried by Maharajas of Tripura during "Mrigaya" namely hunting and also during war.The temple consists of square type sanctum of the typical Bengali hut type structure with a conical dome. The temple was constructed in 1501 A.D. by the then Maharaja Dhanya Manikya. In the eastern side of the temple there is a famous Kalyan Sagar where fishes and tortoises of huge size are found and devotees feed them with "muri" and biscuits. No fishing is permitted in the Kalyan Sagar. It is a belief amongst the locals that whenever any of the Tortoise nears its death, it climbs up the steps from the lake and dies in front of the temple door. Till recent past as per the tantric rituals, sacrifice of Pigeons, Hens & small goats were offered as sacrifice in the temple premises.

ii) Fourteen Goddess Temple - It is located about 14 Km. away from Agartala at a place called Old Agartala. In the face of continued fight with Shamser Gazi, Maharaja Krishna Manikya had shifted the capital from Udaipur to Old Agartala. It continued to be the capital till it was shifted to the present day Agartala. Near the sacred 14 goddess temple during the month of July every year a Kharchi festival is organised and thousands of pilgrims and devotees visit this festival.

iii) Deotamura – Located at a distance of 75 Kms. from Agartala, Deotamura is famous for its panels of rock carvings on the steep mountain wall on the bank of Gomati. There are huge images carved of Shiva, Vishnu, Kartika, Mahisasur Mardini Durga and other gods and goddesses. This is also called Chabimura whose literal meaning is a Hill of Pictures.These images have been found to date back to 15th-16th Century A.D.

iv) Bhuvaneswari Temple - On the right bank of river Gomati at Udaipur is found the ruins of a big palace built by Maharaja Govinda Manikya (1660-75 A.D.). The Bhuveneswari temple is situated adjacent to this palace. It finds close literary reference in Great poetRabindranath Tagore’s novels and drama namely Bisharjan and Rajarshi’.

v) Unakoti – is situated 178 Kms. from Agartala near Kailashahar in North District of Tripura. It is Shivite pilgrimage and dates back to 7th–9th century A.D, if not earlier. The marvelous rock carvings, murals with their primitive beauty, waterfalls are mesmerizing.Unakoti means one less than a crore and it is said that there are as many rock cut carvings available here. As per Hindu mythology, when Lord Shiva was going to Kashi along with one crore gods and goddesses, he made a night halt at this location. He asked all the gods and goddesses to wake up before sun rise and proceed for Kashi. It is said that in the morning, except Shiva himself, no one else could get up so set out for Kashi at the stipulated hour and the crow announced the arrival of dawn. Thus, except lord Shiva all the others turned to stone images as a result there exists one less than a crore stone images and carvings at Unakoti. These carvings are located at a beautifully landscaped forest area with green vegetation all around which add to the beauty of the carvings.

The images found at Unakoti are of mainly of two types namely rock-carved figures and stone images. Among the rock cut carvings, the central Shiva head and gigantic Ganesha figures deserve special mention. The central Shiva head known as ‘Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava’ is about 30 feet high including an embroidered head-dress which itself is 10 feet high. On each side of the head-dress of the central Shiva, there are two full size female figures - one of Durga standing on a lion and another female figure on the other side. In addition three enormous images of Nandi Bull are found half buried in the ground. There are various other stone as well as rock cut images at Unakoti.

3) Wild life Sanctuaries - About 2/3rd area of the state is under forest cover where different species of trees, orchids, birds and wild life are found. The major Wild life Sanctuaries are Sepahihjala Wild Life Sanctuary & Trishna Wild Life Sanctuary.

i) Sepahijala – Is situated at a distance of 25 Kms. from Agartala. Sepahijala covers an area of 18.532 km. More than 150 species of residential birds, migratory birds, orchid garden, boating facilities, wild life, botanical garden, zoo, elephant joy-rides, rubber and coffee plantation attracts the visitors. The famous spectacled monkey is found here.

ii) Trishna Wild Life Sanctuary - Trishna Wild Life Sanctuary is located at about 100 Km. away from Agartala in Belonia Subdivision of South Tripura District. Bison is the main attraction in this sanctuary, in addition to the resident and migratory birds.


4) Fresh Water Lakes & water bodies - Tripura is blessed with a large number of natural and artificial lakes throughout the state. To name a few larger ones are Dumboor, Rudrasagar & Kamalasagar. In addition, there are huge lakes at Udaipur namely Amarsagar, Kalyansagar, Jagannath Dighi, Mahadev Dighi and Sukh Sagar which were excavated by the then Maharajas. These lakes add beauty to the Udaipur town which is also known as City of temples and lakes.

Kamalasagar – Located at a distance of 30 Kms. from Agartala, this vast lake at the border of Bangladesh was excavated by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya in 15th century. On the bank of Kamalasagar, there is a famous temple of Goddess Kali dating back to 16th century. It is one of the excellent picnic spots in the state with scenic beauty.

Dumboor Lake – Located at a distance of 125 Kms. from Agartala, with an area of almost 41 sq.km. With an un-ending spell of luxuriant green vegetation all around, this lake stands out for her exceedingly charming beauty and 48 islands in the midst of the lake. Migratory birds, Water sports facilities are additional attractions. There is a Hydel Project near the lake from whereRiver Gomatioriginates and this is called Tirthamukh. The lake is at the confluence of rivers Raima and Sarma.Various species of migratory birds are noticed in the winter and it has rich reservoir of natural and cultured fishery.

Rudrasagar Lake - about 55 Km. away from Agartala near Melaghar having an area of 5.3 Sq.Km. is another big attraction. In the centre of the lake the famouslake palace of Tripura namely Neermahal is built. The lake witnesses alarge number of migratory birds in every winter. The visiting tourists can enjoy boating facility in the lake.

5) Jampui Hill - It is situated about 200 Km. away from Agartala and is the highest hill range in the state bordering Mizoram. The permanent seat of eternal spring is situated at an altitude of 3000’ above sea level. Jampui is famous for its charming landscape and bracing climate. The excellent climatic condition, green forests, beautiful orange garden, view of raising and setting sun are wonderful sight for tourists.

The hill range has 11 villages inhabited by Mizo (Lushai tribes) and also by Reang tribes. Population of the hill range is about 8,000 and the main occupation of the villagers is mainly orange cultivation. The temperature variation in the hill range is very nominal. During March to May variousspecies of orchids and other wild trees bear flowers. During rainy season the hill range is full of clouds and one can have the feeling of walking in the clouds. The sun rise and sun set in the hill range is a delight worth seeing. The natural beauty, the pleasant weather, various species of trees, orchids and orange gardens, hospitable people and rich cultural heritage makes it an ideal destination for the tourists. Thehighest peak of Tripura ‘Betalongchhip’falls in this hill range which is 3600 feet high and from where tourist can see the panoramic view of Mizoram, Chittagong hill tracts and various other hill ranges of Tripura.

Apart from the tourist places, the state has a vintage flavour of its own and appears to be suspended in time. Being green all around, the small rivers & rivulets, the thatched houses in the rural areas and the close association of the local tribes with nature are things which can only be imbibed by a visit to the state. A collage of photographs is placed below to present the true ethos of this small state -

A thatched roof roadside shop
Peeping across the border into Bangladesh
Tea garden workers
The beautiful Manu river
Countryside view
Bygone era - frozen in time - a thatched hut
The above photographs were shot during the journey from Agartala to Silchar. There are very picturesque places but as one has to move along with the para-military convoy, one cannot stop to shoot photographs. Many of them have been shot from a moving vehicle.

Bountiful water bodies

Migratory birds in the water bodies


Palace view

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