Tripura is the 3rd smallest state in India. It has some best-kept secrets of its own. Statistically, it’s not the most famous tourist destination in India, but this small state is protecting one of the world’s most important heritage in the form of a bas-relief.
The journey to Unakoti from the state’s capital, Agartala is almost 159.8 km by car.
Beautiful dense forests surround the rock sculptures. The serene wonder makes the scenario, a treat to the eyes. One will start their jaunt from the entrance of Unakoti hills with a tinge of freshness. The trip to the destination is a tiring one, but totally worth it.
The word “Unakoti” means “One less than a crore” in Bengali. Unakoti rock carvings reside in the Raghunandan hills of the Northeastern Indian state of Tripura.
It has always been a famous pilgrimage site for the Hindus living in the state since the 7th century. There are various temples and pilgrimage sites all over India but, this one stands out. “Unakoti” is a collection of enormous bas-relief carvings on the side of the rocky hills.
The archaeologists are not clear about the formation of the carvings on the rock. Legend has it that, once upon a time, Lord Shiva was going to Kashi hills along with one crore Gods and Goddesses. They stopped by at the Raghunandan hills for some rest. Shiva ordered the Gods and Goddesses to wake up before sunrise and proceed for Kashi hills.
On the next morning, Lord Shiva found no one awake except, himself. Out of anger, Shiva cursed all the asleep gods and goddesses to remain as a stone forever. As a result, the formation of one less than a crore stones occurred in the hills. Thus, it was named “Unakoti”.
The Unakoti hills are a hub for spectacle monkeys and a variety of birds. On the top, there is a shrine for Shiva and Vishnu. A variety of carved stone sculptures accumulate in a cave-like small house. Lord Shiva is believed to be the creator of magical rocks.
But, the priests of Unakoti also have another myth to share about the emergence of the bas-relief.
The myth is related to a black-smith named Kallu Kumar. He was a devotee of Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva. Kallu Kumar asked Lord Shiva if he would grant him the wish of accompanying them to Kailash.
Lord Shiva ordered Kallu to carve 10 million images of Lord Shiva and other deities before the dawn of the following day. He would only be allowed to accompany them if he is able to accomplish his task.
As the sun rose the next day, Kallu Kumar was one short of crore images to be carved on the stones. This gave Lord Shiva an excuse to leave Kallu Kumar behind and following this incident, the hills were named ‘Unakoti”.
The bas-relief sculptures of Unakoti are the largest ones in India. The style of carving depicts that, they were created centuries ago. The images of Shiva are 30 feet tall. One can also find Durga, Ganesha, Vishnu, Hanuman and Ravana images sculpt all around the hills. Unakoti celebrates two huge pilgrimage fairs every year. One being the Solar festival of Makar Sankranti in January and another, the Ashokastami festival in April.
Reports suggest that rock art is losing considerable scale due to years of neglect. “Archeological Survey of India” recently adopted the heritage site and since then, the situation has been better. The government of India is approaching UNESCO to declare it as a World Heritage site officially.
Such archeological heritage is like a blessing to experience. The green vegetation and the spring flowing down from the hills to the rivulet is an added bonus.