By Pinak Pani Datta:
It was the summer of 2009. I was spending the vacation at my ancestral home at Dologaon, Kailashahar. After a heavy lunch one afternoon, I was too bored to watch TV or read any slow novel. So, I set out on an exploration. I asked my nephew to come with me and we two rolled on a new Hero Honda Glamour. It was a trip without a plan…
The Destination: There is an ancient tourist destination just a few kilometers north from Kailashahar, Tripura in the lush green hills of Unokoti District. Even though I had never visited it before, I had heard stories about the place. It boasted of one less than ten million rock carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses.
The Myth: Since I was a kid, I had been listening to the myth about the place. My grandmother used to say that there was a king named Jujaru-FA who ruled the place many, many years ago. One day he was blessed by a visit by Lord Shiva who granted him a boon on one condition- he had to make sculptures of 1 crore different Hindu gods and goddesses before the next sunrise. Jujaru got to work and had finished 9,999,999 sculptures when the first sunray touched the ground. Thus, he could not complete his objective and named the place Unokoti, meaning one less than a crore.
The Location: Unokoti gives you a divine and spiritual feeling with a natural fragrance. Just as you enter the site, you see long unbroken chains of stairs going up and down the hills. They connect the whole area and without them it is quite possible to get lost amongst the millions of rock images in the jungle.
The central part is like a necklace of the jungle. There is a year round waterfall and at its base there is a small pond with fishes, where you can take a bath too. Just beside the falls is the mighty ‘Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava,’ a 30 feet high rock image of Lord Shiva.
The Art style differs from the classical and depicts typical tribal features both in decoration and structure which makes them unique. The three rock-cut Ganesha figures on a rock fall; downstream of a local spring which flows right on their heads gives us the illusion of a bath scene.
The Main Attraction: Its importance as a sacred place has decreased considerably in the recent years. However, every year in the month of April, a seven-day festival called the Ashokashtami is celebrated there. Devotees from the older generation still believe that one bath in that natural tank every year will wash away their sins and will lead them to heaven. Unokoti is the most sacred place in Tripura during Ashokashtami, Makar Sankranti and Maha Shivaratri.
They say North-east is a paradise unexplored. Well, of course it is and I am a witness to this. There are places where you go and find nothing more than a board from the Archeological Survey of India. But, in reality, the place deserves much more than that.
Such is the case with the Unokoti . A district was named after it recently, but very few Tripuris and even lesser Indians really know about its historic and artistic importance.
(The pictures below have been clicked by the writer)