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 in the open atmosphere.
Unakoti: It is Shaiba (Saivite) pilgrimage and dates back to 7th ? 9th centuries if not earlier.The marvellous rock carvings, murals with their primitive beauty, waterfalls are not to be missed. Unakoti means one less than a crore and it is said that these many rock cut carvings are 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 Lord Shiva set out for Kashi himself cursing the others to become stone images. As a result we have 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 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. Every year a big fair popularly known as ?Ashokastami Mela? is held in the month of April which is visited by thousands of pilgrims.
The Unakoti Tirtha located about 180 km from Tripura's capital, Agartala, and just about 8 km from the sub-divisional headquarters of Kailasahwar town, is a unique place which bears no resemblance to any other place in the country in terms of sheer grandeur and artistry.
A number of legends and myths are associated with the site and people in the region revere it as a holy place. One of the stories being told about the site is that a renowned sculptor Kalukumar saw Lord Shiva in his dream. He was asked by the Lord to carve out one crore images in a single night to make the site as sacred as Varanasi. The sculptor, along with his associates worked all night and were able to almost complete the creation of one crore sculptures. However, when Kalukumar was just short of one sculpture, the idea dawned on him to carve out his own figure to attain immortality but before he could complete his work, day broke out and the massive task of one crore sculptures and figures remained incomplete.
Yet another legend is that one crore gods and goddesses and their followers led by Lord Shiva were on their way to Varanasi. They expressed a wish to rest for the night. In the morning none of the deities were able to rise at the break of dawn except Lord Shiva. Others had turned into stone. Hence, the place got its name Unakoti.
Among the rock-cut sculptures is a 33-ft-high bust of Lord Shiva. It includes an 11-ft-high headgear which is now partly broken. The bust is the central figure in the complex and is locally called Unakotiswara Kalabhairava. The bust of Shiva is identified from the third eye and a trident. There are two figures seated on either side of the bust. One of the figures is believed to be that of the goddess Durga seated on a lion while the other one is believed to be that of Ganga astride a capricorn.
Another three-eyed figure some distance away is believed to be that of Surya or Lord Vishnu. A massive Ganesh figure is also carved in the complex while there is a chaturmukha Shivlinga nearby. Among other rock-cut and stone images are those of Vishnu, Nandi, Narasimha, Ravana, Hanuman, and several unidentified deities. The consensus among archeologists is that although the predominant influence of the Shiva cult is obvious, the sculptures were also influenced by several other cults like Tantric, Shakti, and Hatha yogis. It is also inferred that the site dates back to the period between the 12th and 16th centuries, and that the sculptures belong to two different periods of art.
How To Reach
By Road - To get to Unakoti, one can hire a taxi from Agartala, the state capital.
By Air - Kailasahwar town is connected with bi-weekly Indian Airlines flights from Agartala
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