The North-Eastern part of India is a busy tourist destination. Although, being a part of the ‘Seven Sisters’, one can easily say that the state of Tripura is not as renowned tourist destination as compared to its other counterparts. However, the hills and the dense forests of Tripura have preserved a historical gem for centuries.
The Raghunandan hills in the Kailasahar Subdivision of Tripura is the location of Unakoti, the land of 99,99,999 Gods & Goddesses. Unakoti means “One less than a Crore”. Multiple legends are associated with this place alongwith its’ historical value, which makes Unakoti a very mysterious place too.
Also known as Subrai Khung in the Kokborok language, the entire site of Unakoti is dotted with Bas-relief structures of Hindu gods and goddess carved out of the hills. I visited Unakoti back in 2014 and was amazed to see such a wonderful tourist site! It has been declared a World Heritage site very recently.
From the sculptures present at Unakoti, it may be assumed that it was mainly a Shaivite (Shiva worshipper sect) pilgrimage site built arguably during 7th to 9th Century A.D if not earlier. At present the Archeological Survey of India (A.S.I) is in charge of maintenance and excavation of this historical site but no proper details regarding its actual timeline has been provided till date, which makes Unakoti even more mystifying!
As I have mentioned earlier, there are several legends associated with the origin of Unakoti. Let’s go through the legends and have an idea of what actually makes Unakoti such interesting place.
According to one legend, Lord Shiva was travelling to Kailash (according to some sub-versions he was travelling to Kashi or Varansai) alongwith 99,99,999 other Gods and Goddesses. During their journey, Lord Shiva agreed to rest at Unakoti provided that they wake up before sun rise and proceeds for their destination. However, in the morning only Lord Shiva himself woke up and found others still sleeping which angered him. Before resuming the journey, Lord Shiva cursed the other entourage members to be turned in to stone and hence they remained as stone structures trapped within the hills of Unakoti since time immemorial.
According to another legend, these structures were carved out by a famous sculptor Kallu Kumhar. He was a devotee of Lord Shiva. One day he found Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati travelling to Kailash (or Kashi as per other sub-vesrions). Kallu asked Lord Shiva to take him along with them as he was their ardent devotee. Lord Shiva promised to take him with them if he could carve out structures of One Crore gods and goddesses before the dawn of the next day. Kallu could carve out one less than a crore sculptures and hence the name Unakoti came to origin.
Yet another version of the legend is slight modification of the story of Kallu Kumhar. According to this version, Kallu was given a task of carving out One Crore deities in a dream which would eventually establish his fame of being a supreme craftsman. However, Kallu could not resist the greed of carving one last image of himself, thus failing to complete the task and ended up creating Unakoti statues. This version of the story also teaches a moral story – ‘never give in to your Ahamkara (pride or ego)’.
What To See In Unakoti?
So by now you actually have an idea of what to see once you are in Unakoti. The entire landscape of Unakoti is dotted with hills and dense forests. The main attraction of the site is obviously the ancient bas-relief structures. In fact the hills, the forest and the ancient sculptures give this place a primitive feel altogether! The largest and the major among the carvings is the Unokotiswara Kalbhairava which is about 30 feet long. You will also find sculptures of Goddess Durga and Ganesha as well. Amongst the various other sculptures you can find Vishnu, Nandi, Hanuman and many other Gods and Goddesses.
I decided to take a walk away from the main complex and found a Chaturmukh Shiva Linga (four headed) nearby. While speaking to the locals I came to know that most of the site is yet to be discovered as the nearby hills which also contain such rock carvings has not been excavated. Till then let us wonder what secret has been kept hidden inside those dense forests!!
How To Reach Unakoti?
Unakoti can be accessed by Air, Train and by route also. All you need to do is first travel to Agartala, the state capital of Tripura. From there your journey begins.
The nearest Airport is Agartala. When you are travelling by road, the distance of Kailsahar from Agartala 178 Kms. Unakoti is about 8 Kms away from Kailasahar.
Nearest train station is Kumarghat. The train route is accessible from both Agartala and Guwahati. Kumarghat is about 26 kms away from Kailsahar but is well connected by means of Bus, Auto rickshaw and Cars.
If you prefer to travel by road, then Buses up to Kailsahar are also available from major cities Agartala, Guwahati, Silchar etc. You can also hire car services from Agartala to reach Unakoti.
Where To Stay?
Several hotels are available for accommodation at Kailasahar. You can choose any hotel depending on your budget. You can also choose to book the Govt. Rest house at Unakoti for spending a night (Click here for more details).
Best Time To Visit
I always prefer travelling during the winter as the weather is favorable during this point of time. You can also choose to visit during April as a large fair is organized for celebrating the occasion of Ashokastami. Every year large number of pilgrims visits Unakoti during this time.
Whether the secret of Unakoti will be revealed in the near future, that only time will tell. Till then let the hills and the forests preserve this ‘Hidden Gem’ for millions of travelers worldwide. Visit this place to see the ancient artwork of India, to feel the stories which the rock carvings wants you to know!!
Please be sensible and do not etch your names in the rock sculptures. Respect the heritage of the site and also please do not litter!!