Unakoti – One less than a Crore!

by Shubham Maurya [EDRC Civil, L&T, TI IC]

Background

It was month of February, second semester of my MTech, weekend was approaching and college fest was about to start. And college fest means off, and you know off means what! I was having competing interest between traveling and fest, and you can guess it right the inclination towards the former was outweighing the latter with a great margin.

I decided at noon that next day I’ll leave for the trip. The destination was already in the back of my head and it was quite a historic one. It was Unakoti (One less than crore). I saw this place on TV a year back, that time I was wondering it would be so great to visit this place. And after one year as I was in Agartala it was like wish coming true and also a good reason to go as it was in my near reach.

So, in the noon I called one of my classmate (Abhijit da) he was the localite and he was having a moped. After a few ifs and buts I managed to gain his trust and got the moped. His only concern was, though the journey was only of approx. 130 kms from Aagartala but the road conditions was so so good with lots of twists and turns that even Google map was showing 4 hours and 30 mins for just 130 kms. And in all of my travels the thing I’ve learned first was to NEVER rely fully on Google map. Because Google map shows approximate travel time only, you’ll have to add an hour or two or may be three for stoppages that you’ll be taking in between for food and sightseeing, any detours or worst case scenario any breakdown. This travel was no different than others.

Till now it was all solo travel plan till Unakoti, but later in evening I thought I’ll ask one of my friends (Madhav) so I told him about the plan, he was ready in less than a fraction of second. I packed the essential travels stuff in the bag with one or two warm clothing as it was retreating winter in the Northeast and was cold enough.

Day 1 (Agartala to Kailasahar)

I went for breakfast in south canteen and called Madhav too, plan was to have breakfast and from there itself go to Abhijit da’s place, take the moped and hit the road ASAP. I don’t know what it is as usual delay after delay first in South canteen then in taking auto to go to city. City was 24 km from our college and it would take around one hour to reach. Finally we reached city took moped from Abhijit da’s place and hit the road after filling the petrol. We thought of having the lunch on the road ahead as it was already 12 pm and we’ve to reach Kailasahar and make a stay for the night.

There are actually two ways to go to Unakoti from Agartala, one goes through Agartala-Shillong Highway and another goes through virgin lands of Tripura. We took the road less travelled (through virgin lands of Tripura), and you already know what happens then, it made all the difference and we ended up driving seven and half hours.

So we started to drive, we set the course on Google map, but the problem was the pillion rider have to take the photos as well and the driver can’t hold the mobile and that time we didn’t have the mobile holder. Necessity is the mother of all invention (AKA Jugad!). I stopped at one stationery got two transparent sheets and one big cello tape. I made an envelope kind of thing put my mobile in it connecting the power bank with my hanky beneath and stuck all of this on the visor of the moped. Transparent sheet kept cello tape from directly sticking on the phone as you know then phone will be all sticky and hanky was make shift shock absorber for phone and power bank. So after making this Jugad! We started to drive again.

We were reaching Mohannagar, a place near the Indo-Bangladesh border. There was a bridge just beside the border. We could literally see the border fence beside us. A river coming from Bangladesh and entering India was bubbling down the bridge and the bridge was guarded by the BSF Jawans on both sides. It was quite an experience because it was our first time seeing border fencings so close along with the river which was uniting the two countries. You could get a feeling about how humans could be at certain time, nature doesn’t create boundaries but it is we who created such boundaries.

We crossed Mohannagar and were heading ahead talking to wind, as back there in North east sun sets early and rises early. This phenomenon happens because of the time zone, as you know India uses average time zone of GMT + 5:30, because of which one would get a feel of sun setting early according to the time and rising early too. Though in winter sun sets usually by 4:40 pm and from that you could guess why we were hurrying because after the sun light is gone covering up the distance fast becomes a problem.

The next stop was Khowai district. Way till Khowai was beautiful, passing through small villages with rubber plantations on either sides. Natural rubber plantation is one of the main plantation in Tripura. As it was winter the leaves have already fallen in most of the rubber trees but some were remaining. Rubber tree leaves go all brown in winter before falling.

We were reaching Khowai district and we were enjoying the district road like anything. It was rider’s little paradise, open traffic free road with villages, paddy fields and deciduous trees on either sides. Weather was good too that day. Tripura falls in heavy monsoon belt, because of which the intensity and duration of rainfall is quite high here. Because of which the architecture is of GI pitched roof form, so that the rain water can be drained off quickly. Also many bamboo species are found in this area, of which localities makes optimum utilization in making wall fencings and other similar things which is not only sustainable construction practices but also very much economic. Bamboo shoots are also used in many of the local delicacies which add extra flavour to the cuisine.

Finally, we reached Khowai. Khowai just like Mohannagar situated just next to Indo-Bangladesh border. Indo-Bangladesh border is world’s 5th longest land border with a total length of 4156 km, of which Tripura shares 180 km with Bangladesh. After reaching Khowai, we took a break filled up the petrol and were calculating still how long we’ve to go. Because after Khowai ghat will start along with denser jungles around the road. And it was around 3:30pm we were half way through to Kailasahar, our destination for the night.

We started from Khowai, along the international border. It was thrilling as we’ve always imagined border as something else but it was in reality completely different. It was calm on either sides, with double fencings and no one on the road.

We were on our way. Meanwhile, we stopped sometimes to make the most of the trip and click the pictures. That time my hair were growing and didn’t attain the full length and I use to feel irritation while driving as it would come into my eyes every now and then if I didn’t wear the helmet properly.

It started to get darker in sometime and we were rushing to reach Kailasahar. Because as usual we’ve not pre-booked any hotel. Because we were not sure about any such thing. Only thing I was knowing that there’s a Govt. Tourist lodge name Unakoti Tourist Lodge. We put that name on google map and navigated all the way through.

It was dark by the time we entered Kailashar. We directly went to the lodge got a room and put phones and power bank on charging first. It took us seven and a half hours to reach Kailasahar. Around 8:30 pm we got out to eat something as the lodge didn’t provide food. After the food we were roaming for the petrol, as the moped was drinking too much of it. We reached the only petrol station and guess what he told to come early in the morning around 7 am when the trucks will come for refueling.

Day 2

It was in the morning we got to know that we stayed so close to the international border. And our phone were catching signals from Bangladesh, quite amazing. We got up early that day, checked out from lodge and straight way to the petrol station for quenching the thirst of the moped. Then had some breakfast and hit the road to Unakoti. Unakoti was around 7 to 8 km from Kailasahar.

Unakoti

Unakoti is a Shaiva pilgrimage site (dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva as the supreme being) and it dates back to 7th-9th centuries. Legend has it that one day, while on his way to Kashi, Lord Shiva along with an entourage of ten million gods and goddesses, decided to take a break and spend the night at Unakoti. He instructed all the gods and goddesses to be up and ready before dawn to re-embark on their journey. When everybody failed to wake up before dawn, Lord Shiva cursed them to turn into stone – thus, there are one less than ten million rock-cut images here.

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 other 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.

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.

Either way, the legends still hold significance with the tribes in and around Unakoti, and every year they celebrate Ashokashtami between March-April, by worshipping Lord Shiva and his divine consort. And yes! You can also enjoy the fair that attracts visitors from nearby areas.

The sculptures are made on a hill so terrain is full of ups and downs. You’ve to climb few steps to see the full view of the place. It will leave you wondering how it would have been made almost 1300 to 1400 year back.

Back to Agartala

After staying for some time, having seen all the sculptures and exploring all the nooks and corners of the place we decided to head back to Agartala. We came back to Kailasahar filled the petrol also did little service of the old moped which had started to leak in just 200km of drive. This time we took the Highway as we thought it would take less time to go back. But to our amazement after coming back to Kailasahar and having taken the highway route, we met with nothing much but dusts and earth road. Though the work of highway was on but because of the dry weather it has become all dusty on the road. We’ve to tie hanky on the face and drive somehow in the dust.

Now we redid the Jugad but last time it was having one serious fault we stuck the whole thing over the fuel meter itself. Now after having grown with the experience we stuck the whole part towards little left so that fuel meter can be seen all the time and we are not just guessing about the petrol on all the way through.

Highway route was approx. 165 km and google map was showing 5 hours and 30 mins. Which again took around 7 hours to reach back to hostel we crossed Kumarghat, Manu, Ambassa and Teliamura to come back to hostel. We reached hostel around 6 pm in evening. The journey was beautiful and the destination was mesmerizing. Luckily nothing much adventure happen with the moped or us, it was more of a happy happy sudden trip. Untill next time! Wait for more Travel Stories to come.

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Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets

Oscar Wilde

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Sathiyamoorthy Iyer

Great Travelog! Than travelling, puring your emotions and information in a way readers undersstand is a rare art.. you seem to be very good at it! All the best for your next trip!