Tripura, a small state in the Northeastern part of India can also be called tiny Bengal. The majority of the population here are Bengali speaking, the food, the culture and the traditions – all are same. The state even has a rustic flavour of the adjoining country of Bangladesh, as it shares the international border from three sides. The widespread greenery, the large water bodies, the narrow rivulets, small villages by the road, the warm-hearted – easy going people are all a reflection of the laid back life away from the chaotic, fast-paced, industrialised city life.
Agartala the capital city holds the main pulse of the state. Major Government offices, hospitals, some shopping malls, cultural centres and the university, all located within the city. Seated at the heart of the city with a sprawling courtyard is the Ujjayanta Palace, now transformed to the State Museum. The sudden monsoon showers drenched us while we were walking down the path after depositing our bags carrying umbrellas. This was the residence of the erstwhile rulers, from the Manikya Dynasty. The double storied museum has a good collection of the artefacts depicting the history, culture – tradition, art and ethnic diversity of the northeastern part of India.
The Durga bari, the Jagannath bari are the places of worship built during the Manikya dynasty. Lord Jagannath was running through fever, so the temple was closed till the upcoming Ratha Yatra. As per the legend after the Snana Yatra (Bathing Festival) of Lord Jagannath, the Gods are believed to fall sick. So they are kept in separate rooms for recovery. In this period of ‘Anasara’ the Gods cannot be seen by their devotees.
As the Gods were recuperating from their illness, we sought for their blessings from outside. Blessings were offered in the form of beautiful lotus buds soaked in the fresh rain waters, cultivated in small water bodies around the temple. The water droplets were like pearls seated on the broad leafy plates. This sacred flower cleanses the soul and the mind. It is the symbol of purity and so is our National flower.
Although the monsoons were not a good time to visit Tripura but it was just a random selection for the holidays. But sitting by the window side and relaxing while watching the rain is not the type of holiday I look for. If we are to a new place then it has to be explored. The daily morning heavy showers wasted a lot of our little precious time.
Preparations were on for a big fair to be held just after the Rath Yatra in the Chaturdaas Devta temple. This is a temple dedicated to fourteen deities of the local tribal communities. The temple had a palm tree which was not just a tree but a weaver bird colony. Some nests were ready while the others were under construction. These small yellow and black birds are skilled weavers. They construct intricate and elaborate nests on trees near water bodies. The male birds generally weave the nest with fibrous leaves, grass and twigs to allure the female birds. These palm tree by the temple pond houses the love nest of many such weaver birds.
I would have missed the golden opportunity to see the miniature Tripura if I had not been to this beautiful Heritage Park in Agartala. A park with a large area housing a large variety of local floral species has the main attraction concealed within its heart. An arched entrance made of thin bamboo trees is marked as the entrance to the Mini Tripura. This mini-state has the miniature version of all the tourist attractions of the state. Even the roads and highways, the railway lines with their respective stations and tunnels. The detailing is so precise that the topography is also maintained to a large extent. I was overwhelmed by this unique, marvellous way of representing the state.
I had no knowledge of this small state having such wondrous places to visit. Due to the heavy monsoon rains, we skipped the Jampui Hills, in the eastern part of the state bordering Mizoram. So we were off for Unokoti. This was a long drive through the sweet sounding name of the places such as Jirania, Teliamura, Ambassa, Kumarghat. Kumarghar had something very interesting. The roads were lined up with locals selling pineapples. My father loves pineapples. He was looking forward to having this local fruit from the beginning of our trip. He had the knowledge of it from his previous trip to Agartala. The local tribal vendors very quickly and precisely de-skinned and sliced the fruit for us to consume. They were sweet as sugar. I had never tasted pineapples so sweet. Now I was turning to a pineapple lover. We decided to pack a dozen for our family and friends, back home.
The pretty vendor lady, Zari, belonged to the Reang tribe of a nearby village. She pointed us towards the dirt road descending down the main road and vanishing within the thick forest. After completion of her education, she earns a living by selling this local produce. Life seemed tough for them. With our purchase loaded in our cab, we moved on to the famous Unokoti.
‘Unokoti, meaning one less than a crore is an exaggeration of the colossal representation of Shiva in varied form along with other Gods and Goddesses those carved in bas-relief on the face of the hillock.’ Some loose mutilated sculptures, some temple bricks and other items indicated the existence of some temple prior to the rock carvings. These ancient, splendid rock carvings and murals situated within the natural surrounding of the green hills and waterfalls are a true visual delight.
The road condition on this hilly terrain was not so good and we reached Udaipur pretty late. (Read my experience in Udaipur.) Making Udaipur as our base for the next couple of days, we visited the famous Matabari, known to the world as Tripureshwari/ Tripura Sundari Temple. The Tripureshwar temple, the Bhubaneshwari temple, the ruins of the Rajbari are all situated in the small town of Udaipur. Neermahal at Melaghar is a palace built within the Rudrasagar lake and a place worth visit.
The Chobimura gave us a miss due to the very bad roads which were worsened by the rains. So we diverted our route towards Belonia and Sabroom. Pilak is the excavated archaeological site in Belonia subdivision. These sites represent the peaceful co-existence of Hinduism and Buddhism. The various sites excavated here are the Shyam Sundar Tilla, Deb Bari, Thakurani Tilla, Balir Pathar, Basudeb Bari and others. The artefacts unearthed belong to the Bengal’s Pala and the Gupta dynasty.
The Mahamuni Pagoda in the Sabroom subdivision is a Buddhist Temple. It holds a week-long festival during March-April every year when thousands of devotees gather to be a part of it. There were a lot more to be discovered in the southern districts of the state. But with no time we had to return back to Agartala. We ended our short yet memorable trip to this beautiful state watching the Retreat Parade in the India – Bangladesh International Border Check Post in Akhaura. This was a parade similar to the one of the Wagah border (Read my experience in Wagah Border) although done with a lesser pomp and grandeur. The only difference is the BSF on our side and the BGB on the other side separated by the iron gates and the barbed wire. Once brothers, now foreigners – drifted by the partition.