Udaipur of the east is also a town of lakes similar to the one of the west. Though Udaipur of the east is a small town and lesser known than its western counterpart. This is also a holy town housing the famous Tripureshwari Temple. By the bank of the river Gomati, this town has many artificial lakes dug during the Manikya dynasty. Thus enhancing the natural beauty of the place.
Tripura Tourist Guest House at Udaipur is the Gomati Yatri Niwas beside the Amar Sagar Lake. This was our home for a couple of days in Udaipur. This is a hotel with good rooms with all the amenities. The balconies have the beautiful view of the Lake. The only troublesome things are the mosquitoes and other bugs. Mosquito nets are provided in the rooms, but it is advisable to carry some insect repellent. The small town was half asleep as we arrived late the previous day. The morning began with the visit to the revered Matabari, the Tripura Sundari Temple.
This ancient holy temple is one of the 51 shakti peethas. The temple is built on a small hillock by the Kalyan Sagar Lake. The base of the temple is a square edifice with the roof designed as the humped back of the tortoise. The ‘pedas’ that are offered as prasad to the Goddess are also a speciality here. The Kalyan Sagar is also considered a holy water body. Devotees religiously feed the residents of the lake which comprise of large fishes and even larger tortoises. As a morning visitor, we met the fish group but no tortoise was in sight.
We headed towards the Mahadeb bari, another ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Then we visited the Gunabati group of Temples and through a narrow lane reached the ruins of the Rajbari. The local residents were busy in the worship of Lord Brahma in a pandal. This reminded me of Brahma Temple in Pushkar, Rajasthan. Worship of Brahma, the creator God is a rare sight indeed. All the local women gathered around the pandal and the air was filled with the smoke of incense the sound of the priest’s tiny bell, the conch shell and the auspicious ‘ulu dhwani’ (a vocal sound made by a group of women on any holy occasion).
The Rajbari or the old palace was in its ruins. Udaipur was the erstwhile capital of the state and this was the royal residence. Udaipur was then known as Rangamati. The palace was built by Maharaja Govinda Manikya. The Bhubaneshwari Temple beside the palace was also built during his reign. Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore’s novel Rajarshi and drama Visarjan has a mention of this temple and related event during the maharaja’s rule.
Driving through the forested roads winding through the rubber plantation we were heading towards Chobimura or Devtamura. With our prior knowledge, this place beside the Gomati river is famous for the panels of rock carvings on the steep mountain walls. These ancient rock carvings date back to 15th to 16th century. The colossal carvings show the influence of tantric sculpture. The narrow dirt roads on the hilly trail through the forest were in dilapidated condition. The rains further worsened it and thus prevented us from going further. We stopped, waited and ultimately decided to return. Meanwhile Rajesh, our young driver went inside the bushes and got me a freshly plucked, juicy ‘gondhoraj lebu’ (an aromatic lime, found in Bengal and other northeastern states of India with its origin in Rangpur, Bangladesh).
Disheartened by our failed adventure we aimed for the Neermahal at Melaghar. Neermahal or the Lake Palace of Tripura is located between the Rudra Sagar Lake. This was the summer residence of the Manikya rulers. But the lady luck was abstaining from being with us. This time, the obstacle was in the form of the road closure for the rath yatra. A bad day to be wrapped up by an evening visit to the Matabari again. This time, the Kalyan Sagar Lake showed the large tortoise dwellers.
There were many, all gathered near the bank to get a bite. Their numbers have reduced since the construction of the cemented embankments. Due to this construction, there is a visible loss of soil and mud exposure required for egg laying. There is a habitat loss as well as a warning situation caused from the degradation of the ecosystem.
There were many items for sale. Eatables for the fish and tortoises as well as human. One such interesting vendor was selling a local fruit ‘amra’ (Spondias mombin). This is a sour fruit typically used in chutneys. Also eaten raw with a sprinkle of salt. The interesting part was the way it was cut and served. This fleshy fruit was sliced and dressed and placed on a small shaft to resemble a flower with its stem.
To save our trip we made a repeat attempt to visit the Neermahal the next day. The road was open and we reached the destination too. But it was an Eid-ul-Fitr holiday and it seemed people, mostly kids and teenagers from every corner of Tripura gathered here to enjoy their holiday. There was a long queue for the boat tickets. The condition of the boats was even worse. The boats were jam packed, no place for a pin to be dropped. We had no time to wait. So I clicked the Lake palace from this side of the lake and went on to explore Pilak.
The Pilak and Sabroom part of Tripura are more remote. After archaeological part of our journey, we returned back to Udaipur. (Read my experience in rest of Tripura.) The evening was spent in a local ‘rathermela’ (ratha yatra fair) by some lake, gorging on the ‘Fuchkas’ (Panipuris) and Jalebis. The next day we were to return to Agartala and finally back home.