From palaces to ancient rock carvings and wildlife sanctuaries, this compact northeastern state is worth discovering. In Agartala, the state capital of Tripura, the Ujjayanta Palace occupies pride of place with its high dome, magnificent tile flooring, curved wooden ceiling and beautifully-crafted doors.
But it is the mysterious rock carvings at Unakoti that are truly awe-inspiring. The tribes living here like the Darlong, Chakma and Reang communities lead a vibrant lifestyle. A day to explore one of their villages is a must do while visiting the state.
According to the popular local lore, Lord Shiva was on his way to Mount Kailash when he decided to spend the night here. He warned his companions that they would have to leave before dawn, but after a night of revelry, Shiva was the only one who woke up on time. Miffed, Shiva cursed them to an eternity on earth and they now adorn the hills of Unakoti as reliefs. Nearby tribal villages of the Darlong and Reang tribe should be included in one’s itinerary here.
Unakoti is situated at a distance of 178kms from Agartala. The accommodation available is basic and it is best to take the train from Agartala; the nearest rail station is at Kumarghat of NF railway which is 26kms from Kailashahar.
Neermahal, a summer palace in the middle of the Rudrasagar lake, 53 kilometres from Agartala, is another interesting piece of architecture. For Kali worshippers, the 517-year-old Tripura Sundari temple in Udaipur is an important point of pilgrimage. Considered one of the 51 Shakti “peethas” (significant shrines in Shaktism, the goddess-focused Hindu tradition), this red-spired temple is packed with pilgrims during Kali Puja (October/November).
Once the home of the Manikya Kings, Agartala is today a modern city on a fast track of development. Surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides, its history and culture has been closely entwined with that nation. Many of its inhabitants today are people who fled Bangladesh. Despite occasional conflicts, Agartala is today a largely peaceful city. It is also the cultural heart of Tripura. It’s most striking monument is undoubtedly the Ujjayanta Palace. Inside is the must-visit Tripura Government Museum that showcases the region’s rich artistic heritage.
Located in Dhalai district, Ambassa is a hotchpotch of cultures and traditions. It is home to the many tribes of the region – Chakmas, Tripuri, Usais, Reang, Halams and Darlong. Dotted with temples, Ambassa’s multiplicity is reflected in its festivals, with Durga Puja celebrated with equal fervour as the tribal festivals of Kharchi Puja and Garia. The region is also well known for its beautiful handicrafts – especially bamboo, cane work and colourful shawls.
Bamboo and cane crafts of Tripura are most well known for their unique style and excellent craftsmanship. Besides Ambassa, the crafts are concentrated in the subdivisions of Kailashahar, Dharmanagar, Khowai, Sadar, Sonamura, Belonia and Agartala. Items range from furniture to lamp shades, trays, stools, vases, hand fans, bags, purses, hats, mugs and pencil holders. Traditional items include the ‘kula’ and ‘dala’ (used to winnow grains) and vegetable baskets. Weavers still rely on age-old techniques of evenly splitting the bamboo vertically into fine, uniform strips with the help of simple tools.
The Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Bishalgarh that is most famous for its clouded leopard enclosures and the variety of primates. Except for the two humid summer months of March and April, the weather is pleasant throughout the year. It is home to the unique bespectacled monkey, Phayre’s langur, along with the rhesus macaque, pig-tailed macaque and capped langur. Also, the crab-eating mongoose, last sighted in the 1930s, has been resuscitated.
The sanctuary serves as a wildlife sanctuary as well as an academic and research centre. It also has several artificial lakes and botanical gardens. The Amrit Sagar Lake has a boating facility.