Friday, January 23, 2009

Pilak - A symbol of Hindu-Buddhist cultural affinity

Nestled in Jolaibari, a small town of Tripura’s South District, Pilak, an 8th-12th century archaeological site, stand mute as an eloquent symbol of Hindu-Buddhist cultural affinity as much as the glorious cultural past of the State.

Stone engravings and statues of Shiva, Surya, Baishnabi and Mahishashurmardini stand alongside the statues of Lord Buddha in different places like Shyam Sundar Tilla, Deb Bari, Thakurani Tilla, Balir Pathar, Basudeb Bari and others in a three square kilometer site.

The dominant form and style of the rock-cut images and the sculptures in Pilak carried the influence of Palas and Guptas of Bengal, influence of the Arakan in Mynamer (formerly Burma) and local style, Jawahar Achariya, a historian and numismatist, said.

The number of rock-cut images and terracotta plaques lie scattered in various places of the area, which has been under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, speaking of the State’s past cultural glory.

“The moulded terracotta plaques bear resemblance with moulded plaques recovered from Paharpur and Mainamati in Bangladesh”, Achariya, who studied the history of the site, said.

Thaikhai Chowdhury, an official of the Information Department of Tripura and a Mog tribal said, “ There is a reference of Pilak as Pilakko in the stone inscriptions at Mruhang, the ancient capital of the old Arakan Kingdom in present Myanmar”.

He said that according to the folklore and oral history,there was close cultural link between ‘Pilakko” and Arakan via Chittagong Hill Tracts of Present Bnagladesh.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had taken over the site since 1999 and is now under protected under the provisions of the Government of India’s relevant Act of 1958.

A senior conservation assistant of the ASI, Narayan Chandra Debnath said, a new stupa was excavated at Sundari tilla.

Explaining the importance of the newly excavated site, Debnath says this is a full size Buddhist stupa built in 11th century on the pattern of architecture during the reign of ‘Palas of Bengal”.

Debnath who was in-charge of the Pilak site since 1999, said the stupa had been excavated under the supervision of ASI Superintendent, P Kumaran since Jan 1999 and completed in March 2006.

He pointed out that the stone image of meditating Buddha found in the sanctum of the stupa had “very close affinity to the tribal feature on the mouth”.

A top official of the state government said that government had plans to develop the site for Buddhist tourists of South-East Asia and other places and for this a project of Rs. 150 crore has been submitted to the centre.

The centre will seek financial assistance from the government of Japan, he said. The state government has already developed the site as a tourist spot by setting up a cafeteria and providing other facilities for visitors from outside.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Solar power lights up villages in Tripura

Perched on Killa hill, Tobakla, a remote tribal hamlet in Tripura's south district now shines in the dark with a non-conventional solar power plant supplying energy under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vaidyutikaran Yojana.
A septuagenarian, Bikram Singh Jamatiya is a delighted man today. ''My village is remote which can be approached only on foot. We lived in darkness at night. Now it is different," he told a group of visiting journalists.
"Earlier, we saw electric lights only when we went to Udaipur, the district town, which is about 25 km from the village," he said.
Bikram Singh is not alone. 62 tribal families of the village under Kochigang panchayat of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) are now beneficiaries of this non-conventional energy source.
The solar photovoltaic plant with a capacity of 10 Kilo Watt has been installed there at an investment of Rs.40 lakh.
''After sunset the village wore a ghostly look as the only sources of light were kerosene lanterns, but we have bid farewell to darkness,'' said Chandrasandha Jamatiya of the village.
The Science and Technology Department, the nodal agency for electrifying the remote villages with non-conventional energy, had initially granted only two bulbs for lighting each family's house.
But with the gaon panchayat approving a fan and a tv set, the department agreed to supply energy for a charge of Rs 10 per item, said Abhabananda Jamatiya, sarpanch of Kochigang Panchayat.
Tripura Power minister, Manik Dey said, "solar energy is being given to remote villages where conventional power is yet to reach. We want to electrify all villages in the state."
He said, the Left Front government was implementing the centrally sponsored 'Kuthir Jyoti programme'.Betweeb 1993 to 2007, electricity consumers increased to 3,54,500 under the programme of which 52,852 families were from rural poor and tribals. 50 per cent rural people were benefited by the programme, he said.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Unakoti - Ankor Vat of the Northeast?

Unakoti, it’s name meaning one less than a crore, dating back to the 8th or 9th century, is one of the biggest bas relief sculptures in India of gods and goddesses of Hindu mythology and scenes depicting the life of Lord Shiva.
Unakoti, is a 178 km drive from the state capital of Tripura nestled on the Raghunandan hills of Kailasahar subdivision of North Tripura district.
According to Hindu mythology, when Lord Shiva was proceeding to Kashi along with a crore of gods and goddesses he made a night halt at Unakoti.
Shiva instructed the gods and goddesses to wake up before dawn and proceed to Kashi.
In the morning when none except he got up, forcing him to set out for Kashi alone, Shiva cursed the gods and goddesses turned them to stone.
Therefore, ‘Unakoti’ acquired its name—one less than one crore.
According to the Archeological Survey of India, Unakoti dates back to the 8th or 9th century, if not earlier and is the biggest bas-relief sculpture in India.
“Unakoti is the Ankor vat of the Northeast, “said Panna Lal Roy, a scholar and self taught historian ,who extensively studied the archeological site.
“We can compare it with Ankor Vat, because we find an amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist influences in the rockcut carvings though it is essentially a Hindu religious site with thousands of statues of Hindu god and goddesses”.
These sculptures include figures of Lord Shiva, Shri Ram, Hanuman and Ganapati.
The images are of two types – rock carved figures and stone images.
Among the rock cut carvings, there is a 30 feet high image of Lord Shiva in grey stone carved into the vertical rock face.
A small, rock strewn stream flows besides the figure of Shiva.
The central Shiva known as ‘Unokotiswara Kal Bhairava’ is about 30 feet high including a 10 feet high embroidered head dress.
On each side are two full size female figures—one of Goddess Durga standing astride a lion and another female figure.
There are also three ‘Nandi’ bulls half buried in the ground.
Just about fifty metres downstream, are three imposing images of Lord Ganesha.
There is a gigantic four- armed seated Ganesha and on its side two standing figures of Sarabhuja Ganesha with three tusks and the Ashtabhuja Ganesha with four tusks.
The central Shiva and the gigantic Ganesha are masterpieces.
Sources in the ASI said, some statues were still undiscovered in the jungles which needed to be preserved, while many were taken away by local people for worship at home.
There is talk of UNESCO declaring Unakoti as a world heritage site, the sources said.
There is another myth associated with this enchanting place, according to which Unakoti was the unfinished dream of a sculptor, who wished to make it a place of pilgrimage for a crore of deities.
His dream remained incomplete, as one image was short, thus it came to be kjnown as Unakoti.
Huge religious fairs are held here on Makar Sankranti and Ashokastami with thousands of people arriving and also taking holy dips in Kundas.
There is a tourist lodge in area. Tripura tourist corporation would soon announce some package tours to attract more tourists.