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.

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