Unakoti: One Less than a Crore Rock-carved Figures and Stone Images!
One less than a crore! That’s what Unakoti means. It is believed rock reliefs and sculptures numbering one less than a crore identify the hills of this region located in Kailashahar subdivision in northeastern Tripura. The term Kailashahar itself means city of Lord Shiva. Unakoti hill hosts an ancient Shaivite place of worship that celebrates Shiva like no other place!
Explore this pristine sculpted hill region and you will find yourself transported to the land of the gods and goddesses. A divine aura permeates everywhere here. It is not only the spectacular rock carvings and murals but also Nature draped in green, waterfalls, scenic landscape that will keep you engaged with the place. Unakoti hill is also a pilgrimage spot, not yet explored by many.
According to legend, Lord Shiva with a group of one crore gods and goddesses were on their way to Kashi. They stopped at Unakoti to rest for the night. Lord Shiva asked his group to wake up before sunrise and continue their journey. But only Shiva woke up, as scheduled, and the rest were still in their deep slumber. In anger, Shiva cursed his group to become stone images.
The rock-cut images, dating back to hundreds of years, are intricate and finely executed. This is as such an open air art gallery. Truly, over the backdrop of widespread hill ranges, surrounded by lush green and bush, a large no. of colossal figures of Hindu gods and goddesses engraved are in a 45 mtr. high hillock. The place is located at a distance of 180 km from capital Agartala.
The images found at Unakoti are of two types – rock-carved figures and stone images. Among the rock cut carvings, the central Shiva head and gigantic Ganesha figures deserve special mention. The central Shiva head known as ‘Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava’ is about 30 feet high including an embroidered head-dress which itself is 10 feet high. On each side of the head-dress of the central Shiva, there are two full size female figures – one of Durga standing on a lion and another female figure on the other side.
In addition three enormous images of Nandi Bull are found half buried in the ground. There are various other stone as well as rock cut images at Unakoti. Unakoti is termed as “Shaiva-Tirtha” which is visited by thousands of pious people from all over the region particularly during Ashokastami Mela in March-April, for a holy dip.
There is much hearsay about Unakoti, the place of pilgrimage. The name Unakoti is derived from the thought that there was an assembly of gods and goddesses numbering one less than a crore . At a point of time the Lord of the gods, Mahadeva accompanied by the gods started for Benaras (Varanasi).
When they reached at Raghunandan Hill, they decided to spend the night at the place and then start for Varanasi the next morning. But in the hours of dawn, only Mahadeva woke up. Then the Lord of the gods left for the destination alone; while all other gods and goddesses turned to stone images as they were fast asleep.
Another story revolves around one Kalu Kamar, the famous sculptor. He was assigned the task to build a crore of the deities in his dream. But keeping the last idol unfinished Kalu created his own image. Thus ‘Koti’ could not be completed. So, the place got its name as Unakoti.
A Tripura king named Adi-Dharmapha ruled here in 7th century. He performed a great yajna with much pomp and gaiety. The history of old Kailashahar is also associated with Unakoti. A 15th generation descendant of King Jujhar Fa, a Shiva disciple who started the Tripurabda (Tripuri Calendar), did penance and invoked Lord Shiva in a village called Chhambulnagar on the banks of the river Mau. Chhambulnagar was situated near Unakoti Hill.
Stone images of gods and goddesses sculpted in such a deep forest hundreds of years ago is indeed a mystery. Why this secluded hilly place was selected for the purpose is not known. But the place is still accessible. But mystery still revolves round Unakoti.
The hilly forests, the spring, chirping of birds, the carvings in stones and rocks, the leisurely scattered idols and hearsay have given a special significance to this land of Shiva.