Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 140 - Agartala

Agartala the capital of Tripura is one of the most diversely populated cities of India. Its pristine beauty manifests itself in its peaceful gardens, stunning palaces, huge hills, beautiful temples and captivating lakes.Rich flora and fauna are the characteristics of this land. The rich and varied tribal culture thriving on the high mountains and vast and alluring green valley adds its own charm to the attraction of the state. The city is a central market for various commercial goods (tea, rice, jute and oilseed) for the surrounding region.

How to reach here:

By Air:  Regular flights from Agartala connect it with Guwahati, Calcutta and Delhi.

By Rail: Nearest railway stations are Kumarghat, about 160 km from Agartala and Dharmanagar, 200 km away.

Best time to visit: September to April.

Languages spoken: 
Bengali, Tripuri, Manipuri, Chakma, Nepali, Hindi, Kokborok.

Must eat: Chakoi, Godak, Halud Bharta, Pork Bharta.

Famous Restaurants: Kurry Klub, Eatopia Zannat, Abhishek Hotel and Restaurant.

Places you must visit:

The Ujjayanta palace was the palace of the last ruling dynasty, built in the Mughal style by Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya in 1901.This palace was named by the Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.In the premises of the palace, several Hindu temples were built in dedication to Lakshmi Narayan, Uma-Maheshwari, Kali and Jagannath. Post merger of Kingdom of Tripura with India in 1949, all royal properties were nationalised. The Ujjayanta Palace is now the Legislative Assembly. Double-storey, this palace has three large domes largest of which runs to a length of 26 m and rests atop a four-storied central tower. Tiled floors, carved front doors, two large artificial ponds   and the fountains are some of the main features of this palace. Newer attractions to this beautiful palace include the night-time floodlights and the musical fountain installed in front of the main entrance.

The oldest ruins of Tripura are found at Unakoti Tirtha, 189 km. from Agartala. Huge figures of the Hindu deities and epic characters have been found carved on both sides of a meandering hill-track, emerging from bushes. An awesome atmosphere fills the valley.The archaeologists claim that, Unakoti was a Shaivite holy spot in the 8th-9th centuries. The story is very interesting; Lord Shiva was going to Kashi with one crore gods and goddesses. During night halt at this location Shiva asked all gods and goddesses to wake up prior to sun rise. However, in the morning, except Shiva, no one else got up forcing Shiva to curse the others to become stone images and proceed on the journey alone.

The Jagannath Temple is across one of the artificial lakes in front of the Ujjayanta palace. It rises from an octagonal base to a striking orange four-storeyed 'Shikhara' or tower.Jagannath Temple was built by the Manikyas, who chose Agartala above Udaipur as the capital. For decorating the capital, they adorned it with numerous monuments and beautiful sites.   Though inclined to Islamic architecture, the Jagannath Temple  represents a confluence of Hemadpanthi and Arabic style on the exterior and Hindu flair on the insides.It is believed that the idol of Neelmadhav at Puri had been donated from this temple.The impression of ‘pradhkshin patha’ round the sanctum further adds to the beauty of this national heritage temple at the capital of Tripura.

Tripura Sundari Temple is also known as Matabari and located in the ancient capital, Udaipur on the top of hillock Dhanisagar, was constructed in 1501 A.D. by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya. The deity is Goddess Kali. Her idol is made of 'reddish black Kastic pathar.' Maa Kali is worshipped in her 'Soroshi' form in this temple. A smaller idol of Maa Kali called 'Chotto Maa' used to be carried by Maharajas of Tripura during "Mrigaya" namely hunting and also on the battlefield. It. one of the 51 Pithas mentioned in the Tantras. The temple is served by red robed priests and is the location of the large fair during Diwali festival in October-November. Beyond this age-old temple there is a big tank called Dhani Sagar, the abode of old tortoises, sacred to pilgrims for food offerings. It is said that when any of these wise tortoises is to die, it approaches the altar of the temple and breathes its last.

Agartala has a famous temple dedicated to 14 deities – Chowda Devta. The 14 deities are represented only by their brass heads, a combination of Hindu faith and tribal cults. It is built in the Bankura style of Bengali temple architecture but has a Buddhist Stupa type structure on top. They are attended upon by tribal priests and not Brahmins. In July, worshippers come from all over Tripura for Kharchi Puja which has evolved from a tribal festival.The architecture of this temple is a confluence of Bengali Bankura style and Buddhist stupa type structure.

The famous “roaring” Dumbur Falls is 100 kms. from Agartala, near Tirthamukh, a holy spot.

Neer Mahal or the Palace in Water  is a water palace built for one of the Maharajas at the centre of Lake Rudrasagar, it is an attractive sight. This place looks like a fairytale castle with tower and pavilions, moats and bridges. You can always respond to its appeal by hiring a rowboat.Built in 1930 by King Bir Bikram Kishore Debbarman,  this palace assimilates Hindu and Islamic architectural styles. The only lake palace in eastern India, Neermahal was designed and constructed by Martin & Burn Co. sandstone and marble has been used for building this palace, which features a profusion of towers, balconies, pavilions and bridges.   Surrounding the palace building are lush green lawns and colourful flower beds.

The Kunjaban Palace (formerly known as the Pushbanta Palace) was constructed in 1917 for the King Birendra Kishore Manikya. It is a marvelous monument which reflects the rich and artistic taste of the erstwhile ruler.The plan of the palace and its adjoining garden was drawn by the king himself. Reflecting his artistic taste, this palace is characterised with beautiful carvings and innovative construction.The Palace was handed over to the Government after dissolution of the monarch state into Republic India and is presently being utilised as the official residence of the Governor of the State of Tripura.

Chittangong Hills are actually a series of mini mountains deep and far stretching valleys and a mini canyon formed by the mishmash of seven rivers. The rivers, Feni, Karnafuli, Chengi, Myani, Kassalong, Sangu and Matamuhuri cavort and gambol across the valley presenting an enchanting dance of frolic and fun across the ranges.

Jampui Hill, also well known as the the "eternal hills of spring" as its weather is always bright and cheerful and it never faces the rough and tough seasonal changes.They are a treasure cove of a wide variety of Orchids, oranges and a heavenly mix of scenic splendor.The verdant green hills and slopes with Orange, Tea and Orchids is a sight to remember. A ropeway joining the nearby hills and providing a bird's eye view of the valleys beneath is the highlight of the entire trip to the Jampui hills.

The Raima Valley, also known as the mother of the tribes of Tripura is actually a huge volume of enclosed space created due to the formation of a pleat within the mountain folds permitting the commissioning of the Gumti hydel project on the Raima river. This project caters for augmenting deficit power supply of the state and has a large catchments of water within the Raima valley. The valley has been tastefully decorated with Gardens and plantation of verdant vegetation.

Gondacherra Wildlife Sanctuary is a pleasing green forest with pure atmosphere. Its green lovely scenery and forests along with calm atmosphere and surroundings untouched by humans, makes it a haven for various animals and birds like wild horses, primates, bison, deer, tigers and migratory birds. Aquatic life also thrives in its clear and cool lakes.

The Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary boasts of abounding congregation of wildlife, especially birds and primates. The Sanctuary also house Botanical garden, zoo, a lake and abundance of diverse species of trees. The terrain is absolutely green throughout the year and so is the beautiful weather.Built in 1972, this sanctuary is divided into five sections namely carnivores section, primate section, ungulate section, reptile section and aviary section. About 150 species of birds can be spotted here, along with migratory birds. The primate section mainly comprises rhesus, macaque and many others.

The Buddha Temple popularly known as the Buddha Mandir is located at the heart of the city. The temple is one of the important religious center and provides ample evidence regarding the influence of Buddhism on the populace.he shrine houses two beautiful idols of Buddha and Bodhisattva. The peaceful and serene idols are believed to have a Burmese origin. Shifted from the Royal palace, the idols adopted their new home, the Buddha Temple constructed in 1946.This spiritual place is enhanced by the lovely flowers and gardens within the premises of the temple.

The Tripura Government State Museum, built in the year 1970, has a large collection of artifacts recovered from excavation sites around Tripura that portray the dying art and culture of Tripura.The museum has four galleries showcasing various categories like archaeology, painting, Indian sculpture and tribal culture.The varied collection includes coins, sculptures, terracotta, copper inscriptions, textiles, bronze images, stone inscriptions, oil paintings, sketches, jewelry and drawings belonging to different centuries. The reference library within the museum has a variety of books and manuscripts related to archaeology, architecture and history of Tripura. The museum has an exquisite collection of sculptures depicting both Hindu and Buddhist styles mostly dating back to 9th century and onwards.

ISKCON Math Chowmuhani is engaged in spreading Krishna consciousness among the public of Agartala. A lot of work has already been done to improve the life of the people of Tripura especially that of the poor Bengali Brahmins. ISKCON society always wants to build more and more temples for the benefit of the devotees and ISKCON Agartala is not an exception.ISKCON Agartala is also running three schools for children where nearly 1500 students study. There are plans to start a goshala, a farm, a kitchen garden and a gift manufacturing unit.

Maharaja Bir Bikram College, or MBB College, is named after the former king of Tripura, Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya Bahadur. A degree college in the state of Tripura, this institution imparts general education in various streams including science, commerce and humanities. Operational since 1947, this college was originally started to meet the needs of students who had migrated to Tripura from East Pakistan.The ground floor of the semi-constructed building was then used as an army hospital for the British Army. In late 1960s and early 1970s, it was upgraded into a postgraduate college.

Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary which was officially recognized in 1988 and covers an area of around 198 square kilometers. Its main purpose is to spread information and familiarize the study of flora and fauna. It has been planned to be a place of educational and behavioral study of the nature and its elements. Its rich greenery and cool waters is home to many animals, birds and fishes like primates, pheasant, fowl, kingfishers and the Indian Bison.

Venuban Vihar is a small Buddha shrine which has a metallic idol of Lord Buddha, of Burmese origins.

Kamala sagar is a beautiful vast lake at the border of Bangladesh. Legends reveal that this lake was excavated in the 15th century by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya. A famous temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, stands at the bank of Kamalasagar that was built in the 16th century. A deity of Goddess Durga dating back to 12th century is positioned inside the temple. Owing to the scenic beauty, this lake serves as one of the excellent picnic spots in the north-eastern state of Tripura.

King Krishna Manikya built the temple of Chaturdasha Devata to represent the fourteen head images of Gods and Goddesses called 'Chaturadasha Devta'.The Chaturdasa Devata temple consists of a Nat Mandapa and Garbhagriha. The temple's roof is flat with two conical domes; the upper one stepped slightly behind the lower one. The top of the dome is crowned with Kalasa (pitcher) and a Pataka (flag).