SCULPTURES AND ROCK-CUT RELIEFS OF THE UNAKOTITIRTHA


NORTH TRIPURA
Unakoti Range
Airport: Agartala; Railway Station: Kumarghat; Bus Station: Kailasahar.

The shrine is located in the north-eastern part of Tripura, in the Kailasahar sub-division. About 185 km from Agartala, 8 km from Kailashahar; Unakoti is famous for its colossal rock cut panels of Hindu divinity. These carvings facing west are located on a beautiful landscape of high cliff and forest with green vegetation all around; a stream flows in the central part of the hillock in east-west direction. The name Unakoti literally means “one less than a crore”, regarded locally as an ancient holy place. According to legend and mythology, once Lord Siva going to Kasi along with one crore of God and Goddesses was compelled to rest for the night at this place with the instruction to the fellow Gods to wake up before sunrise to resume the journey for Kasi. None could get up the following morning to set out for Kasi except Siva himself. So, he cursed them to become stones. To commemorate the legend, Unakoti became a holy place. Every year a big fair popularly known as ‘AshokastamiMela’ is held in the month of (April-May) which is visited by thousands of pilgrims. A series of colossal heads of Lord Siva, Parvati and Ganga in penance, Siva and Parvati as Kirata and Kirati, Ganesha figures along with two standing images of elephant headed figures, having the figure of a slim body contrast with the popularly known Ganeshabody figure and an image of Vishnu were carved on the vertical surface of the rock. A little far away from this valley Uma-Maheshwar locally known as Hirimba, Siva and Parvati in their Uma-sahita aspect are also carved on the vertical surface of the rock. The workmanship is crude and devoid of grace but is attractive. The most elegant and most conspicuous figure is the colossal head of Siva as Bhairava which is about 13.50m high. The uniqueness of these arts is the anatomical features of the different part of the body that are treated only in their broadest aspect, without any attempt to harmonize the whole. These bas relief sculptures are ascribed to c.8th-9th century AD.

Several loose stone sculptures are found in and around the area. They were shifted and are now lying on top of the hill where a shed is made for them. Unfortunately, a large number of stone sculptures have now become defaced. The notable loose sculptures include chaturmukhalinga, kalyanasundaramurty, and Trinity stylistically which dates back to c. 11th- 12th century AD lying in various localities within the hill. The style, iconography and quality of workmanship are far superior to that of the rock cut art on the hill slope. To protect and preserve, some loose sculptures identified as Vishnu, Hara-Gauri, Hari- Hara, Narasimha, Ganesha, and Hanuman etc. were relocated inside a shed on the hill top.

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