Travel Bucket List: India – Tripura Part 4

Baramura Eco Park
Nestled in the verdant forest at the fringes of Baramura–Deotamura reserve forest where Baramura hill range meets the plains at a distance of about 37 km east of Agartala, the Baramura Eco Park located at the foothills of the Baramura hills is a manifestation of the conservation need of the ecological biodiversity of the Baramura hills. The Baramura hills are a breathtakingly beautiful expanse of rolling hills characterised by thickly forested hill ridges varying in altitude between 90 m to 136 m and valleys with dense bamboo patched, herbs & shrubs that is home to astoundingly diverse ecological biodiversity. The forest also supports the livelihood needs of nearly 2,500 tribal families.

Kalapania Nature Park
Located about 116 km south of Agartala in Sabroom in South Tripura, the Kalapania Nature Park was established in 2004 covering 21 hectares of deserted land into a nature’s paradise set amidst a charming ambience of natural beauty. A lake with serene blue water in midst of two hillocks in the park’s centre divides it into two halves. There is a boating service as well as beautiful cottages around the small hills surrounding the water body. The main attraction of the park is a nature interpretation centre located in the middle of the park.

Tepania Eco Park
Established in 1995 inside RadhaKishorepur Reserve Forest, the Tepania Eco-Park lies about 47 km south of Agartala and 5 km from Agartala Udaipur. Over the years the Eco Park set amidst a charming ambience of natural beauty has been upgraded and today has an area of 155 hectares and has turned out to be a huge tourist attraction. The Eco Park has a modern well maintained orchid house which houses 225 species of orchids. There is a cactus House which has 250 samples collected from various parts of the country. A treehouse inside the park offers a night stay facility in a sylvan environment. The other attractions include a unique wooden hanging bridge, a medicinal garden and a watch tower for viewing the wildlife.

Khumulwang Eco Park
Located on the outskirts of Agartala within the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council, Head Quarter Khumulwng, the Khumulwng Eco Park has been raised in the lap of nature covering an area of 14.5 hectares of land. Khumulwang, which means the valley of flowers, the park is well organised in different sections such as the flower park, the children’s park and the science park. Boating facilities are also available. The Tribal Museum cum Heritage Centre is located at Khumulwng which has models of the 19 tribes of the state.

Jampui Hills
Located about 200 km east of Agartala, the Jampui Hills are the highest hill range in the state bordering Mizoram at an altitude of 3000 feet above sea level. Jampui is famous for its charming landscapes and bracing climate. The excellent climatic condition, green forests, beautiful orange gardens, views of the rising and setting sun are wonderful sights for tourists. The hill range has 11 villages inhabited by the Mizo or Lushai tribes and also by the Reang tribes. The main occupation of the villagers is orange cultivation.

The view of the rising and setting sun from the various viewpoints in Jampui Hills is a wonderful sight for visitors. The various viewpoints in the hill range provide excellent panoramic views of the valley and villages of Mizoram. From the watchtower at the highest peak, Betlingchip at 3200 feet above sea level, one can view the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Kanchanpur – Dasda valley and other hill ranges of Tripura and Mizoram unfold. Every November, the unique Orange & Tourism festival is celebrated here which attracts a large number of tourists, both domestic and foreign. During the monsoon season, the hill is covered with floating clouds and it provides a rare experience for tourists. The formation of clouds at the bottom of the hill range and its gradual ascendance from the bottom to the top slowly engulfing the whole hill range in its mystic lap is an experience to treasure. The Tourist Department of the Government of Tripura has constructed a very modern tourist lodge, The Eden Tourist Lodge at the Vanghmun village in the Jampui hills which has a capacity of 20 persons and is well equipped with all modern amenities.

Dumboor Lake, Dhalai
A charming water body about 135 km southeast of Agartala, Dumboor Lake is located in Amarpur. The lake is shaped like a tabor-shaped small drum, or the Dumboor of Lord Shiva from which the name Dumboor originates. The lake is spread over an area of 41 sq km and there are 48 islets inside the lake. The surrounding hills and the islets are enchantingly emerald green and present a captivating scenic spectacle. The winter months attract hundreds of migratory birds which gives the lake the status of healthy wetland habitat. There is a hydel project near the lake where the River Gomati originates and the area is called Tirthamukh where a big fair is held every year on Pous Sankranti on 14th January. The Lake is on the confluence of the rivers Raima and Saima. Boating facilities are available in Dumboor Lake.

Rudrasagar Lake
Also known as Twijilikma, the Rudrasagar Lake is located in Melaghar and is a picturesque lake that has lately been recognised as one of the wetlands of national importance for the conservation of resources and their sustainable use. Also known as Rudijala, three rivers named Noacherra, Kemrali Cherra and Durlavnaraya form the lake. The highlight of the lake is the magnificent Neermahal Palace built in 1930 which is situated on the northeast bank of the lake. The lake occupies an area of 2.4 sq km and is situated about 52 km south of Agartala. Rudrasagar Lake is a natural sedimentation reservoir, which receives flow from three perennial streams. After settling the sediment from the received flow, clear water discharges into the river Gumati through a connective channel, Kachigang. Rudrasagar is a potential Important Bird Area and attracts a large number of waterfowl in winter. Among the rarer species recorded are the endangered Baer’s pochard and near-threatened ferruginous duck.

Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary & Clouded Leopard National Park
Home to a variety of wildlife especially birds and primates, the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary & Clouded Leopard National Park is not just a wildlife sanctuary but also an academic and research centre. Spread over an area of 18.5 sq km about 27 km south of Agartala, the sanctuary came into existence in 1972 to conserve and propagate the biodiversity of the area. With the addition of a Botanical Garden, a deer park and a zoo, the bio complex was subsequently upgraded as the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary in early 1987. More than 150 species of residential birds, migratory birds, orchid gardens, boating facilities, wildlife, botanical garden, zoo, elephant joy-rides, and rubber and coffee plantations beckon the tourists all through the year. The added incentive for animal lovers is the famous spectacled monkey which is now a rare species. The sanctuary has more than 456 plant species, many kinds of bamboo and a variety of grasses and medicinal plants as well as a rich population of birds and animals. The sanctuary also offers spectacular views of coffee and rubber plantations and has boating facilities in the lake and a joyride in the toy train. The Clouded Leopard National Park is a part of the Sipahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and was established in 2007 with an area of 5 sq km.

Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary
Located about 111 km south of Agartala, the Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary is a wildlife and biodiversity sanctuary spread over an area of 164 sq km. Founded in 1988, this sanctuary is famous for the sizeable population of the Gaur or Indian Bison. The sanctuary also harbours a good stock of avifauna population which is integral to the prevalent ecosystem. Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary is also the habitat of and home to the highly endangered and only ape species of the Indian subcontinent, the Hoolock Gibbon and primates like the Capped Langur and the Golden Langur. The sanctuary has several perennial water rivulets, water bodies and grasslands with patches of virgin forests that are rich in rare vegetation. Closed on Tuesdays, the sanctuary is open between 9 am and 5 pm on other days.

Rajbari National Park
Situated in the Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary, the Rajbari National Park is spread over 31.63 sq km. The park is very famous owing to its picturesque surroundings and is one of the many places where one can witness Mother Nature at her best. One can expect to come across various wild animals including the world-famous Indian Gaur, also known as bison, deer, Golden langurs, Pheasants, and many such species. The Bison reserve was entrenched in the Sanctuary to protect the endangered species. With the establishment of this reserve, the primary goal was to restore the natural living habitat of the Bison and strengthen laws put forth for their protection from poachers. The park receives plenty of water from the many rivulets and water bodies situated in the sanctuary which ensures a regular and constant supply for the nourishment of the plant and animal species. It is also extremely abundant in forest reserves and is credited as one of the most conservative reserves that boast of rich biodiversity. The vegetation found in the sanctuary is of great diversity with several herbs, shrubs, tree species and climbers. Four types of forests can be found here including the tropical semi-evergreen forest, the east Himalayan lower Bhabar sal, moist mixed deciduous forest and Savannah woodlands. Bamboo is abundantly available. The safari at the Rajbari National Park is a must and is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the park. Jeep safaris and wildlife trips are organised regularly to impart knowledge and awareness regarding the environment and its inhabitants to visitors. The magnificent lake situated in the park is a beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic with your friends and family. The park offers boating facilities available at nominal rates as well. The park is open daily between 10 am to 5 pm on all days except Fridays when the park is closed. Entry fees are INR 10 per person.

Rowa Wildlife Sanctuary
Notified in 1988 by the Forest Department, the Rowa Wildlife Sanctuary lies about 160 km northeast of Agartala. It is spread over an area of only 0.86 sq km and was part of the erstwhile protected forests in Mouja Rowa. The sanctuary, despite its small size, has over the years gained a great deal of popularity because of its natural beauty and is the only wildlife sanctuary in North Tripura. The sanctuary is particularly rich in birds and reptiles with large flocks of migratory waterfowl congregating in the several water reservoirs in the protected area. The sanctuary is also home to a large variety of plant species including several species of medicinal value. Rowa Wildlife Sanctuary is open to visitors throughout the year.

Gomati Wildlife Sanctuary
Also known as the Gumti Wildlife Sanctuary, the Gomati Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest sanctuary in Tripura, located in the southeast corner of the state, about 135 km southeast of Agartala. It is spread over an area of 390 sq km. Adjoining the sanctuary, there is a vast water reservoir covering approximately 300 sq km which attracts many local and migratory water birds. The sanctuary also has elephants, bison, sambars and barking deer as well as other animals and reptiles. One of the landmarks of this sanctuary is Lake Dumbur, which attracts around 17 migratory bird species and 126 native bird species in the cold winters, but the number of bird visits has declined significantly in recent years.

And this brings us to the end of this exotic and underrated state. Do drop me a line if I have missed any must-see places and also what are your favorite places to visit in Tripura.

Travel Bucket List: India – Tripura Part 3

Kailashahar
Tripura’s fourth largest town, Kailashahar is located near the northwest Bangladesh border, about 155 km northeast of Agartala and is surrounded by the Unakoti hills Tripura’s longest river, River Manu flows through the town.

Kailashahar was the ancient capital of the Tripuri kingdom. Its history is associated with Unakoti, noted for its 7th to 9th-century stone and rock-cut images. A Shiva disciple who started the Tripurabda or the Tripuri calendar prayed to Lord Shiva in Chhambulnagar village on the banks of the Mau river. It is speculated that Chhambulnagar, which is mentioned in Rajmala, was situated near Unakoti Hill. The Prince prayed for Mahadeva in Unakoti. Kailashahar may be the legendary Chhambulnagar. Some believers thought that Har or Lord Shiva resides in Kailash. Therefore, the place was known as Kailash Har which was later on transformed into Kailashahar. Tripura King Adi-Dharmapha ruled there in the 7th century.

Today the town is famous for tea estates, with about 16 tea estates in Kailashahar dating back to the 16th century. The tea leaves grown here are entirely organic. Trekking options are also present here. This place is also known for the bamboo work done here, as well as handloom products made here.

Dedicated to Lord Krishna, the Lakhi Narayan Bari temple was installed by Krishnanada Sevayet and has monumental value today. The Chouddo Devotar Mandir or the 14 Deities Temple is dedicated to Ama or Tripuri, the mother of the people of Tripura. It is situated atop a tortoise-shaped hill with Lake Kalyansagar to its eastern side. Along with the several inscriptions of shlokas and ancient paintings found here, a structure looking like a Buddhist Stupa is seen on the roof of this temple. This place is located just 14km from the city of Agartala.

Unakoti
Lying 178 km to the northeast of Agartala, Unakoti is an ancient pilgrimage centre and hill. The Kokborok name of Unakoti is Subrai Khung as claimed by Jamatia Hoda. Unakoti hill means one less a koti or crore or ten million in Hindi and Bengali. The hill hosts an ancient Shaivite place of worship with huge rock reliefs celebrating Lord Shiva. The carvings are located in a beautifully landscaped forest area with green vegetation all around which adds to the beauty of the carvings.

Many of the rock carvings here depict the life of Lord Shiva as well as other deities from the Hindu pantheon. Sculptures of the Nandi Bull, Lord Ram, Lord Ganesha, and Lord Hanuman can also be seen here. The images found at Unakoti are of two types: namely 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.

The carvings are said to date to the 7th and 9th centuries if not earlier. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva once spent a night here en route to Kashi. 99,99,999 gods and goddesses followed him. He had asked his followers to wake up before sunrise and make their way towards Kashi. Unfortunately, none awoke, except Lord Shiva himself. Before he set out for Kashi alone, he put a curse on the others, turning them to stone and that is how the site got its name.

Unakoti also makes a good place for hiking, trekking and other activities given the terrain and the natural offerings of the area. Every year a big fair popularly known as the Ashokastami Mela is held in April and is visited by thousands of pilgrims. Another smaller festival takes place in January.

Udaipur
Known as Tripura’s tourism capital, Udaipur was formerly known as Rangamati and is the third biggest urban area in the state. The town was the capital of the state during the reign of the Manikya Dynasty and is famous for the Tripura Sundari temple also known as Tripureswari temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. Udaipur lies about 51 km south of Agartala. The Gomati river passes through the heart of Udaipur.

Udaipur is dotted with temples the most famous of which is the Tripura Sundari temple, which is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. The temple was constructed by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya Debbarma in 1501. There is a big lake beside the temple known as Kalyan Sagar. The Bhubaneshwari Temple is another famous temple and the Gunabati Temple, The Jagannath Temple, The Mahadev Temple are other famous temples. Udaipur is also known as the lake city and has many beautiful lakes. Some of them are the Jagannath Dighi, the Mahadev Dighi, the Amar Sagar, the Dhanisagar and Kalyan Sagar. It also has a national library named Nazrul Granthagar, after Kazi Nazrul Islam. The Tepania Eco Park and the Puran Rajbari are other attractions of Udaipur.

The Gunabati Group of Temples was built in the name of Maharani Gunabati, the wife of Maharaja Govinda Manikya, in 1668. The two other temples also bear a contemporary look but their actual history is still to be unveiled. The architecture of these temples resembles other contemporary temples of Tripura except that the topmost parts are without a stupa. The core chambers are marked by the presence of a pitcher circular core chamber and its vestibule which was large with a stupa-like crown is beautifully crafted like a lotus.

Ambassa
Ambassa is a quiet little town popular for its several temples and pleasant surroundings. Initially, a hilly area, which was covered in dense woods, the forests were cleared to create the district only in 1995. Boasting picturesque surroundings and ample natural resources, the town has not only become a popular tourist spot but also has earned fame for being extremely resourceful. Ambassa is inhabited by tribes which mainly live in houses built on platforms. Other residents have mostly migrated from India and Bangladesh. The places of attraction in Ambassa are its several beautiful gardens and the plethora of temples.

A massive juice plant is situated in Nalkata, some 38 km from Ambassa which is a major tourist attraction. Around the spot are also several handicraft shops which one can visit. The Longtharai Mandir is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is believed to be where Lord Shiva rested while he was on his way to Mount Kailash. The temple is situated atop a hill with a picturesque valley below which is how the temple’s name, Longtharai came to be as the word means a deep valley. Beautiful Khumpi flowers bloom here and the peace and calm at the temple is beyond description. Located at a distance of around 35 km from Ambassa, the Kamaleswari Mandir is a temple that is enshrined by Goddess Kali who is also known by the name of Goddess Kamaleswari.

The Sanaiya Waterfalls have a green and soothing natural beauty with panoramic views of the Kamalpur valley from a hilltop adjoining the border with Bangladesh. The village, consisting of the Upper and Lower Sanaiya Reang Para is the habitat of the Reang tribes, which are one of the prominent tribes of Tripura. The waterfall located in a gorge provides a unique tourist spot.

Pilak Archaeological Sites
Located at Jolaibari, about 100 km south of Agartala, Pilak is an archaeological site in South Tripura. Many images and structures, belonging to Buddhist and Hindu sects, have been discovered here since 1927 with the antiquities found here dating to between the 8th and 13th centuries and are on display at the Tripura Government Museum. There runs a hilly rivulet near the place which is known as Pilak Stream and the whole area is beautiful. Thousands of visitors gathered here during the Pilak Festival held in December.

The archaeological site used to be a part of the Samatata kingdom in historical Bengal and is part of a series of archaeological sites that includes Mainamati and Somapura Mahavihara in Bangladesh. The earliest dates of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, terracotta plaques and seals found at the site are between the 8th and 9th centuries. The artefacts unearthed at the site belong to the Bengal’s Palas and Guptas sculptural and architectural features; also the style of the Arakan in Myanmar and indigenous features are noticeable. The Archaeological Survey of India or ASI carried out excavations at the site in the early 1960s when stupas built with bricks were found. Recent investigations by the ASI unearthed statues of the Buddha and idols of Mahayana Buddhism.

The Pilak archaeological site represents both Hinduism and Buddhism co-existing peacefully. Artefacts of Hinduism are in the form of sculptures and plaques of Hindu gods and a large number of antiquities of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana Buddhism practices. The site is strewn with a large number of terracotta plaques and statues and very large stone sculptures of Avalokiteśvara and Narasimha have been unearthed at the site.

The inscribed terracotta seals found at Pilak depict Buddhist stupas of very small sizes. In Tripura, it is the seal which is worshipped and not the stupa. There is a cone-shaped stone slab with an image of Buddha in an upright posture, dated to the 8th century. A statue of Avalokiteshvara with two arms found at the site is now exhibited in the Tripura Government Museum. A sculpture of the 8th or 9th centuries found here is that of Goddess Marichi, venerated by both the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists. However, it is now an iconic idol which is installed in a Hindu temple known as Vasudev-badi. The idol in an upright posture is called Pratyalida and is mounted on a simple plinth, and is well preserved. A sculpted sandstone statue from the site dated to the 8th – 9th century is of Chunda which is now revered as Raja Rajeshwari in a temple at Muhuripur. The image is carved with 18 arms in a posture called Vajaparyankasana deified over a padmapitha or a lotus pedestal. A new find from the Sundari Tilla is a stupa dated to the 11th century similar to the architectural features of the rule of the Palas of Bengal. A Hindu religious terracotta image made in fired clay found at Pilak is of Trimurti. Another image from the Sagardheba mound is of Surya, the Sun god, riding a chariot driven by seven horses, dated to the 7th to 9th centuries which is deified in a temple in the Rajesvari Ashram in Muhuripur.

Chabimura
Located about 77 km southeast of Agartala and about 30 km east of Udaipur, Chabimura is famous for its panels of rock carvings on the steep mountain wall on the bank of the River Gomati. There are huge images carved of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Kartika, Goddess Mahisasurmardini Durga and other Gods and Goddesses. These images date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. These beautiful images are curved with a lot of dexterity on the rocky faces of Devtamura which is steep at 90 degrees. The hill ranges are covered with thick jungles and one can reach this place only after trekking through these jungles. The road leading to the river bank where the rock-cut images exist is a treat to the eye. The area is also an eco-tourism centre.

The first panel is just on the other side of the bank measuring 10.3 m in height and is spread over an area of 28 m and is south-facing. The area to the right of the panel extends up to 60 m where some other images existed. At present some of the images are lost by sliding of rock panels. The second image is that of Mahishasurmardini and is about one km away from the 1st panel and is curved at a height of 10 meters from the river bed. The local tribe worshipped it as Chakrak-Ma. This is one of the largest reliefs of the Goddess present in the country which itself makes it unique. The image has a height of 10.70 meters and a width of 7.70 meters. The face is depicted as round with dishevelled hair-and several hair locks. She is ten-armed and is holding a weapon in nine arms except for the lower arm which holds the hair of the demon king. The weapons are mostly indistinct due to erosion and floral growth.

Mahamuni Pagoda, Manubankul
The Mahamuni Pagoda at Manubankul is located about 134 km south of Agartala. The Buddhist temple not only draws devotees from within India, but it also attracts Buddhist pilgrims from countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Japan and Bangladesh. The temple was built under the leadership of Mathu Mog and others. The monastery bears the Buddhist idioms of expressions in religious architecture. Annually, during March and April, a week-long festival is held and the festival brings about a lot of happiness and bliss to the people. During the festival Lord Buddha is worshipped in the monastery by both Buddhist and Hindu devotees. The Mahamuni Buddha Temple is open throughout the year and the visiting hours are from 6 am to 7 pm.

Buddhist Stupa, Boxanagar
About 36 km southwest of Agartala lies the town of Boxanagar, where, recently after the denudation of a natural forest area, ruins of a brick-built building emerged on the edge of the border with Bangladesh. The local people initially attributed the remains to an ancient temple of Manasa the Goddess of Snakes. After the Archaeological Survey of India took over the site, excavations began and an idol of Lord Buddha was discovered and it was confirmed that it had been a Buddha temple. Other discoveries here include a massive Buddhist stupa, a Chaityagriha, a monastery and other associated burnt brick structures.

The brick-built stupa exposed through archaeological excavation is of a square plan. The basement of the stupa is arrayed in eight mouldings in diminishing order over which the tapering medhi is set with mud mortar and burnt bricks of different sizes. The ruin of the Chaityagriha has been exposed on the eastern side of the stupa which is rectangular on plan and is aligned in the east-west direction. The superstructure of the Chaityagriha is completely damaged except on the side walls which survived up to 1.60 m. The brick-built monastery have a long corridor between rows of five cells on each side.

The excavation of another mound at Boxanagar has exposed a fully burnt-brick structure with Triratha projections having a square sacred chamber which appears to contain the extant remains of three spokes. These spokes are found radiating out from a semi-circular structure located on the eastern side of the sacred chamber. In front of this structure, there is a rectangular hall enclosed by a wall all around. A brick-rammed floor is provided inside this hall probably for facilitating the congregation of devotees. A wide Pradakshinapatha is also provided around these structures.

Travel Bucket List: India – Tripura Part 2

Agartala

Tripura’s capital city and one of the largest cities of northeast India, Agartala is the seat of the Government of Tripura. It is located on the banks of the Haora River, near the Bangladesh border.

Agartala is a derivative of two words, namely agar, a valuable perfume and incense tree of genus Aquilaria, and the suffix tala, meaning underneath, a reference to the density of agarwood trees in the region. The agar tree is historically referred to in the story of King Raghu who tied up his elephant’s feet to an agar tree on the banks of River Lauhitya.

The ancient capital of the then princely state of Swadhin Tripura was at Rangamati in present-day Udaipur in South Tripura by the bank of the River Gomati. In 1760 it was shifted by Maharaja Krishna Chandra Manikya Bahadur of the Manikya dynasty to present old Agartala by the bank of the River Haora or Saidra and was named Haveli. Due to frequent invasions of the Kukis and also to keep easy communication with the British and the Bengalis, Maharaja Krishna Chandra Manikya started the process of shifting the capital from Old Haveli to New Haveli which is present-day Agartala in 1849.

Bir Bikram Kishore Debbarman is called the founder of the planned city of Agartala. He had gone on a tour to the United Kingdom and was so impressed at the architecture that he started planning a similar township in Agartala. During the 1940s the town was re-organised in a planned manner with new roads and a market building. 1981 saw Agartala expanding and increasing its connectivity as well as businesses in various fields, The Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore visited the city multiple times and built a house that still exists.

The Ujjayanta Palace used to be the palace of the Kings of Tripura that was converted into the state legislative assembly and today is a museum, situated in the area of the Palace Compound. The palace also served as the meeting place of the Tripura Legislative Assembly until 2011. Tours are conducted by the Tripura Tourism Department. The name Ujjayanta Palace was given by the poet Rabindranath Tagore, who visited the state many times. Maharaja Bir Bikram was the last king of Tripura and the last king who stayed in the palace. It has now been transformed into a museum named Ujjayanta Museum.

Built in 1901, the palace has magnificent tiled floors, carved wooden ceilings and lovely doors. The palace includes the Public halls, a throned room, a Durbar Hall, a Library, the Chinese Room and the Reception Hall. The Palace stands on the banks of a small lake surrounded by the lush greenery of Mughal gardens. Spread over an expanse of 28 hectares of parkland, this exotic palace has several Hindu temples dedicated to the deities, Lakshmi Narayan, Uma-Maheshwari, Kali and Jagannath.

Also known as Nuyungma in the Tripuri language, the palace was constructed between 1899 and 1901 by Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya Debbarma and stands on the banks of two lakes surrounded by gardens inspired by the European style. Upon the merger of the Kingdom of Tripura with India in 1949, the royal properties were nationalised. The main building along with the area around the palace was purchased from the royal family by the Tripura government in 1972–73 and housed the Tripura Legislative Assembly until July 2011 when the assembly moved to a new location 6 km north of Agartala.

Today it is one of the largest museums in Northeast India, covering an area of over 800 acres of land, it depicts the lifestyle, art, culture, tradition and utility crafts, besides the customs and practices of various communities residing in northeast India. The two-storied palace has three large domes, the largest of which is 86 ft high, and which rests atop a four-storied central tower. The architecture shows a mix of influences – Mughal, Roman and British. There are two large artificial ponds on either side of the garden which is decorated with pools and fountains. Several Hindu temples occupy plots adjacent to Ujjayanta Palace, dedicated to Lakshmi Narayan, Uma-Maheshwari, Durga and Jagannath. Newer attractions in the compound include the musical fountain installed in front of the main entrance and the night-time floodlights. The grounds are laid out as formal Mughal gardens adorned with fountains. The palace and musem is closed on Mondays and other days is open between 10 am to 5 pm and has an entry fee of INR 10 per person.

The Kunjaban Palace was constructed by King Birendra Kishore Manikya in 1917 and is today the official residence of the Governor of Tripura. The intricate carvings and magnificent structures built here, along with the magnificent adjoining gardens make it a marvellous monument as a whole.

The Jagannath temple was built by the Maharaja of Tripura of the Manikya Dynasty in the 19th century and is located in the Ujjayanta Palace grounds and is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. While the Islamic style of architecture is predominant in the exterior of this temple, the interiors are decorated with Hindu splendour. It is widely believed that the Neelmadhav idol that is consecrated at Puri was donated from the Jagganath Bari Mandir of Tripura. The base of the Jagannath temple is an octagon in shape with brightly coloured orange walls. Pyramidal conic structures adorn the pillars of the temple. The impression of the pradhkshin patha that is around the sanctum deserves special mention. The Nitya Puja, Bhoga offerings and distribution, along with the evening Aarti, are the main rituals that are followed here. The Aartis are especially a must-attend event to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the temple and to be lost in the devotion of the Almighty. The Ratha Yatra, also known as Maha Ratha Yatra is the annual festival of the temple that takes place in June, is an important festival that is attended by hundreds of devotees each year.

Located within the Ujjayanta palace grounds, the Ummaneshwar Temple is a saffron-coloured temple influenced by West Bengali culture.

The Tripura Sundari Temple is a beautiful temple situated in Udaipur, around 55 km away from Agartala. This ancient, 500-year-old temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas and is where the toe of the right foot of Sati fell. The temple is that it is in the shape of a tortoise and is also known as the Kurma Peeth. Dedicated to Goddess Kali, built in 1501, is where a steady stream of pilgrims make almost endless animal sacrifices that leave the grounds as bloody as the temple’s vivid-red shikhara. The temple is also known as Matabari and is served by priests in red robes who minister to the Tripura Sundari.

King Dhanya Manikya who was the ruler of Tripura in the 15th century had a dream asking him to install the idol of Goddess Tripura Sundari in the temple present on the hilltop. However, this temple was already dedicated to Lord Vishnu which is why the king could not decide how to install another idol in the temple which was already devoted to Lord Vishnu. However, the repetition of this message by the oracle made the king decide to follow its command and thus the Tripura Sundar Temple came into existence.

The temple is small and measures 24 square feet at the base and 75 feet at the top where Goddess Parvati is worshipped with the names Tripurasundari, Tripureshwari, and Soroshi. The temple’s structure is similar to that of a tortoise with the roof in the shape of the humped back of the tortoise. This is why the shrine is also known as Kurma Peetha since Kurma means tortoise. There is a square sanctum in the temple having a conical dome. This was constructed in 1501 by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya Debbarma. Inside the glorious temple, two exact images of the same deity are present. These have been given the names Tripura Sundari which is 5 feet high and Chhotima which is 2 feet high. The idol is built from Kasti stone which is reddish-black and it is said that this idol of Chhotima was carried on the battlefield by the king.

Kalyan Sagar is a lake is situated on the eastern side of the Tripura Sundari Temple and is spread over 5 acres of land with a length of 224 yards and a width of 160 yards. 124 years after the Tripura Sundari Temple was set up, the Kalyan Sagar Lake was founded which can be traced back to the rule of Maharaja Kalian Manikya in 1501. Different varieties of aqua species can be found in the lake including huge tortoises. The devotees who visit the temple feed biscuits and puffed rice to the fish. The lake is considered sacred by the devotees and has a fountain in the centre which makes it appear even more beautiful. The temple opens between 5 am and 9 pm during the summer months and between 5:30 am and 8:30 pm during the winter months.

The Bhubaneswari Temple is located in Udaipur about 55 km from Agartala by the bank of the River Gomati. The temple built by Maharaja Govinda Manikya is now under the control and supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India. While approaching the Bhubaneswari Temple one also finds the ruins of the palace of Govinda Manikya.

The Chaturdash Devta Temple is located in Old Agartala and is also known as the Temple of Fourteen Gods. Before 1770 AD, the images of fourteen Gods were in Udaipur in two temples beside the Tripureswar Bhairab Temple, but in 1770 A.D after Maharaja Krishna Kishore Manikya was defeated by Shamsher Gaze, he shifted his capital from Udaipur to Old Agartala and the images of the Fourteen Gods were also taken to the capital and installed in a new temple. The capital was shifted to resent-day Agartala in 1840 AD, but the images of Fourteen Gods remained in the same temple. On the occasion of the special puja of the Fourteen Gods known as Kharchi Puja, a grand fair is held for 7 days in and around the old palace. The worship of the Fourteen Gods has an old history and legend associated with it. During the time of Mahabharata, Trilochana, a contemporary of Yudhisthira, was the king of Tripura who used to worship these Fourteen Gods as Royal deities. The tradition continued with all the subsequent Kings of Tripura. Animal sacrifices offered by the devotees are an integral feature of Kharchi puja. Inside the temple, the images of the Fourteen Gods do not consist of a full body with only the images of the heads of the Gods present.

The Kasba Kali Temple is a Shakti shrine about 31 away from Agartala and is located beside the Indo-Bangladesh international border. The serene lake in front of the temple adds to the charm of the  place. Although Maharaja Kaliyan Manikya started construction, it was Maharaja Dhanya Manikya who finished building the temple in the late 15th century. The deity installed inside the temple dedicated to Goddess Durga but as the base platform has an image of Lord Shiva , the ten-handed Durga fighting the buffalo demon Mahisasur is worshipped as Goddess Kali. The area where the temple is located is also known as a kasba which is a Persian word meaning town. The ancient name of the place was Kamalagarh or Koilagarh. After defeating Surja, the then-ruler of Bengal, Maharaja Kalyan Manikya built this fort to further secure the princely kingdom of Tripura. A township gradually developed around the fort and the name Koilagarh was replaced by the name Kasba. Maharaja Dhanya Manikya dug a large water body in front of the temple and named it Kamalasagar to honour his wife, Kamaladevi. Today there is an Indo-Bangla Border Hut which is also a special attraction. Every year a big fair is held near the temple in April and thousands of devotees the temple.

Buddhist Temples in Tripura support the fact that Buddhism is quite prevalent in the state. Archaeological evidence suggest that Buddhists have inhabited the region since ancient times with several Buddhist rulers ruling the state who left permanent influences on the culture of the state. In the 16th century, Buddhism was almost eliminated from this region owing to the defeat of Buddhist rulers, but its revival in Tripura began in the 17th century. The Buddha Temple is an important religious site and was constructed in 1946. It houses two idols of Buddha and Bodhisattva, believed to be having a Burmese origin. The surrounding gardens enhance the beauty of the temple premises.

The Gedu Mia’s Maszid is an imposing mosque located in the Shibnagar area of Agartala. Built of imported white marble stones, this exquisite mosque is endowed with a large number of minarets, towers and artworks on doors, fronted by a sprawling green space for religious congregations including weekly Jumma Namaz.

Parks in Agartala include Heritage Park which is the most visited of all the parks in the city. The most notable features are the miniature models of various monuments of the state, the Ayurvedic herb garden and the fountain. Rabindra Kanan is a park in the vicinity of the Pushpavanta Palace, the former Raj Bhavan of Tripura and the Malancha Nivas. This park, close to the Heritage Park, annually holds the birth anniversary ceremony of Rabindranath Tagore after whom the park is named. The Vivek Uddyan is adjacent to the Ujjayanta Palace and the Children’s Park and annually holds the birth anniversary ceremony of Swami Vivekananda, after whom the park is named.

The Lake Palace of Tripura or the Neermahal is the largest palace of its kind in the subcontinent. This architectural beauty derives its name from its location, the middle of the Rudrasagar Lake. One of India’s two water palaces, the former royal palace was the royal summer palace. The palace is the result of Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya Bahadur’s idea of constructing a summer residence in the middle of Rudrasagar Lake which took nine years to construct. The palace is a beautiful amalgamation of Hindu and Muslim architecture and looks more enchanting during the nighttime when the lights are switched on, and its reflection is made in the water. Sandstone and Marble have been extensively used in the construction and the palace has a profusion of balconies, pillars, rooms, ornated walls, bridges, and pavilions.  It is divided into two parts, the Andar Mahal and an open-air theatre. Where the former lies in the west, the latter occupies the eastern part of the palace. The Andar Mahal was formed as the royal family’s private area. It has 24 rooms and 2 stairways built in such a way that they land onto the Rudrasagar Lake. Back then boats were used as transportation mode between the palace and other parts of the land. There is a sound and light show in the evenings and the premises also include water sports activities. The palace is also famous for the three-day-long Neermahal Water Festival which takes place annually in August and December. Boat races and swimming competitions are observed alongside small cultural programmes. The palace is open from 9 am to 5 pm and has an entry fee of INR 5 per person while children below the age of 5 pay INR 3. There is also a camera fee of INR 10 per camera.

The Gondacherra Wildlife Sanctuary is home to multiple species of flora and fauna. Mammals like tigers, bison, wild horses, aquatic life as well as migratory birds can be seen here. The Raima Valley is also known as the Mother of the Tribals of Tripura. This lush green valley, decorated with gardens and plantations has become a preferred tourist spot.

The Akhaura Integrated Check Post was inaugurated on 17 November 2013 and is the second largest trading centre with Bangladesh after Benapole and Petrapole in West Bengal. People travel to the border to witness the flag-lowering ceremony in a mutually coordinated performance. The check post includes a mini-stadium which hosts the Beating of Retreat ceremony like that at the Wagah border with Pakistan.

Travel Bucket List: India – Tripura Part 1

India’s third-smallest state, Tripura lies in northeast India and is bordered by Bangladesh to the north, south, and west, and Assam and Mizoram to the east. Tripura is located in an isolated hilly region of the country, with various indigenous peoples, or tribes, accounting for a significant portion of the population. The area of modern Tripura which was ruled for several centuries by the Manikya Dynasty was part of an independent princely state under the protectorate of the British Empire. The independent Tripuri Kingdom, also known as Hill Tippera joined the newly independent India in 1949.

Tripura lies in a geographically isolated location in India, as only one major highway, the National Highway 8, connects it with the rest of the country. Five mountain ranges — Boromura, Atharamura, Longtharai, Shakhan and Jampui Hills — run north to south, with intervening valleys. Agartala, the capital, is located on a plain to the west. The state has a tropical savanna climate and receives seasonal heavy rains from the southwest monsoon.

Forests cover more than half of Tripura, in which bamboo and cane tracts are common. Tripura has the highest number of primate species found in any Indian state. Due to its geographical isolation, economic progress in the state is hindered with poverty and unemployment continuing to plague the state, which has a limited infrastructure. Most residents are involved in agriculture and allied activities, although the service sector is the largest contributor to the state’s gross domestic product. According to the 2011 census, Tripura is one of the most literate states in India, with a literacy rate of 87.75%.

The origin of Tripura’s name is still a matter of controversy among historians and researchers. According to the Rajmala, Tripura’s celebrated court chronicle, an ancient king named Tripur ruled over the territorial domain known as Tripura and the name of the kingdom was derived from his name. Many researchers explain the name Tripura from its etymological origin: the word is a compound of two separate words, tui which means water and pra which means near which in totality means near water. The geographical location of the state with its proximity to the vast water resources of eastern Bengal coupled with the generic identity of the state’s original inhabitants as Tipra or Twipra justify this explanation of the state’s name.

The early history of the kingdom of Tripura is a complex blend of history and mythology. According to the Rajmala, Tripura’s royal house trace their origin to the lunar dynasty, following in the footsteps of their counterparts in the Hindu royal houses of the rest of India who claim to have originated from the lunar or solar dynasties. The name Tripura is linked to the Hindu goddess Tripura Sundari, the presiding deity of the Tripura Sundari Temple at Udaipur, one of the 51 shakti peethas and to the legendary tyrant king Tripur, who reigned in the region. Tripur was the 39th descendant of Druhyu, who belonged to the lineage of Yayati, a king of the Lunar Dynasty.

The Indian epic, the Mahabharata; ancient religious texts, the Puranas; and the Edicts of Ashoka which are stone pillar inscriptions of the emperor Ashoka dating from the third century BCE, all mention Tripura. The Rajmala, a chronicle of Tripuri kings which was first written in the 15th century, provides a list of 179 kings, from antiquity up to Krishna Kishore Manikya who ruled between 1830 and 1850.

Tripura became a princely state during British rule in India. The Tripura kings had an estate in British India, known as the Tippera district or Chakla Roshnabad, now the Comilla district of Bangladesh, in addition to the independent area known as Hill Tippera, roughly corresponding to the present-day Tripura state. Udaipur, in south Tripura, was the capital of the kingdom, until King Krishna Manikya moved the capital to Old Agartala in the 18th century. It was moved to the new city of Agartala in the 19th century. Bir Chandra Manikya who ruled between 1862 and 1896 modelled his administration on the pattern of British India, and enacted reforms including the formation of the Agartala Municipal Corporation. Following India’s independence in 1947, Tippera district, the estate in the plains of British India, became the Comilla district of East Pakistan, and Hill Tippera remained under a regency council until 1949. The Maharani Regent of Tripura signed the Tripura Merger Agreement on 9 September 1949, making Tripura a Part C state of India. It became a Union Territory, without a legislature, in November 1956 and an elected ministry was installed in July 1963. It was conferred full statehood in 1971 by the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971. The geographic partition that coincided with the independence of India resulted in major economic and infrastructural setbacks for the state, as road transport between the state and the major cities of the newly-independent India had to follow a more circuitous route, around East Pakistan. The road distance between Kolkata and Agartala before the partition was less than 350 km or 220 miles, and increased to 1,700 km or 1,100 miles, as the route now avoided East Pakistan. The geopolitical isolation was aggravated by an absence of rail transport.  

After the partition, many Bengali Hindus migrated to Tripura as refugees fleeing religious persecution in Muslim-majority East Pakistan, especially after 1949. Parts of the state were shelled by the Pakistan Army during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Following the war, the Indian government reorganised the North East region to ensure effective control of the international borders with three new states coming into existence on 21 January 1972 – Meghalaya, Manipur, and Tripura. Pre-independence, most of Tripura’s population was indigenous, but the migrations by Bengali Hindus led to scattered violence, and an insurgency spanning decades, including occasional massacres such as the 1980 Mandai massacre. This gradually abated following the establishment of a tribal autonomous district council and the use of strategic counter-insurgency operations.

Tripura is characterised by hill ranges, valleys and plains. The state has five anticlinal ranges of hills running north to south, from Boromura in the west, through Atharamura, Longtharai and Shakhan, to the Jampui Hills in the east. At an altitude of 939 m, Betling Shib in the Jampui range is the state’s highest point. The small isolated hillocks interspersed throughout the state are known as tillas, and the narrow fertile alluvial valleys, mostly present in the west, are called Doóng or lungas. Several rivers originate in the hills of Tripura and flow into Bangladesh with the Khowai, Dhalai, Manu, Juri and Longai flowing towards the north; the Gumti to the west; and the Muhuri and Feni to the south-west. Tripura is predominantly rural with the highest densities of the rural population found in the state’s most fertile agricultural lands, located in the western plain and the Gumti, Dharmanagar, and Khowai valleys. Rice is the major crop in Tripura and accounts for 91 percent of the land under cultivation. Towns are concentrated on the western plain and the state capital of Agartala is the largest city. Most of the population, adhering to Hinduism and speaking Bengali, shares the broader cultural traditions of India, while the Muslim minority is closer in culture to Bangladesh. The traditions of the tribal peoples also are important elements of Tripura’s cultural life, with each community possessing its festivals, folklore, music, and dance. Pisciculture has made significant advances in the state and Rubber and tea are important cash crops. Tripura ranks second to Kerala in the production of natural rubber in the country. The state is known for its handicraft, particularly hand-woven cotton fabric, wood carvings, and bamboo products.

The Tripura Hills, by way of the Mizo Hills of Mizoram state on the east, form a low western extension of the Purvachal, a strategically located highland region fronting the border with Myanmar. The region belongs to the Assam-Burma geologic province, an unstable seismic zone crisscrossed by several faults and extending into Myanmar. The hills are a series of parallel north-south folds, decreasing in elevation to the south until they merge into the greater Ganges-Brahmaputra lowlands, also called the Eastern Plains. Each successive ridge of hills to the east rises higher than the one before; the low Deotamura Range is followed by the Artharamura, Langtarai, and Sakhan Tlang ranges. The Jamrai Tlang Mountains, 46 miles (74 km) in length, have the highest peak, Betling Sib (3,280 feet [1,000 metres]).

Two of Tripura’s largest festivals are the Kharchi Puja and the Garia. The Kharchi Puja, also known as the Festival of the 14 Gods, has its origins in tribal tradition but is now a major temple festival celebrated within a predominantly Hindu framework by both tribal and nontribal peoples. It takes place in Agartala every July and honours the deities and the Earth. The Garia celebration is a prominent festival of the indigenous population and is associated particularly with the Tripuri people. Garia is held each April following the planting of the fields to pray for a successful agricultural year.

Travel Bucket List: India – Chattisgarh Part 4

Mahasamund
One of Chaatisgarh’s largest and most important cities, Mahasamund is located about 55 km east of Raipur. It is also the biggest city in the Trans-Mahanadi area. Tourist sites in and around Mahasamund include Sirpur, the ancient capital of South Kosal and famous for its Lakshman temple, Buddha Vihar and many archaeological sites. The state government has decided to develop this area as a World Heritage site. Other nearby tourist sites include Kodar Dam, Rajim Kumbh, Rajiv Lochan Temple, and Khallari Temple. The birthplace of Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya is in nearby Champaran.

Sirpur
Sirpur also referred to as Shripur, Sripura or Sripur which means a city of auspiciousness and abundance or Goddess Lakshmi is a small village located about 83 km east of Raipur and 38 km north of Mahasamund on the banks of river Mahanadi. The village is an archaeological wonder and is rich in its temple culture. The Buddhist monasteries of this village are said to be one of the most significant in India. The Chhattisgarh Tourism Board organises a music and dance festival here to promote Buddhist sites and celebrate its culture. There is also a major fair held here during Mahashivaratri.

Sirpur was the capital of the Panduvanshi dynasty in ancient times and hosts the Sirpur Group of Monuments consisting of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temples and monasteries that date from the 5th to the 12th centuries. The site has been significant for its temple ruins of Lord Rama and Lord Lakshmana, as well as those related to Shaivism, Shaktism, Buddhism and Jainism. In the second half of the 1st millennium CE, it was the capital city with major commercial and religious significance for the Dakshina Kosala kingdom. The earliest documented evidence states that it was first the capital of the Sharabhapuriya dynasty, followed by the Panduvamshi dynasty. The Sharabhapuriya dynasty itself is dated to the late 5th century CE, but inscriptions mention its first capital to be Sharabhapura, as yet an unknown site. The abundant inscriptions of the mid-6th century CE in the region mention the Hindu Shaiva king Teevardeva and 8th-century King Shivagupta Balarjuna establishing temples and monasteries for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains in his kingdom.

The Sirpur Group of Monuments are an archaeological and tourism site containing Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monuments from the 5th to the 12th centuries spread near the banks of the river Mahanadi. The site excavations after 1950, particularly after 2003, have yielded 22 Shiva temples, 5 Vishnu temples, 10 Buddha Viharas, 3 Jain Viharas, a 6th or 7th-century market and a snana-kund or bathhouse. The site shows extensive syncretism, where Buddhist and Jain statues or motifs intermingle with Shiva, Vishnu and Devi temples. The location is mentioned in the memoirs of the Chinese traveller Xuanzang as a location of monasteries and temples. A report by Alexander Cunningham, a British India colonial official in 1872 on a Lakshmana temple at Sirpur brought it to international attention.

The Lakshman Temple is one of the most popular spots in this village, and the architecture of this temple has been a constant inspiration for many architects. Believed to be lost, the Baleshwar Temple was excavated recently. It is named after king Mahashivgupt Balarjun, who built the temple and many of his items have been unearthed in the recently conducted excavation. Another interesting fact about this temple is that there are not one but three more temples in this place and they are all dedicated to the great Shiva. The Rama Temple is one of the oldest ones and is believed to be dedicated to Lords Ram and Lakshman. A popular attraction, it has a star-shaped platform called Jagati and the place is situated near the Lakshmana Temple. Popularly known as the Sirpur Buddha Vihara, the Buddha Vihara is an 8th-century Buddhist temple built by Bhikshu Anand Prabhu. Not far from the Lakshmana temple, Teevardev is a Buddhist monastery that had Buddhist artworks, statues and Hindu themes such as tales of Panchatantra. A beautiful meeting of Buddhist and Hindu architecture, this temple is believed to be built by Shaiva Khan and his Buddhist Queen.

The ASI Museum has a rich collection of artefacts collected over the years in the various site excavations conducted. The museum is situated right in the Lakshmana temple so it’s easily accessible and a must-visit.

Rajim
Rajim lies 52 km southeast of Raipur and is named after the Rajiv Lochan Mandir which is Rajim’s principal temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There is also the ancient Kuleshwar Mahadev Mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva in the Triveni Sangam. The town hosts the Triveni Sangam or confluence of Mahanadi, and Pairi Rivers, both physically & the Sondor river virtually. It is also known as the Prayag of Chhattisgarh. The Chhattisgarh Kumbh Mela takes place over here from Magh Poornima to Mahashivaratri every year. Pilgrims come together from several places across the country to take part in this auspicious event.

The Rajiv Lochan Vishnu Mandir is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. A 7th-century inscription recording the construction of the temple, dated to the reign of King Vilasatunga, has been found here. Vilasatunga probably belonged to a branch of the Nala dynasty. This temple is a notable example of the Panchayana Shaili or architecture. The temple structure is supported by twelve-towered columns embroidered with stone carvings, which bear the faces of the various gods of Hindu mythology. The temple is an important religious construct visited by devotees from all over the globe who arrive to offer their prayers to the Lord Vishnu. The statue of Lord Buddha in the meditative position under the Bodhi tree carved out of black stone is also popular in the city.

The Rajesvar Temple is located opposite the western entrance of the Rajiv Lochan Temple and comprises a mandapa, an antarala and a garba-griha. Its architectural style is regarded to be similar to the Rajiv Lochan temple. Other temples dedicated to the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu like the Vamana and the Narasimha are close to the Rajiv Lochan Mandir. The Kuleshwar Mahadeva Mandir stands in glory in the city even at night. The Ghatoria Mahakali Mandir is another temple on the banks of Mahanadi river. The Bhagavan Parashvanath Temple was constructed about 15 years back when some people found a 2000-old-year idol of Parshavanatha Bhagwan.

The Rajim Kumbh is celebrated every year around mid-Feb to March spread over 15 days and attracts thousands of Naga Sadhus, Sants, Mahatmas, Rishis, Munis and Margdarshak Gurus from across India and beyond. The Rajim Kumbh is arranged at the confluence of the three rivers in Rajim also known as Triveni Sangam. Within the same festival, the Rajim Lochan Mahotsav is held between 16 February and 1 March and has various music and dance performances showcasing Rajim’s rich culture.

Jagdalpur
Previously the capital of the former princely state of Bastar, Jagdalpur is the fourth largest city in Chhattisgarh as well as the commercial, financial and political hub of south Chhattisgarh. Jagdalpur has a rich history of political activism and has developed a very rich culture over time. Today, it is most famous for the monuments and palaces in the city as well as the natural wonders like lakes, waterfalls and forests that are still untouched by tourist activity. Jagdalpur so one of the emerging destinations that are being aggressively promoted by the state tourism department. The town has a primarily agrarian economy and it is the second biggest market after Raipur in the state. It also has many small-scale and large-scale industries as well with furniture factories and rice mills being the most common industries in this region. Tourism is also a major source of revenue for the town which has plenty of wildlife, temples, waterfalls, caves, lakes, museums and historic monuments to cater to everyone’s tastes. The Indian Tourism Ministry has identified the Jagdalpur-Teerathgarh-Chitrakoot-Barsur-Dantewada-Teerathgarh Circuit as one of the 45 Mega Tourist Destinations and Circuits in India because of footfall and future tourism potential.

The broadest waterfall in India, Chitrakote is popularly known as the Niagara of India, because of its width. Situated on the western part of Jagdalpur, this waterfall originates from the Indravati river. The falls drop from a height of about 30 m with a width of 985 feet, and during monsoons, one can watch the falls at their full glory cascading from the top of the cliff in 3 streams during the summer months. A significant attraction below the fall is the shrine of Lord Shiva with many small shiva lingas. During the low season, locals and tourists are seen to be swimming, bathing or even using paddle boats on the river. The boat ride in the pool formed at the bottom of the waterfalls offers stunning views of the waterfall and boatmen can also take visitors up to the sprays and let them experience the gushing mist that emerges from the waterfalls. There is a flight of stairs that have to be climbed down to take the boat ride, the view from the bottom of the stairway is the best and provides for a great photo op.

A recent discovery, the Tamra Ghoomar Waterfalls are tucked away in a sequestered spot away from the city and surrounded by lush green pastures on both sides. A natural waterfall that falls from a height of more than 100 feet, the falls are usually formed during the monsoon showers. It is a 20-minute drive from Chitrakote falls and a perfect spot for a picnic. The Mendri Ghoomar Waterfall is another natural waterfall that forms during the monsoon months and is around 11 km from Chitrakote falls. Mendri Ghoomar is nestled between Chitrakote Barasur and Tirtha and is located in Jagdalpur. The height of descent of the falls is approximately 70 m with lush green covers enveloping the waterfall which overflows during the rains and has a more relaxed flow during the summer months.

A beautiful picnic spot, the Chitradhara fall is like a gorgeous white cascade of water gushing down the hill. Situated in the small and remote village of Potanar, the Chitradhara fall takes the form of a horseshoe and the water is seen to be gushing down at a breakneck and exciting pace, making it an excellent spot for outdoor and adventure lovers. Not as glorious and big like the Chitrakote falls, Chitradhara is less popular and gives the tourist an experience of a remote village and surrounded by serenity.

Chhatisgarh’s biggest artificial lake on the River Indravati, Dalpat Sagar is a 400-year-old lake built primarily to harvest rainwater and is now also being used mainly for fishing and tourism. There is an artificial island built in the middle of the lake for visitors to enjoy picnics and the island has a light tower, a musical fountain and even a temple surrounded by nature. The government has also started boating facilities for tourists so that they can enjoy the gorgeous sunsets. Spread over an area of 350 hectares, this lake was built by Raja Dalpat Deo Kakatiya so that the collected rainwater could be used for irrigation, washing and drinking. The surroundings of the lake have some rare and beautiful flora and fauna too. Dalpat Sagar is constructed across 350 hectares of land in the river Indravati. It is situated in the Bastar region and was built 400 years ago by Raja Dalpat Deo Kakatiya for harvesting rainwater. The lake undergoes maintenance by the Government of Chhattisgarh. There is an island constructed in the centre of the lake which is accessible by boats. There are also platforms built across the lake at different points for the boats. All this makes it very convenient for the visitors to enjoy their visit to the lake.

The Danteshwari Temple is dedicated to Goddess Danteshwari, the deity of the earlier Kakatiya rulers, also known as an incarnation of Shakti. Built in the 14th century, the temple was constructed in a typical south Indian style of architecture. Chiselled out of black stone, the idol of the Goddess is supposed to possess divine powers. Every year during Dusshera, all tribals and locals from the surrounding towns and villages come here to pay respect to the Goddess. Situated in the middle of a spacious courtyard with beautiful pillars, the temple has four parts that a visitor can explore. An important spiritual centre, the temple is known to represent the cultural and religious beliefs and the history of the Bastar region. The temple is considered one of the fifty-two Shakti Peethas of Sati, and it is believed that the tooth of Sati fell here. The temple is divided into four parts which include the Garbh Griha, the Maha Mandap, the Mukhya Mandap and the Sabha Mandap. The Garbha Griha and Maha Mandap are made of stone pieces and there is a Garuda pillar located at the entrance of the temple. The idol of Goddess Danteshwari is chiselled out of black stone.

Popularly known as the Balaji temple, the Venkateshwara Swamy temple is dedicated to Lord Balaji or Shri Venkateshwara Swamy, the lord of the universe. The temple architecture is typical of the South Indian style and is very impressive. Initially a famous pilgrimage destination for only locals, today this temple attracts visitors and Hindu pilgrims from all over.

Dating back to prehistoric times, the Bastar palace used to be the chief administrative building of the Bastar district. Constructed by the kings of Bastar, this palace is home to some of the most beautiful figurines, etchings and drawings on the ceilings and walls. With wide corridors and a beautiful garden in the front, the palace makes for a perfect day trip from Jagdalpur. The main visitor room has been transformed into a museum which consists of thrones and paintings. The palace is lit up during the Dussehra festival. There are vibrant and green enclosures located outside the palace that includes a variety of flora which enhances the surroundings.

Deriving its name from the Indravati River, the Indravati National Park is located about 386 km south of Raipur. The Indravati River flows from east to west and forms the northern boundary of the reserve with Maharashtra. One of Chhatisgarh’s three Project Tiger reserves and home to one of the last remaining populations of the endangered wild water buffalo, the park has a total area of approximately 2799.08 sq km. Indravati attained the status of a national park in 1981 and a tiger reserve in 1983. As of 2022, the park is reported to be largely under Naxal control.

The park is best visited during the winter and summer seasons between November to June. Indravati National Park is easily approachable from Jagdalpur with Kutrue as the main entry point which is about 145.6 km from Jagdalpur. The park is open daily from 7 am to 6 pm.

The Zonal Anthropological museum situated in the office of the Anthropological Survey of India, located 4 km away from the town was established in Jagdalpur in 1972, to provide an insight into the culture and lifestyle of the Bastar tribe. The museum has a brilliant and well-curated collection of ethnographic items that shed light on the life of the Bastar tribes. Artworks depicting their daily life, sculptures, and a variety of objects like clothes, footwear, headgear, ornaments, wood carvings, weapons, utensils and masks among many others can be seen here. The museum is open from 10 am to 1:30 pm and then between 2 to 5:30 pm.

Dhamtari
Dhamtari which lies about 80 km south of Raipur was home to the Chalukya empire of the 14th century and is an important tourist town known for its temples. Its name comes from Dhamma and Tarai which means the plain of Dhamma, which alludes to its Buddhist origins. Situated in the fertile plains of Chhattisgarh due to the presence of many rivers and their tributaries, the chief crop of this region is paddy. Asia’s first-ever Siphon dam was built in 1914 at Madamsilli. The town attracts many tourists every year, particularly during the monsoon season to the Ravishankar Water Dam and is also famous for its folk culture and wildlife sanctuary. Formerly a part of the Raipur district in Madhya Pradesh, Dhamtari later became part of the new state of Chattisgarh and was a popular stop on the Bombay-Calcutta railway line passing through it.

Sihava is one of the most important pilgrimage centres situated on the banks of the Mahanadi River and is surrounded by forests and mountains. Amrit Kund, the Danteshwari Cave, Ganesh Ghat, the Karbeshwar Temple and the Ashram of Hringi Hathi Khot are other major attractions in this area. The Bilai Mata Mandir is dedicated to Goddess Durga and is a beautiful temple known for its exquisite architectural carvings.

Rudri was believed to be the capital of the Kanker Kingdom during the reign of Rudra Dev. Located on the banks of River Mahanadi is its prime tourist attraction is the Rudreshwar Temple and there is also a large reservoir built nearby.

Gangrel Dam is the longest in Chhatisgarh and has been built across the Mahanadi River. A stunning feat of architecture, the dam length is a whopping 1,830 m, approximately 15 km from Dhamtari. The dam overlooks the swift torrents of the Mahanadi River making it an enjoyable sight. On the banks of the waters, there are several resorts and sandbanks. The dam was built to perform various activities such as irrigation, generating power and also to provide water to the Bhilai Steel Plant and the city of Raipur. The immediate surroundings of the dam are well-maintained and have landscaped gardens and a beautiful view of the catchment area. Water sports are a recent addition and visitors can go jet skiing, paddle boating and speed boating in the catchment area. The best time to visit Gangrel Dam would be during the monsoon season from July to September as the reservoir fills up and the high tides are a beautiful sight. The views of sunrise and sunset here are also popular.

The Charre Marre Waterfalls is a refreshing and offbeat place to visit where the waterfall is 16 m high and the clear water falling is a sight to see. The bountiful and pristine Jogidhara river is the reason behind the waterfall. The reservoir that forms at the bottom of the waterfall is perfect to take a dip in. The Shivani Temple is an important pilgrim place dedicated to Goddess Shivani and is visited by a large number of devotees every day. The falls are perfect for picnics and a perfect getaway destination to rejuvenate the body and soul. The monsoon season between October to December is the best time to visit the falls.

Dantewada
Also known as Dantewara, Dantewada lies about 357 km south of Raipur. Dantewada was known as Tarlapal and Dantawali in pre-historical days. It is the fourth largest city in the Bastar region and the town is named after the Goddess Danteshwari, the presiding deity of the Danteshwari Temple located in the town.

Encompassing hilly tracks, dales & valleys, numerous brooks & rivers, and lush green and virgin forests, Dantewada is a paradise to nature lovers. Apart from the Goddess Danteshwari Temple, Dantewada has many ancient and historically important temples and structures. Dantewada is inhabited by several tribal groups and watching the famous Dandami Mariyas or Gonds of Bison Horn dancing in groups, wearing a turban with the Bison Horns is certainly a treat to the eyes. The town also houses the recently developed stretch of Rowghat mines. However, currently, the area is affected by Naxalism and well-versed research is advisable before heading out into the area.

One of the Shaktipeethas, the Danteshwari temple is dedicated to Goddess Danteshwari. This 600-year-old temple has been constructed in South Indian style of temple architecture in the 14th century by the rulers of the Chalukya Dynasty. The goddess is worshipped as an incarnation of Shakti and the temple is held to be one of the fifty-two sacred Shakti Peethas. it is believed that the tooth of Sati fell here. The temple is known for its black stone idol and a Garuda pillar and is segregated into four zones, namely the Garbha Griha, Mukhya Mandap, Maha Mandap and the Sabha Mandap. It is located at the confluence of the holy rivers Shankini & Dhankini. The Bastar Dusshera is the longest festival in the world which is the world’s longest festival.

Dholkal Ganesh is a beautiful spot located 3000 feet high in the Bailadila mountain ranges. A 3 feet beautiful stone idol of Lord Ganesha believed to be made during the Naga dynasty between the 10th and 11th centuries is the main attraction here. Located 13 km from Dantewada, this is the perfect spot for nature lovers, and for those who love to trek amidst lush green hillocks.

Once the capital of Nagavansh Raja Banasur, Barsur is filled with archaeological treasures. The town of the Gangawanshi rulers who ruled in the 9th century, Barsur is located on the banks of the river Indravati and is known as the city of temples and ponds because of the 147 temples and 147 ponds located here. Along with the ruins of various temples, the Battisa Temple, the Mama-Bhanjaa Temple and the Chandraditya Temple can also be visited. The Chandraditya Temple crafted out of sandstone is a major attraction here. Besides a huge statue of Lord Ganesha, an ancient pond can also be visited. Housing idols of Lord Ganesha and Lord Narasimha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Dravidian-style Mama-Bhanjaa Temple is well known for its sculpted murals and the dome that is 50 ft high. There is also Shiva Temple and a Ganesha Temple situated close to the Mama-Bhanjaa Temple.

The Fulpad Waterfall is a waterfall located in a lush green hilly area. Recently, the administration started river rappelling to boost tourism in the area. The Saathdhara Waterfalls are located about six km from Barsur with a bridge which connects Abujhmarh with Barsur. The bridge is on the Indravati river and reaching the bridge, there is a trek of around two km to reach the waterfall. The Indravati river streams are separated by seven sub-streams and flow through rocky terrain and form the Saathdhara waterfall.

Kanger Ghati National Park
Known as one of the densest national parks in India, the Kanger Ghati National Park lies about 320 km south of Raipur and offers rich biodiversity, breathtaking landscapes, natural waterfalls, and beautiful limestone caves. It is also home to Chhatisgarh’s state bird, the Hill Myna. The park is spread over 200 sq km and is a biosphere reserve nestled amidst the stunning Kanger Valley which stretches for 34 km. The park consists mainly of aberrant terrain and is home to a sizeable tribal population.

The park is named after the river Kanger, which flows through it. It was declared a national park in 1982 and the park has notable geographic diversity with land formations ranging from gentle low areas to valleys, steep slopes, streams and more. And because of this, there is a wide variety of flora and fauna inside the park, making it a prominent biodiversity hotspot in India. The River Kanger is the lifeline of this park as the park is dependent on the river for electricity generation.

The Kanger Valley happens to be one of the last regions where virgin and pure forests are still left. There are According to various surveys, there are 555 herbaceous species in the park, out of which 45 species are said to be rare, and 12 species are new and recently added. Moist deciduous forests mainly cover the forest area of the park. November to April is the best time to visit the park when the temperatures are cold with a clear to cloudy sky. The park has about 50 species of mammals, 145 species of birds, 56 species of fish, 16 species of amphibians, 90 species of butterflies, 110 species of spiders, and 25 species of moths.

Bhainsa Darha is a pure and natural water pool. Bhainsa means buffaloes and Darha translates to water pools created by rivers. Crocodiles and tortoises found in the water make a great attraction and because the pool is covered with lush greenery in all directions, it is ideal for a picnic or hike. The Darha remains closed during the rainy season, so the ideal time to visit this place is during the winter months. Travelling by bikes and other two-wheeled vehicles can get risky as roads here are narrow and slippery and so it is advisable to travel in a car.

The Kanger Dhara Waterfall is a picnic spot located inside the park. Permission from the District Forest Office is required and this can be gotten at the entry gate of the park to enter the waterfall area. The cascading falls are attractive to look at and one can also take a bath in the natural waters. Summers are the best time to visit the waterfall when the water temperature is comfortable to take a dip. The falls remain closed during monsoons.

Tirathgarh Falls is one of the most frequented tourist spots in Chhattisgarh and provides one with the perfect blend of entertainment, fun, picnic and adventure. Tirathgarh Falls is also regarded as one of the best picnic spots in Jagdalpur with the fall’s unique feature being that it splits into multiple falls on its way down, offering a spectacular view to visitors. This block-type waterfall plunges 300 ft in one drop. This mesmerising waterfall is also named the milky fall as the water takes on a white colour while gushing downward. There is a small temple located beside the falls, and the lush, green forest surrounds the entire region. Tourists can also climb down to the base of the fall and indulge in a bath with two hundred and ten steps leading the way to the bottom. The waterfalls are surrounded by a dense cover of trees and hence the temperature is moderate. The best time to visit the Tirathgarh falls is during the early winter season as the temperature during this time is cool and pleasant. During this period, the flow of water is strong and wide and hence the falls have many tourists visiting.

The park has vast limestone deposits. Some are in the form of caves and the rest are in the form of beds or layers. The limestone caves are a significant tourist attraction and are spectacular to look at with the main ones being the Kailash Cave, the Devgiri Cave, the Dandak Cave, and the Kotumsar Cave. These structures take millions of years to form and there are still some caves in the park which do not have an opening and remain undiscovered.

Located near Tirathgarh falls, the Kailash and Kutumsar caves are underground caves situated 35 meters below the ground level. With a length of two km, these are considered to be the second-longest natural caves in the world. With incredible formations of stalactites and stalagmites, the caves contain five chambers. The caves have rocky floors with water pools in several spots and have no natural light inside the cave. There is one stalagmite formation in the shape of a shiva linga towards the end of the cave. The Kailash and Kutumsar caves are only accessible to a certain extent because of the lack of oxygen.

The Kotumsar Cave stretches for about 1370 m and has frequent depositions of limestone since it lies in the Kanger limestone belt. The cave also has significant ecological importance and has also attracted researchers. The enormous vertical fissure formed in the wall of the hill acts as an entry point to the cave. There is a concrete path created which extends to the end of the cave. The main tunnel of the cave is 200 m long with many lateral and downward passes. The cave is one of the most biologically explored caves in India and many new species of living creatures including plants and animals have been considered to be sourced from these caves. Recently in 2011, a new chamber has been discovered by groups of forest officials, but because of its low accessibility and other potential dangers, it is not open to tourists. There are several interesting tribal tales attached to the caves. The caves also house several species of reptiles and insects.

The Kailash Caves were discovered in 1993 and are around 250 m long and 40 m underground, these limestone caves have religious links attached to them. At the end of the caves, one will find a magnificent structure in the shape of a Shiva ling with hollow walls of the cave. When struck, the walls reverberate soothing and acoustic musical sounds. The best time to visit the caves is during the winter season. This is due to the weather being cold and pleasant. The monsoon season is considered the offseason because there is heavy precipitation in the valley and the accumulation of water in the cave makes it dangerous to visit the cave for the tourists.

And this brings us to the end of this yet unexplored state known for its natural beauty and remoteness. I didn’t have any idea of how much this state has to offer before I started working on this mini-series, but now that I know, I can’t wait to explore it further. Let me know if you have been to Chhatisgarh and let me know if I have missed any place that must be seen and visited.