Unakoti Hill is situated near Kailashahar, in Unakoti District, in the state of Tripura. It is a precious gem hidden in the jungles of Tripura. Unakoti is a Bengali word which means one less than a crore or Kotii.e one less than 10 million. The reason it is called that is that apparently there are one less than one crore idols of various Gods on this hill, hence it is called Unakoti.
History of Unakoti
Unakoti earlier was known as Raghunandan Hill. This hill marks a major pilgrimage site which is mainly dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said this site has been in existence since Puranic times. It is believed that 1 crore Gods and Goddesses visited this site. As per the story, all these Gods and Goddesses stayed here for a night.
Sadly, until today, we have not found any solid historical documents that talk about the time or the people who built these sculptures. Different people have different opinions and beliefs about its origin. Historians, however, say that this place at least as old as the 7th – 9th century (if not older).
The Mysterious marvels of Unakoti:
Unakoti is situated near Kailashahar of Tripura state. This place is known for its rock carved and stone images (some of these are created on the mountains and some are normal stone idols).
A question that I am sure arises in the mind of every single person who visits this place is “Who built these sculptures inside dense forests of Tripura”?
Historically we have observed that such work was normally done under the patronage of a King. If it is also true in this case who was that king? What kingdom was here? Also, the idea that a king would have ordered building these sculptures in the 7-9th century at this site is pretty absurd because as much as we know there was not any kingdom near to this area in that period. It was merely a dense forest, which was quite far away from any kingdom. The nearest Kingdom to this area was Bengal which is considerably far from here.
There aren’t any answers to these questions based on historical facts or records. Hence people rely on a number of mythological stories. Each of these stories has a different account of how the sculpture of Unakoti came into existence.
Legends of Unakoti:
One of the famous mythological belief is that during Puranic times when Lord along with 1 crore Gods and Goddesses was going to Kashi all of the rested here for one night. Lord Shiva asked everyone to get up the following morning before Sunrise. But the next day no one except Lord Shiva got up. After this Lord Shiva went to Kashi alone, all by himself and all the other Gods and Goddess were turned into stone sculptures.
Although the story says the Gods and Goddesses who did not wake up turned in to stone sculptures and Lord Shiva was the only who went hence one would think there shouldn’t be any Shiva idols. But it is not so, in fact, there are a number of Sculptures of Lord Shiva here.
The story of KalluKumhar:
Different people tell different stories on how this place and these sculptures were made. It is said that KalluKamhar who was the son of Lord Vishwakarma (the architect of the universe) was a great devotee of Goddess Parvati (holy consort of Lord Shiva) and he wanted to go to the Kailash (the abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati) with the God and Goddess.
When he expressed his wish, Lord Shiva gave him a challenge and said if he could build one crore idols of him in one night’s time, he will be allowed to accompany them to Kailash and stay there forever. By next morning when Lord Shiva inspected how many idols KalluKamhar had made. Eventually, he figured that the number one less than one crore. Since Kallu Kumar could not complete the challenge the Gods did not take him along to Kailash Parvat.
A different version of this story tells that KalluKamhar the son of Lord Vishwakarma was himself a great craftsman. In his dream, he was asked to build one crore idols of gods and goddesses. He made 9999999 i.e. one less than one crore idols of Gods and Goddesses and because he wanted to get the credit for his work, he made the last idol of himself, hence the palace got its name Unakoti. This story tells us not to fall prey to ego and pride.
The Kalyuga Legend:
As per another legend, before Kalyuga started all the Gods and Goddesses used to live at this spot. Before the starting of Kalyuga, all the gods and Goddesses decided to leave earth. Before leaving these Gods left their idols here so the devotees can come here, pray and Gods can still be with them in some way.
The attractions of Unakoti:
There is a lot to see in Unakoti. The whole site is extremely beautiful. This mesmerizing valley is surrounded by stunning mountains. The view of, waterfall, greenery and mountains is simply breath-taking. There is a small waterfall in Unakoti hills, it is called Sita Kund. It is considered auspicious to bathe in its holy water.
The archaeological site of Unaloti is spread in an approx area of 1 km. The whole area is dotted with numerous rock sculptures. It is estimated that these sculptures were built during different time periods.
The central idol of this place is a 30-foot-tall Shiva Idol which called UnakotiswaraKalBhairava, in this image Lord Shiva is seen wearing a headgear. Near this idol, you will also see the idol of Nandi Bull as well.
Out of the countless Idols built on the hills of Unakoti prominent ones include idols of Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Durga, Ravana the great devotee of Lord Shiva, Goddess Ganga, and Goddess Laxmi etc.
These sculptures of Unakoti are significantly different from the ones we usually see. Especially the eyes of these idols carved differently. These mostly resemble that of Buddhist sculptures i.e. in these idols the eyes of Gods and Goddesses look a lot like the ones you see on Buddha’s idols. This clearly shows Buddhist influence in these sculptures and hence some believe that these sculptures were probably built by Buddhists people.
Unakoti a neglected masterpiece:
Unakoti remained ignored for quite a long time. Currently, the Archaeological Survey of India is maintaining this heritage site. It is also proposed to UNESCO to consider it for UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from being a historical masterpiece, it is also a religious center. Unakoti is Hindu pilgrimage spot, people come here to take blessings of Lord Shiva.
Unakoti hill organizes two annual festivals at this site namely Ashokaastami and Makar Sankranti. Visiting this place during these festivals is an experience like no other.
When I came to know about this place I was happily surprised by its immense charm. But one thing that I kept asking myself over and over is How come I did not know about this before?
This place is truly a treasure. Situated amidst the most stunning settings, Unakoti can leave anyone spellbound with its charm. Natural adornment this place is done by lush green scenery, waterfalls and beautiful mountains.
This place has a divinity of temple and charm of a paradise. Although this place still remains a mystery to me never the less visiting Unakoti was a fulfilling experience. I would recommend everyone to visit this place at least once in their lifetime.