|Date built||600-700 AD|
It is the prime tourist spot of Unakoti District Tripura in the Kailashahar Subdivision in the North-eastern Indian state of Tripura. It is Shiva pilgrimage and dates back to 7th – 9th centuries if not earlier.
Unakoti is a historic Shaiva pilgrimage spot and dates back to 7th – 9th centuries if not earlier. While the site's rock carvings, murals with primitive beauty form the chief attraction, the natural environment, mountain scenery and waterfalls are an added attraction. As per Hindu theological traditions, when Lord Shiva was going to Kashi along with one crore gods and goddesses including him, he made a night halt at this location. He asked all the gods and goddesses to wake up before sun rise and proceed for Kashi. It is said that in the morning, except Shiva himself, no one else could get up so set out for Kashi himself cursing the others to become stone images. As a result, we have one less than a crore stone images and carvings at Unakoti. These carvings are located at a landscaped forest area with green vegetation all around.
There is also another story that suggests about a blacksmith who wished to live with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati on the Kailash Mountain. Lord Shiva had bet him that if he could make a crore (koti) idols of Lord Shiva, with in the period of one night, He would take Kallu, the blacksmith, with him to Kailash Parvath. When counted in the morning, the idols were one less than a koti (crore). This made the name of the place be changed to Unakoti, literally meaning one less than a crore.
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.
Every year a big fair popularly known as Ashokastami Mela is held in the month of April. The festival is visited by thousands of pilgrims. Another smaller festival takes place in January. Apart from that, tourists also come to see these sculptures almost every other day from different parts of the country and abroad.
Unakoti lies 178 km to the northeast from Agartala which has the closest airport, 8 km to the east from Kailashahar, district headquarters of Unakoti district, 148 km to the south-east from Silchar. The nearest railway station is 19.6 km away at Dharmanagar railway station on the Lumding–Sabroom section.From Dharmanagar railway station it takes about 30–40 minutes by car.Travelling from capital town Agartala has become much easier nowadays. The morning train from Agartala reaches dharmanagar before 10 am. The afternoon train from Dharmanagar reaches Agartala by 8 p.m.
The site has suffered centuries of neglect causing degradation and loss of considerable scale to the rock art. Since its adoption by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) as a heritage site, the situation has slightly improved, though a lot of work including substantial excavation remains to be undertaken. The government of India has approached to UNESCO to declare it as a world heritage site. The Centre has recently granted Rs 12 crore to the state for developing the area, 178 km from here, as a major tourist destination.
According to a myth Lord Shiva along with one crore deities(including Shiva) were going to Kashi.On their way they decided to take a rest at this place.Shiva told other deities to wake up at sunrise and start journey again.But as the dawn broke only Shiva was awake.So,He left others and before leaving cursed them to turn into stones.So,the place came to be known as Unakoti.
According to the regional people at Unakoti, there was a sculptor & potter named Kallu Kumar. The local tribals believe that it was Kallu Kumar who had carved all these images and sculptures. He was a devotee of Parvati and wanted to accompany Shiva and Parvati to their abode on Kailash Parvat. On Parvati’s persuasion Shiva agreed to take Kallu to Kailash if he would sculpt a crore (ten million) images of Shiva in one night. Kallu worked as a man possessed. But as the dawn broke the number of images was still one less than a crore. Shiva who was keen to get rid of this nuisance called Kallu, used this excuse to leave behind Kallu Kumar and his images at Unakoti.
Another variation of this story is that Kallu Kumar was given the task of carving the deities in a dream, but instead of carving images of all the gods, he carved one last image of himself, making it one short of a crore — a lesson, the locals say, on why not to give in to ahankara, or pride. There is an account on Kallu Kamhar by K Vikram Singh as KALLU KUHMAR KI UNAKOTI.
- UNAKOTI SCULPTURES : A BEWITCHING TOURISTS’ ATTRACTION