Unakoti – the word itself has an aura of grandeur in it and literally means “one less than a crore”. Unakoti is famous for the collection of enormous bas-relief carvings on the side of a rocky hill and is a perfect place for archaeological wonders. It is a hidden gem of India’s heritage Sites, which will not only amuse any traveler but also showcases the eternal work of the ancient sculptors. Archaeologists assume that these stone bas-reliefs were probably made between 7thto 13th Century C.E. Unakoti is pinpointed to the town of Kailashahar, Unakoti District, North-Eastern Indian state of Tripura.
The bas-relief sculptures of Unakoti are the largest size found in India and their styles of carving- classical and tribal – indicate that they were made during different historical periods and these primary deities depicted at Unakoti are Shiva, Durga, and Ganesh. On the top of the hill above Unakoti, we may also find the images of Vishnu, Hanuman, and Ravana, as well as the remains of a temple that may have existed before the sculptures were made.
"There are large numbers of rock-cut sculptures present, but the major attraction is the 30 feet height statue of Lord Shiva named the Unakotishwara Kal Bhairava, wearing an elaborate headgear measuring up to 10-feet in height." "On each side of Shiva’s sculpture there are two sculptures of goddesses, said to be of Ma Durga on a lion, and Goddess Ganga on Makara. There is also an enormous sculpture of Lord Ganesha and Nandi, the bull which is half-buried in the ground nearby." "In addition to this huge statue of Unakotishwara, there are many other sculptures of other Gods and Goddess like Kalbhairava, Chandrashekhar Shiva, Kamadev with bow & arrow, Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwar), Narasimha, Radha-Krishna, Hanuman, Saraswati, Uma-Maheshwar, Shani Dev, etc.."
History of Unakoti
Unakoti is also known as Subrai Khung. King Jujaru-Fa, also known as Hamtorfa means (Purushottam or Best men) was the first king of the kingdom of Tripura. He established the kingdom of Tripura and made present-day Udaipur its capital which was formerly known as Rangamati, and is the third biggest city in the Indian state of Tripura. The city was a former capital of the state during the reign of the Maharajas and almost all the ancient temples and religious sites have some folk, myths, and stories about them including Unakoti.
According to one myth, Unakoti, which literally means ‘one less a koti‘ in the Bengali language, traces its origins to a short visit by Lord Shiva. On his way to Mt. Kailash (some sources say to the sacred city of Banaras) Shiva had encamped for a night at the rocky Raghunandan hill along with a koti of other deities (a koti equals ten million) but Before commencing a night of revelry with the deities, Shiva told them to wake before dawn so they could continue their long journey. Upon waking he found them still asleep, however. Dismayed he was left alone, while all the other gods and goddesses turned into stone images. Since then there have been a – koti minus one – Shiva deities at the site.
Another myth, which is popular with the regional people, tells us about a sculptor named Kallu Kumar who fashioned the stone carvings of the deities. A devotee of Parvati, the wife of Shiva, Kallu Kumar wished to accompany Shiva and Parvati to their abode on Mt. Kailash. Shiva was wary of this matter and so Parvati came up with a solution. Parvati suggested that if the sculptor made ten million images of Shiva and the deities before dawn the following day, he could accompany them to Kailash. As the sun rose the next day, Kallu Kumar was one short of a koti, which gave Shiva an excuse to leave him behind. A variation of this story is that Kallu Kumar was given the task of carving the ten million deities in his dream. Yet swayed by his pride (and perhaps hopeful of being considered divine himself) Kallu Kumar made the last carving which is an image of himself, making the number one less a koti of deities.
At the bottom of Unakoti, a beautiful spring descending the hill terraces fills up a cavern, called “Sita Kunda”, and a dip in the Sita Kunda is considered a sacred act. Every year, a big cultural fair is popularly known as ‘Ashokastami Mela’ is held during the months of March-April, and also during the festival of Makar Sankranti celebrated in January, thousands of devotees come from far, and near to offer their prayers and have a dip in the ‘Sita Kunda’. Besides functioning as a pilgrimage site, Unakoti is being excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India and hopefully will soon be protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Best Time To Visit Unakoti
The best time to visit Unakoti is from October to April. Every year a big fair popularly known as Ashokastami Mela is held in the month of April which is visited by thousands of pilgrims. Another smaller festival takes place in the month of January.