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Rock-cut carvings: Unakoti tales of lost civilization

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Agartala: Treading the pathways of undulating terrain, bisecting deep forests and having a glance of peeped in gorges and narrow rivers and spring at times, and all the while meeting strange variety of flora and fauna and off course, forests’ children always amazing the urban tourists seeking to escape from their daily grind life.

Unakoti

Such a nature’s reserve Unakoti, which is admixed with added colour, smell and taste in terms of history, archaeology and religious trait, beckons tourists.  This is a moderate height hill range engraved with rock cut carvings of the Hindu pantheon of the lost civilization, situated in a cool and calm ambience of lush green in North Tripura.

About 170 km far off from the capital of the State, the Unakoti hill presents rock cut images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Huge carvings in a sprawling rock-wall appear to have chiseled out, and images carved out that spread here and there and at different heights. Mythological tales sound interesting and state that there was an Assembly of Gods and Goddesses, with the Lord of Gods, Shiva leaving for Benaras at a point of time and the place is named as Unakoti.

Unakoti pantheons are of two types: namely rock-carved and stone images. Central to these rock cut carvings are the Shiva and Ganesha carvings. The colossal image of Shiva head, of 30 ft height, carved in a vertical rock is known as ‘Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava’. Its head is embroidered in tresses forming a headdress of 10 feet high. Nearby, there is a rock cut image of goddess Durga standing on a lion, while on the other there is an image of goddess Ganga sitting on a Capricorn. There are also images of Nandi Bull lying half buried in the ground.U1

Just a few meters down the Shiva carving three magnificent images of Lord Ganesha are found. A rare carving of the four-armed seated Ganesha and on its side two standing figures of Sarabhuja Ganesha with three tusks and the Asthabhuja Ganesha with four tusks are also found. Moreover, a three-eyed figure, believed to be that of Surya or Lord Vishnu is found.

Other images found are chaturmukha Shivlinga, Nandi, Narasimha, Shri Ram, Ravana, Hanuman, and several unidentified deities. Hearsay is that digging anytime anywhere in the surrounding area, known also as Devasthal along the Unakoti-Belkum hill, one can find out an image of Shiva or the like carved out of rocks.

At the bottom of Unakoti, a beautiful spring descending the hill terraces fills up a cavern, called “Sita Kunda”, having a dip into which is regarded as sacred. Every year, a big fair popularly known as ‘Ashokastami Mela’ is held during April when thousands of devotees visit the place to offer their prayers and have a dip in the ‘Sita Kunda’.

Asserting on the importance of its development as an ideal tourist spot, the Union Ministry of Tourism sanctioned Rs. 1.13 crore in 2009-10 under Unakoti destination development project for the creation of tourist information centre, cafeteria, public amenities, view platform, landscaping etc within the radius of 5 sq.km of the site. According to the project officials of the Tripura tourism department the project, which has been handed over to the ASI, is likely to start commissioning new amenities very soon.

Unakoti is believed to have had the influence of the Shiva cult originating from the Pala-era of the medieval period of Indian history. At the same time, the influences of several other cults like Tantric, Shakti, and Hatha yogis are also found to be present around this archaeological wonder. According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Unakoti dates back to the 8th or 9th century AD. Yet, many others differ with the opinion, conceding that it dates back longer, further holding that those images were carved out in a different spell of time.  U6

As the history and tales of Unakoti still hover in obscurity it demands integrated research by ASI and the like institutions to uncover the mystery and a chapter of hidden past of Indian civilization.

(Subhasis Chanda, PIB)

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Indian and Bangladeshi Officials Discuss Cross-Border Crimes and other irritants in a one-day meet

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, VOA

Agartala, May 24, 2017: Administrative and police officials of border districts in India’s Tripura have finalized strategies to deal with cross-border crimes and deal with other irritants in a one-day meet with their counterparts of contiguous Bangladeshi districts, an official said here on Wednesday.

The District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of Tripura’s Sepahijala, West Tripura, and Khowai districts held a day-long meeting in Comilla in eastern Bangladesh on Monday with their counterparts from Comilla, Brahmanbaria, Habiganj, and Moulvibazar, Sepahijala District Magistrate Pradip Chakraborty told IANS.

“During the joint border conference, discussions about cross-border smuggling, drug trafficking, terrorism, management of anti-sabotage activities, drainage water treatment, problems relating to border residents have been discussed and some strategies were finalized to deal with these issues,” he said.

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Chakraborty, who was the team leader of the Indian delegation, said that sports and cultural festivals in the border districts were also discussed.

“The joint border conferences between India and Bangladesh are being held in a regular interval for positive solutions of different issues between the two countries. There were also discussions on the aim of establishing border peace through the cooperation of the district administrations of the two neighbouring countries,” he added.

Strategies to deal with border crimes, border fencing and better border management, besides issues relating to terrorism are also some times discussed in the joint conference.

Chakraborty said that in response to the demand of the Bangladesh, West Tripura district administration has initiated a process to set up a sewerage treatment plant to treat the dirty water of Howrah canal, which flows into Bangladesh.

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He also said that as part of their steps against the drug menace, Sepahijala district administration along destroyed 17 lakh ganja (cannabis) trees last year. “We have told the Bangladeshi officials to make social awareness against the use of drugs by the youth,” he said.

The Comilla meeting also discussed about land acquisition for the proposed Agartala-Akhaura 15-km rail link.

He said that the district level border conferences involving other districts of Tripura and the adjoining districts of Bangladesh were already held earlier this year and last year.

A Tripura Home Department official said that to resolve border-related problems, district-level officials from both India and Bangladesh have resumed meetings since 2015 after a gap of many years. (IANS)

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Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to start conservation work for the 17th century Sundarnarayan Temple

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Sundarnarayan Temple at Nashik in Maharashtra, India, Wikimedia

Nashik, May 8, 2017: The conservation work for the 17th century Sundarnarayan Temple will soon be initiated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

In July 2015, the Aurangabad unit of ASI had started chemical conservation work after seeking permission for structural conservation. But realizing that removing the vegetation and chemically conserving the temple would not be sufficient because of the cracks in the stones which may loosen or give away in a couple of years, the team wrote to the district collector and the state archaeological department (Nashik branch) about the need for the temple’s structural conservation. Now, the work will be done in phases.

Shrikant Gharpure, Assistant Director of the Department of Archaeology, Maharashtra has recently said to TOI, “We will soon start with the first phase of the conservation. The superstructure (dome) will be dismantled step by step.”

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On July 13, administrative approval of Rs 4.51 crore and financial nod of Rs 2.50 crore has been given for the conservation.

Constructed in 1756 by “Sardar of Peshwas”, Gangadhar Yashwant Chandrachud, the Sundarnarayan temple is the crowning example of undying faith and everlasting devotion. One unique aspect of the temple is that it is built at such an angle,  that on 21st March, rays of the rising Sun first fall exactly upon the idols.
The superstructure is around 50-55 feet in height and needs immediate attention. “There will be no difference in the size,” said Gharpure.

The decoration, artwork, floral parts, carvings of gods and goddesses will be prepared in the same manner like the original one. It is made of basalt and black stone and faces the Godavari River. In its sanctum sanctorum, there are idols of deities such as Vishnu, Laxmi and Vrinda. Besides, it also house idols of other gods and goddesses. The raw material and stone will be brought from Deglur, Nanded and the lime to be brought from Gujarat.

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Gharpure also said, “the temple is at the centre of the city near Raviwar Karanja. We noticed that it had become dangerous and had to be restored to its original form immediately. In July last year, I met state cultural minister Vinod Tawde and told him about the situation. I have been following up the issue.”

It is furthermore estimated that the conservation work will take about two years to finish.

– prepared by Himanshi Goyal of Newsgram. Twitter handle- @Himanshi1104

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Police recover 127 Grenades buried underground in Northern Tripura

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In Tripura (Representational Image), Wikimedia

Agartala, May 8, 2017: Police recovered 127 grenades buried underground in northern Tripura, an official said here on Monday.

Students while playing near a central school at Gaurnagar late on Sunday found the grenades. They informed their elders, who immediately alerted the police, the official added.

“So far 127 old grenades have been recovered buried in the soil. Digging works are still on. Bomb squad and forensic team are also at the spot,” he said.

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Local villagers said that the grenades might have been buried during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

Historian Bikach Chowdhury said Tripura had six to seven camps in four sectors from where the Bangladeshi ‘Mukti Joddhas’ (freedom fighters) fought Pakistani forces after taking arms training in Tripura.

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“Over 1,600,000 Bangladeshis — a number larger than the state’s then total population of 1,500,000 — had taken shelter in Tripura alone,” he said.

The nine-month-long “Mukti Juddho” (Liberation War) later turned into a full-scale India-Pakistan War, leading to the surrender of nearly 93,000 Pakistani soldiers in Dhaka on December 16, 1971.

Tripura shares 856 km borders with Bangladesh. (IANS)