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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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Ever Thought of Adopting An Animal? Tripura Zoo Gives You The Opportunity

According to the official, the name of the individual or the institution that adopts an animal is also to be displayed at the enclosure of such animals.

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With greater publicity, the adoption scheme must be popularised as most people do not know about the noble plan. Pixabay

Ever dreamt of adopting a lion, a crocodile or a Himalayan black bear or any wild animal?

If yes, here’s your opportunity to do so in Tripura – except that you cannot take the animal home.

According to a senior Tripura wildlife official, any institution or individual can adopt an animal by annually paying between Rs 5,020 and Rs 2,81,000 for its upkeep at the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo, located in western Tripura’s Sepahijala District.

The scheme encourages people to participate in the conservation of wildlife, especially endangered species.

Tripura’s Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Dvijendra Kumar Sharma said: “To those who adopt an animal, the sanctuary authorities issue certificates of adoption and publish their names in leading newspapers and provide complimentary passes to visit the zoo, besides other privileges.

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The scheme encourages people to participate in the conservation of wildlife, especially endangered species. Pixabay

“Adoption of an animal is noble not only for individuals but for his family too. An adoption makes a great gift for birthdays, anniversaries and are always unique,” Sharma told IANS.

Animals listed for adoption are lion, crocodile, clouded leopard, Himalayan black bear, binturong, hornbill, peacock, common leopard, hoolock gibbon, slow loris, pig-tailed macaque, pelican, capped langur, spectacled langur, leopard cat and even a vulture.

According to the official, the name of the individual or the institution that adopts an animal is also to be displayed at the enclosure of such animals.

Sharma, a popular author on biodiversity and forests, said that so far state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and three other individuals have adopted a Royal Bengal Tiger, a python, a peacock and a clouded leopard.

An official of the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo said that two Royal Bengal Tigers (one male and one female) recently died of disease and talks were on with the Central Zoo to bring two more Royal Bengal Tigers from other zoos in the country.

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According to the official, the name of the individual or the institution that adopts an animal is also to be displayed at the enclosure of such animals. Pixabay

“We are trying to replicate the model of people’s participation in wildlife management followed in the Central Zoo and other zoos in the country, especially in southern states,” said Sharma, a senior Indian Forest Service officer.

“I always loved animals and the environment. That’s why I adopted a clouded leopard. The caretaker of the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo Madhab Chandra Deb inspired me to adopt an animal,” Axis Bank Ltd Senior Vice President Karan Butalia told IANS on the phone from Delhi.

Former Tripura Minister Jawahar Saha’s engineer daughter Mahashweta Saha and an associate professor (Zoology) of state-run Ramthakur College Sharmistha Banerjee adopted a python and a peacock (peafowl) respectively.

“With greater publicity, the adoption scheme must be popularised as most people do not know about the noble plan,” Banerjee told IANS.

Also Read: The Unconventional Way of Learning: Textbooks Come Alive in Gujarat’s Schools

The Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo (25 km south of Agartala), set up in 1972 within a sanctuary and home to 655 animals belonging to 55 different species, is the first zoo in eastern and northeastern India where adoption of animals had started a few years ago.

Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoo’s Head Keeper Madhab Chandra Deb told IANS: “My love for animals since childhood attracted the top forest officials and they gave me a government job. I request all people including tourists and visitors to extend their love and support to the animals and also adopt them.” (IANS)