Unakoti, literally means “one less than a crore” in Bengali. It is situated 186 kilometres to the north-east from Agartala, the capital of Tripura. —-It hosts an ancient Shaivite place of worship, with huge rock-cut images and stone idols, dating back to the 7th-9th centuries, if not earlier. While marvelous rock carvings, murals with their primitive beauty form the chief attraction, the mountain scenery and the waterfalls are an added bonus.
As per Hindu Mythology, when Lord Shiva was going to Kashi, along with 1 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 sunrise and proceed to Kashi. It is said that in the morning, except Shiva no one else got up, so He set out for Kashi alone cursing the others to become stone images and stay there forever.
The images are located at a beautifully landscaped forest area with green vegetation all around which add to the beauty of the images. The images, found at Unakoti, are of 2 types —- rock-carved figures and stone images. Among the rock-cut carvings, the central Shiva Head and the gigantic Ganesha figures deserve special mention. The central Shiva Head known as Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava, is about 30ft high, including an embroidered head-dress which itself is 10ft high.On each side of the head-dress of the central Shiva Head, there are 2 full-size female figures —– one of Durga standing on a lion and another female figure on the other side. In addition, 3 enormous images of Nandi Bull are found half-buried in the ground. There are various other stone and rock-cut images at Unakoti.
The site has suffered centuries of neglect causing degradation and loss on a 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 UNESCO to declare it as a World Heritage Site. The Centre has recently granted 12 crore rupees, to the state, for developing the area as a major tourist attraction.
It is a bewitching tourist attraction. A mountain and on the sides of it carved out stone images, a spring descending in the rivulet ——– as a place of “archaeological wonder, Unakoti is unparalleled. Unrecorded in history, a mystery surround Unakoti, and that definitely fascinates visitors.
According to local legend, there was a sculptor named Kallu Kumhar. Kallu was a devotee of Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva, and he wanted to accompany Lord Shiva and Parvati to their abode on Kailash. On Parvati’s persuasion, Shiva agreed to take Kallu to Kailash on the condition that he would sculpt 1 crore images of Shiva in just one night. Kallu worked like a man possessed. But, as dawn broke, the number of images was still”one less than a crore”. Shiva, who was keen to get rid of Kallu, used this excuse to leave Kallu behind in Unakoti..