Places to visit

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Places to visit:
Agartala, the state capital of Tripura, is set amidst vast expanses of tranquil beauty making it an ideal base for exploring the ancient palaces, temples, lakes and wildlife sanctuaries of this erstwhile princely state. But take time off to explore the city's own charms. Sitting astride great Mughal-inspired gardens, with a pool and gurgling fountains, the Ujjayanta Palace was built by Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya Bahadur in 1901. Located in the heart of town, its interiors are embellished with magnificent tiled floors, delightfully curved wooden ceiling and beautifully crafted doors. Floodlighting, a recently introduced feature, makes it an eyecatching landmark at night.

Steps have been taken to encourage rural tourism around the temple region. Pilgrims from around the country and nearby Bangladesh converge annually at the temple in the months of April and August to celebrate the temple deity Goddess Kali. Its tranquil, pollution-free environs and natural setting make Kamalasagar an ideal holiday escape for tourists.

At Udaipur (not to be confused with the one in Rajasthan!), Tripura's lovely lake palace on Lake Rudrasagar, Neermahal, is Eastern India's only water palace. The palace was the dream castle of Raja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur, who quite obviously had keen aesthetic sensibilities. Built in 1930, this floating castle took nine years to be executed to his specifications of luxury and beauty. A blend of Hindu-Muslim architecture, and about 400 m in length, the maharaja's summer resort has 24 rooms with provisions for private quarters (Andarmahaf) for the king and his family and retinue of servants. It also had a dance hall and an assembly hall where he could meet people. The tracts of green fields edging the lake come alive with birdsong during the annual arrival of the migratory birds. Access to the palace was by boat, which led directly to the rooms. Neermahal is 55 km from Agartala.
There's a boat festival held at the lake annually. Visitors can stay at the picturesquely located Saharamahal tourist lodge at Rajghat, the access point for the palace from which you can get a boat. Another attraction here is the craft and heritage village.

One of the most important and much venerated attractions of Tripura is the ancient temple of Matabari or Tripurasundari located on a hilltop 3 km from Udaipur. Matabari (Mother Goddess) is regarded as one of the 51 piths (holy sites) of Hindu pilgrimage. Goddess Tripurasundari is an avtaar of Parvathi, the consort of Lord Shiva, the principal deity of the state. A curious legend surrounds its origins. Tripura's King Dhanya Manikya of the 15th century is said to have had a dream ordering him to establish Tripurasundari at this hilltop temple. But the king knew that it was already dedicated to Lord Vishnu and he knew he could not obey the signs in the dream, because Lord Vishnu and the consort of Lord Shiva could not share the same abode. But the divine command was repeated to him the next night. Giving in the king did as he was bid.
The Kalyansagar Pond that he built close by, is home to tortoises that are deeply revered by the devotees of the temple. This venerable temple is also referred to as the Koorma (tortoise) Pith. The temple is 500 years old. Diwali is celebrated with great pomp here

Bhubaneswari Temple
Udaipur, situated on the banks of the River Gomti, is a city of lakes and palaces. The remains of a dilapidated palace on the northern banks of the river are a reminder that this small town (today the headquarters of the South Tripura district) was once the seat of the Manikya dynasty rulers. Adjacent to the palace ruins lies the old Bhubaneswari Temple -one of the oldest temples in the state. Bengal's most famous luminary, the Poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in his famous drama Bisrajan and his novel Rajarshi, immortalized the temple. The site is a great attraction for tourists from Bangladesh and West Bengal. Another interesting temple in the vicinity is the Jagannath Temple. On the hills facing the river are the Chabimura rock panels. Carved into the hillside are images of Shiva, Vishnu, Kartik, Mahisasur and other deities, said to belong to 15th-16th century.
Udaipur has a string of popular lakes such as Jagannath Dighi, Mahadev Dighi, Dhani Sagar, Amar Sagar and Kalyan Sagar, apart from Lake Rudrasagar.

About 100 km away from Agartala is Pilak, famous for its great 8th-9th century archaeological remains.
The site is one of an old civilisation, representing both Hindu and Buddhist linkages. The main attractions here are the massive stone sculptures of Avolokiteswara and Narasimhan and numerous carvings in stone and terracotta plaques. The site is still being excavated - who knows what else the earth will reveal!

Famous for its ancient Buddhist temple, Mahamuni lies 150 km from Agartala. The temple draws Buddhist pilgrims from as far off as Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka apart from those nearer home from Bangladesh.

The great lake of Dumboor, surrounded by verdant hills, holds great appeal for tourists out for a day in the great outdoors. There are 48 islands dotting the lake, which is home to numerous birds of all shapes and colours. During the migratory period, the lake becomes a picture of hectic activity amongst its avian denizens. You can also take a boat ride around this pretty lake.

Jampui Hills
The entrancing verdure of the Jampui Hills (the premiere hill range of the six in Tripura) is enhanced by its bracing climate, giving visitors reason enough to call them 'the seat of permanent spring'. Clamber up those gentle heights to enjoy panoramas tinged by spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Jampui is home to some very exotic species of orchids, ornamental trees and fragrant orange groves. The abundance of oranges has, in fact, given wing to the Orange Festival held in November when the surrounding hills are heavy with the fruit and a riot of colour. The cobweb of picturesque trekking trails, punctuated by friendly brooks and serene lakes along the Jampui Hills, are a treat for the outdoor enthusiast.
Village tours are becoming increasingly popular, as the Lushai and Reang (of Mizo stock) community here is welcoming and hospitable. It's magical in the monsoon too. Especially when the gentle mist lifts intermittently to reveal pretty vignettes of the haunting views of neighbouring Mizoram in the distance.
Water sports facilities are available around Sabual village. From Betalongchip point you get great views of Aizawl, the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Kanchanpur-Dasda Valley on clear days. Agartala is about 200 km away.

Unakoti, 178 km from Agartala, is deservedly reputed for its 7th-9th century stone and rock cut images, deep in the forests near Kailashahar. The worship of Shiv-Shakti (Shaivism) is an old tradition in Tripura and this is beautifully endorsed by the 30 ft high Shiva head (the Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava) with an embroidered headdress which forms part of one of the largest bas-reliefs in the country, at Unakoti. On either side of the headdress of the central Shiva are two life-size female figures. Three enormous images of the Nandi bull lie half buried in the ground.
Legend has it that Lord Shiva on his way to Kashi, present-day Varanasi, with a crore of gods and goddesses stopped at Unakoti for the night. Before retiring for the night he instructed them all to wake
up before sunrise to continue on their journey. Finding he was the only one up at the prescribed time Lord Shiva left in a rage, turning his companions into stone images with a curse. There is thus one stone imageless amongst the crore that you will find at Unakoti.
The annual Ashokastami Mela is held here in March/April.


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