Tucked away amidst serene hills, rolling valleys and abundance of natural beauty, Tripura is known to be the land of mystery and enigma. The least visited state in India by tourists, Tripura never found itself on the world tourism map. The reason can be attributed to ethnic clashes during the partition of India from Bangladesh and the demand for Tipra Land which again gained momentum recently. But over the last four years, there has been a steady rise in tourist footfall, more so in the past year with the new government allocating funds to develop the tourism sector.
For this year`s summer vacations I wanted to visit an off-beat destination and Tripura was on my mind for quite some time. I tried searching for information about the state but got limited and repeated information everywhere. Online I could not find details about the route, mode of transport for a budget traveller, accommodation options etc. It was then that I stumbled upon Greener Pastures, a sustainable travel company that curates cultural and adventurous experiences in the North East. They guided with the itinerary and arranged for a guide for us. A big shout out to the good people at Greener Pastures.
Due to lack of time and poor planning on my part, we missed out on places like Sepahijala, Chhabimura, Domboor lake, Chandrapur Mosque and Pilak.
I spent seven wonderful days exploring the best of Tripura – here are my favourites for people who have limited time.
1. Discover history`s mysteries at Ujjayanta Palace
Accommodation Option: Ginger Hotel at Khejur Bagan
The former palace of the royal family of Manikya dynasty built by Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya, Ujjayanta Palace is now a state museum. This shiny white dome capped palace is adorned with Mughal style gardens on both sides and is one of the largest museums in North East India showcasing various tribes, crafts, art, lifestyle and customs of indigenous people from this region. Tripura govt purchased it for 2.5 million in 1973 and it remained the State Legislative Assembly until 2011.
Entry Fee: 10 Rs
Admission restriction: You can take your camera inside, but you can’t click. Heavy security at every point to keep a check.
2. Neer Mahal
Accommodation Option: Sagar Mahal Tourist Lodge at Melaghar
Neer Mahal located at the centre of Rudrasagar lake was the summer palace of Raja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. This iconic structure of Tripura was drafted by Martin and Burns in 1930 and harmonized both Mughal and Hindu architectural designs. The ferry ride to Neer Mahal is the most enjoyable part, witnessing the tranquil ambience of this water palace from a distance is a sight to remember.
Entry Fee: 10 Rs
Camera Fee: 20 Rs
Motor Boat/Speedboat: 30 Rs. per head
3. Explore the ruins of Rangamati
Accommodation Option: Gomti Yatri Niwas at Dak Bungalow Road
Earlier known as Rangamati, Udaipur is situated on the banks of Gomti river. Maharaja Uday Manikya renamed the city to his name to flaunt his powers. At 55 km from Agartala, Udaipur was once considered the historic capital of Tripura with its ancient temples, ruins, and artificial lakes.
- One can visit Matabari Temple also known as Tripureshwari Temple where it is believed that the `right foot` of Sati fell after Vishnu cut her body into 51 parts. A prominent Shaktipeeth according to Hindu mythology, Matabari was built in 1501 around Kalyan Sagar lake to worship the incarnation of Kali as ‘Shoroshi’.
- Gunabati group of temples which was built in the name of Queen Gunabati, wife of Maharaja Govinda Manikya. Nothing else is known about this group of 3 temples.
- Bhuvneshwari temple and Maharaja Govinda Manikya`s palace which served as the backdrop of Rabindranath Tagore`s famous works `Rajarshi’ and ‘Visarjan’.
- Amar Sagar lake, Mahadev dighi and Dhani Sagar are some of the artificial lakes in Udaipur.
If you have time, then go to Pilak which is around 60 km away from Udaipur. It is an ancient archaeological site where Buddhist relics are found by ASI in the early 20th century.
To know more about Pilak, read the following:
4. Visit the Archaeological site of Unakoti
Accommodation Option: Raat Din Hotel at Dharmanagar
Unakoti is famous for its Shiva sculptures that date to 7th – 9th century, carved in bas-relief on a lush green hillock in Kailashahar. There are many legends associated with the place, as per our guide from Greener Pastures, Shiva was going on a pilgrimage to Kashi Vishwanath along with one crore disciples and stopped at Unakoti to rest. He told everyone to wake up before sunrise so that they can start on time but the next morning nobody woke up. Shiva in his rage turned all his disciples into stone. Unakoti means one less than a crore `Koti` in Bengali, as Shiva proceeded himself towards Kashi, leaving all the others behind.
Another legend says that the son of Vishwakarma was a devotee of Parvati and wanted to accompany her to Kailash but Shiva being himself become jealous. Shiva didn’t want him to come, so he gave him an upheaval task of creating crore sculptures on the stone before sunrise on the next day. Vishwakarma`s son failed to do so by one figure.
5. Romance the hills of Jampui
Accommodation Option: Eden Tourist Lodge at Vanghmun village
Home to Lusai and Reang tribal communities, Jampui is the favourite hill station in Tripura. Located 250 km away from Agartala, Jampui is known for its charming weather and sleepy tribal villages. There is nothing much to do here other than chasing sunsets and time lapsing floating clouds. One can visit the nearby villages of Vanghmun and Sabual to interact with the locals. Many websites talk about Betlingchhip and Orange Festival, sadly there is nothing is see at Betlingchip and the Orange Festival doesn’t happen anymore. Locals have switched to Tamul production as its more lucrative than oranges.
Tripura was a surprise bag for me, I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful and culturally rich. It`s a heaven for backpackers as public transport is low-cost and easily available, budget accommodations are plenty and food is fresh and economical. The new government recently built roads and has done a good job. A word of caution, if you are booking your stay online then be prepared to compromise on the standard of rooms as most government lodges are poorly maintained.
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