Tripura, the princely state of North-East India, boosts a rich cultural heritage, architectural grandeur and breathtaking charm. The state is dotted with not-so-high mountains, stirring lakes, and age old temples apart from a rich count of wildlife which fulfil the desires of every travel freak souls. The rich history of different tribal kingdoms, especially the famous Manikyas, has resulted in the formation of several jaw-dropping historical sites which are worth framing in digital lenses. However, the excavations at the historical site of Pilak have dug up various archaeological remains, architecture and sculpture which converse about the forgotten past of the country. However, the blend of tribal culture along with the Bengalis of the plains has given birth to a refined cultural genre which is worth exploring. To taste the authentic flavour of this north-eastern state you need to travel there and get involved not only into sightseeing but in some interesting activities that can give you the real taste of Tripura. Here is a glimpse of the things to see and do in Tripura penned down collecting the memories of my last Tripura Visit.
Photo: Sharad Prasad CS
This grand palace is just opposite to the Jagannath Temple on the bank of a placid lake. But to enter this place one needs to walk a little more towards the main road. This pristine white building was built by the then Tripura King, Radha Kishore Manikya, between 1899 and 1901. The palace is spread over an area of around 800 acres and houses Throne Room, Durbar Hall, Library and Reception. From 1972 to 2011, the palace used to house Tripura Legislative Assembly. Today’s Ujjayanta Palace is a full-fledged museum and claimed to be one of the biggest museums in North-East India.
Jagannath Temple which is popularly known as Jagannath Baari in Agartala is close to the Raaj Baari (Royal Palace) of Agartala and Agartala Press Club. The temple is dedicated to one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Jagannath and has beautiful idols depicting various mythological incidents. The temple complex has a well maintained pond where one can feed fishes. On the bank of the pond, there are huge statues of Lord Krishna and Arjuna depicting the story of the war of Mahabharata. The main temple of Lord Jagannath opens during the daily ritual timings i.e., in the morning as well as in the evening.
Paying homage to the temple of Tripura Sundari Devi tends to be the prime concern of many visitors in Agartala. So, you should visit this temple without miss even if you are not a believer. The temple of Tripura Sundari is one of the major attractions in Agartala. The temple is known as Tripureshwari Temple or Maata Baari in Tripura. It is around 53 km from the main city of Agartala. The temple complex has a couple of Puja Utility selling shops from where you can buy garlands, flowers and the most important thing to offer to deity, ‘Pera’. The temple of Tripureshwari is one of the most famous Shakti Peethas in India. Goddess is worshipped in a small sanctum where the priest performs the daily rituals. Just behind the temple there is a big pond where one can feed fishes. Unlike other Shakti Peetha Temples, Maata Baari is comparatively less crowded in off season. So, one can spend enough time without getting caught up in chaos.
P.S. Do not forget to offer the holy red thread to the deity. Also tie the same thread in your hand for your well being.
After paying a visit to the temple of Tripureshwari you can have lunch at a hotel opposite to the temple. The next destination can be Neer Mahal or the water palace. You can book an auto rickshaw and it takes around an hour to reach there. The palace is located in the Rudrasagar Lake and after reaching the palace you got a chance to go for boat riding. In fact, that is the only way to be at this palace. Neer Mahal is divided into two parts. The western side is known as Andar Mahal. It is the place where the members of the royal family used to live. The eastern side was designed for the performance of various entertainment activities. At the roof of the palace there is an open garden and some dome like structures. The palace has 24 rooms in total.
Once you are done with sightseeing at Neer Mahal, you can try to visit the temple of Pagli Masi (the Mad Aunt) who is believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Kali. The temple is located in Melaghar and associated with several miraculous deeds of Pagli Masi. There is a small temple like structure, where Pagli Masi sleeps on the ground and people offer her fruits, donations and sweets that they carry with them. She mostly keeps her body hidden and hardly talks to anyone. It is believed that the person who gets a chance to talk to Pagli Masi gets blessed with a bright future. There is a huge Kali Temple close to the temple of Pagli Masi.
Around 30 km from Agartala City, Kamalsagar Kali Temple or Kasba Kali Bari is a popular pilgrimage as well as sightseeing option in Tripura. Coloured in red and white shades, the temple is considered as the seat of the Goddess Kali. The temple complex contains images of different other deities on its walls. The main reason behind suggesting you to see this place is the Kasba Border which separates this part of Tripura from Bangladesh. The principal deity of this temple is Goddess Kaali who is shown to have ten hands. It is claimed that the construction of this temple started in 17th Century.
Claimed to be the first heritage park of North-East India, the Agartala Heritage Park is yet another must see tourist spot in Tripura. The park is designed in a strategic way to let the visitors have an idea about the art, culture, heritage and wildlife reserves of Tripura. The park is divided into three parts exhibiting glimpses of mini Tripura at the entrance, natural forest in the middle and a particular area is dedicated to the medicinal plants, herbs and shrubs. The Park is set up with the motive of exhibiting the grandeur of Tripura at a glance. There are eleven models of tourist places of Tripura along with the miniature forms of the roads and railways of Tripura running close to the hilly regions.
Around 135 km from Agartala City, Unakoti is a sacred religious site in Kailasahar Subdivision of Tripura. This well known heritage site is counted among the best places to see in Tripura and provides enough food for thought to the history buffs and heritage lovers. The main attraction of this tourist spot is the mountain edges which are etched with life size rock carvings. The hilly terrains are carved with the images of Uma-Maheshwar, Vishnu, five-faced Shiva, Ganesha, Hanuman and Ravana. Though the exact period of these carvings are yet to be confirmed, it is believed that the archaeological wonder of this site dates back to the 7th to 9th centuries. The primitive murals, unrefined rock carvings, blissful natural beauty dotted with a gushing waterfall make this naturally beautiful tourist spot a heartthrob of the nature lovers.
Photo: Debarka Banik
A treasure trove of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, Pilak is located around 100km from Agartala in Belonia Sub-division of Tripura. The excavation on this historical site has found the remains of 8th and 9th century rock-cut images and terracotta plaques which are a delight for the history buffs. Quite a few Terracotta plaques, sealed with stupas and images of Avolokiteswara and Narsimhan have been discovered there which date back to the Buddhist period.
Located at a distance of around 35km from Agartala, on the Agartala-Udaipur Highway, Sepahijola Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the four main wildlife reserves of the state. The reserve gains immense importance among the travellers of Tripura for protecting sizable count of birds and six species of primates. There are around 150 species of birds in this park along with a few other migrating birds which visit the park in winter. For entertainment, the offers boat riding and toy train ride facilities. A forest Dak Bungalow named as Abasarika provides accommodation to the visitors.
However, the wildlife lovers with intense love towards nature can also check out other wildlife reserves of Tripura such as Trishna, Gumti or Rowa.
Around 250km away from Agartala city, Jampui Hill is the highest hill range of the state and reckoned as the ‘seat of the spring’. Blessed with charming landscape and moderate climate, this naturally beautiful tourist spot calls the travellers of all taste and class to get soaked in its serenity. The most attractive element to enjoy in this region is the picturesque surroundings dotted with wooden settlements of tribes like Lushai. Walk past their houses and get to know about their lifestyle. Every year in November Orange Festival is organised with great feasts and festivities.
Foodies can get all palatable dishes in Tripura, particularly in Agartala. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes can be found at reasonable price. But for non-vegetarian foodies I would particularly suggest the chutney of dry fish. They say it’s lip-smacking. You can try some if you are ready to experiment with your taste bud. It has a strong lip smacking fragrance. Add a little amount of chutney with rice and dal and taste it.
P.S: Don’t taste the chutney with roti (bread). You might miss the real taste.
If you are in Agartala in July by chance, then a great surprise is waiting for you. Ask the local people or see the local calendar of Tripura for Kharchi Puja and head to the Chaturdasha Devta temple in the city of Agartala. Kharchi Puja is one of the most popular festivals in Tripura that lasts for seven days and brings together all sections of the society, both tribal and those of plains. During the festival, the deities are taken out of the temple to the river Saidra and brought back to the temple when the actual ritual starts. In the evening tribal dances are performed which is a great show to witness.
Tripura is known for its bamboo and cane artefacts. So you can buy a few exclusive show pieces for your home decor. The dolls, idols of different deities, bamboo made table lamps, and other household materials are worth buying. Also try some handloom products like tribal shawl and mekhla and let your wardrobe open to a new age of style.
Sherawali Travels is a popular name in the tourism sector of Tripura. They run interstate bus services from this North-Eastern State. They have their office in Agartala Town. The reason I am suggesting you to go to their office is not to book a ticket for yourself, but to taste the variety of sweets being sold at their sweet shop. I am not sure whether you have seen such a sweet shop anywhere else where more than 50 varieties of sweets are sold. So, if you are a sweet lover like me, then try to savour the taste of Jalebi without miss.
Kolkata and Durga Puja sound synonymous. That is why travellers do think that this grand festival takes place only in Kolkata. But, let me tell you that Tripura has also earned a fair bit of fame celebrating Durga Puja with great pomp and show. Particularly the nearby cities of Dharmanagar and Kailasahar are the best places to witness Durga Puja in Tripura. However, the best Durga Puja Pandals in Tripura are made in Agartala where local as well as artists from Kolkata exhibit their artistic excellence.
The question where to stay in Tripura might not bother you much if you are choosing Agartala as your halt. As none of these destinations are too far from Agaratala city, I would suggest you to stay in Agartala itself and to plan for a day trip. For luxury accommodations in Agaratala you can opt for Shangri-la, Ginger Hotel, Hotel Woodland Park, or Solar Residency. For budget accommodation you can look for Welcome Palace, Royal Guest House, Hotel Somraj Regency. Also for backpackers, Jagannath Temple brings couple of neat and clean Dormitories. In any case if you feel tired in any of these destinations, you will get enough of options to stay back. There are good quality hotels as well as homestay options in all the above mentioned destinations.
By Air: Agartala Airport is the only airport of the state. And if you are planning to travel this month itself, choosing airways will be the best. All major airports of the country are connected to this airport.
By Train: Broad-gauge has not yet reached Agartala. The train line is under construction.
By Road: All prominent cities of North-East like Guwahati, Shillong, Silchar are connected with Agartala by bus routes.