It is nearly the end of 2017 and what an year it has been. We have all experienced happiness, sorrow, fear and so many other emotions. Yet, we overcome all these and as per human nature, hope and dream for a better tomorrow and future to come.
I wish 2018 will be such an year for all of us. I have been thinking and planning for a long long time to write down and share some of my travel stories, where I have been, what I saw and experienced, the good and the not so good things that happen on every travel.
Never quite gathered the vibe and time to sit down to do so. Perhaps 2018 will be different and so I thought of giving it a try as we move towards the New Year.
I plan to start writing about my favourite region in India, the North-East. The North East states of India are very dear to me as I was born in one, brought up in the other states of the 7 sisters. These states are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. When I grew up, we knew nothing called travellers or tourists in these areas. We used to live, work, study in these states and other than the local trips to temples, monasteries and riverside, we never saw any travellers visiting those places. Local festivals were very much a small community affairs and good wishes shared with neighbours.
So in the Autumn of 2016 when I travelled to India to my home city, Kolkata, I decided to take a short break to one of the North East states where I have not been before. I visited Agartala, which is the capital of Tripura.
Agartala (IXC) is just a 50 minutes flight from Kolkata (CCU). There are direct flights operated by Indigo, SpiceJet and Air India from Kolkata to Agartala. There is also train services to Agartala, but you have to traverse most of Bangladesh border to reach Agartala from Kolkata in 2 days.
I arrived on a bright sunny October morning to Agartala. It is small town with friendly and helpful people. I had booked to stay at the Ginger Hotel, It is a budget hotel, clean rooms and good food. The concierge at the hotel was able to arrange a car to take me out to the town.
Agartala is famous for the Ujjayanta Palace which is now a museum and was the former royal palace.
Since 2013, Ujjayanta Palace became the Tripura Government Museum . It houses many galleries which focuses mainly on North East India’s history, culture, arts, tradition and ethnic diversity.
Other places of interest within Agartala are the Jagannath Temple. It was built in 19th century and has bright orange coloured shikharas. There is another small temple in the middle of a pond near to the temple.
There is quiet Buddhist monastery located at Kunjaban area in northern part of Agartala city. This is called “Benuban Vihar” and houses some small size beautiful metal idols of Lord Buddha. A visit to this monastery can be a peaceful experience.
Just 6 kms from Agartala is the old town, where there is the Haveli museum which houses historical artefacts and also models with traditional costumes and handicrafts. On the outside wall you can see the painted coat of arms.
Tripura is famous for its bamboo handicrafts. The peacock and lampshades are all created by local craftspeople are available to buy from the Tripura Government Emporium. These makes good mementoes to bring back home.
Just opposite the Haveli Museum is the temple of 14 goddesses. Every year during the month of July, the ‘Kharchi festival’ is organised and thousands of pilgrims and devotees visit the festival and the accompanying fair.
Travelling away from Agartala, around 55 kms away are some old archeological grandeurs. These are the Gunabati temples. These were built in 1668 A.D in the name of Her Highness Maharani Gunabati, wife of Maharaja Govinda Manikya.
Further out in Udaipur area is the famous Bhubaneswari Temple, on the bank of river Gomati. The temple was build by Maharaja Govinda Manikya (1660-1676). This temple has been mentioned in Rabindranath Tagores’ famous plays Rajarshi and Bisarjan.
Around 50 kms from Agartala, in the midst of Rudrasagar Lake is the famous ‘Neer Mahal’ also known as the ‘lake palace’ of Tripura. Neer-Mahal was constructed as a summer residence by Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya Bahadur and was completed fairly recently in 1938.
And no visit to Agartala is complete without a visit to the holiest of Hindu temples, Tripura Sundari Temple, also known as Matabari by the local people. This is situation in Udaipur district, next to Kalyan Sagar lake. As per Hindu mythology, it is said that ‘right foot’ of Mata Sati fell at Matabari. The temple was constructed in 1501 A.D. by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya. Kalyan Sagar lake also houses some very old tortoises. I could not take any photos here as I was caught in the middle of a torrential downpour.
Around 28 kms from Agartala is the Kamalasagar Kali Temple, was built on a hill-top by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya in the late 15th century. Comilla side of Bangladesh is just on other side of the lake. The presence of the lake in front of the temple enhances its beauty.
Tripura is also famous for its rubber production. Throughout the drive from Agartala to the southern district of Udaipur, I found the road sides full of rubber trees and the saps being collected in indeginous coconut shells.
Agartala’s newest, Heritage Park, spread over twelve acre of land, is located at the centre of the city, on the northern side of Raj Bhawan. I was unable to visit this as it was a state holiday and the park was closed. This park has an area where there a mini-Tripura has been created.
And just 2 kms from Agartala city centre is the Bangladesh border, where a flag lowering ceremony is held every day at sunset time. The time changes as per season, so please check with your local guide or car driver in case you are interested.
It shows clearly what these international border means to us. People standing on other side and talking but we dare not cross that line. Hope the new year brings in peace across the world and people can move easily across borders and see the beauty of the countries on the other side.
- Languages: The main languages spoken are Bengali, English and the local tribal language Kor Borok.
- Airport to city: If you have not arranged a pickup from your hotel, auto rickshaws are available just outside and a cheap and quick way to the city.
- Local Transport: Auto rickshaws are the best and cheap mode. Car hires can also be arranged directly from the hotel.
- Food: Mainly Bengali type of cuisines, fish is common everywhere. Vegetarian food is also readily available. In southern Tripura, there are small hotels for food like rice, lentils and curries. I have eaten there with confidence and did not have any problem. Please carry water bottles and try to eat freshly cooked hot food.
- Wifi: Hotel wifi has decent speed and good for internet surfing and social media.
All you need is an open mind to enjoy the beauty of the places you visit.
Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Your comments, suggestions, encouragement are most welcome.
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