iRediscover | What My Trails In Tripura Led Me To

If you want to know how ignorant you are, travel. Especially if you, like me, do not have the patience to always sit through tomes.
Of course, I also recommend travel with this disclaimer: Leave your misguided sense of entitlement behind before you commence your journey.

And that is also how I began my journey into India’s northeast mid-Jan this year. I knew how little I knew about the region. If anything, that was what petrified me the most and kept me away from venturing into the northeast for a very long time.

But only until the stubbornness to accomplish #29in29 kicked in

Unakoti, Tripura, Agartala, rock, sculptures
The rock sculptures at Unakoti

Arriving in Kailashahar after flying into Agartala from Guwahati and then taking a train to Kumarghat was just the beginning of both, shedding light as well as dispelling that same ignorance! The pages of my northeast diary were beginning in the geographic state of Tripura and in a mental state of euphoria. I was going to learn by doing.

The good folks at ChaloHoppo were helping my friend and me to navigate our way during our four days in the state. We would explore Agartala, the capital of Tripura, after we had seen some of its interiors.
That got us to look up train tickets to Kumarghat (while making new friends at Agartala railway station)
That introduced us to Kailashahar or what seemed like life inside of a slo-mo video, as I’d like to call it. And that’s how we were introduced to our gregarious guide, Sujit and our demure driver, Arijit.

Kailashahar does not boast of too many hotels. Actually, it boasts of only two.
And for reasons best known to the Universe (or the white bearded old man in the sky, whichever of the two you believe in) ours was the one located in close proximity to a blaring loudspeaker during our two night stay.

Were we going to pass the first test of our sense of entitlement?

This is how you stole my heart, Tripura! I am anything but a frequent-flyer. Why, I'm hardly a flyer! I've at best taken 8 flights in the past two years (when compared to the train journeys I've embarked upon) ... I even took the 44 hour train ride (that then turned into a 48 hour one) from Mumbai to Guwahati as recently as 11 days ago But last Thursday morning, sitting in the aircraft as it hovered over Agartala for landing, I was reminded of why it helps to see the ground from a few feet above! Look at those craggy hills below and how they humble you Sigh Why not take this Republic Day as an opportunity to set the intention of falling a bit more in love with your country, what say? . . *** #Agartala #Tripura #India #northeastindia #northeast #whereisnortheast #indiatravelgram #travel #instatravel #huffpostgram #bbctravel #hgwanderlust #travelblogger #_soi #incredibleindiaofficial #girlwhotravels #ngtdailyshot #sheisnotlost #lonelyplanetindia #6eexplorer #mextures #chasinglight #finditliveit #liveauthentic #liveunscripted #chalohoppo #communityfirst #hippieinhills #thebetterindia #HaveFeetWillTravel
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Explorations from in and around Kailashahar:
Kailashahar is located at the Indo-Bangladesh border. Except that you don’t really notice it – the border, that is. In fact, until Sujit pointed it out to us, we hadn’t even realised that the barbed wires we had been driving past were indicative of the Indo-Bangladesh border! 

At 10 kilometres from Kailashahar are the Unakoti rock carvings - a ‘Shaivite' pilgrimage centre within Hinduism dating back to 7th – 9th centuries. 'Unakoti' means one less than a crore and that is believed to be the number of rock cut carvings of Shiva as well as other gods and goddesses found there. These carvings are only of faces and are believed to be the largest in size in India. These carvings depict tribal features both in decoration and anatomy.
As per Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva was on his way to Kashi along with one crore gods and goddesses when he made a night halt at this location. He'd asked them to wake up before sun rise and proceed for Kashi. In the morning, except Shiva, no one else woke up so he set out for Kashi himself cursing the others to turn to stone. That's how there are one less than a crore stone images and carvings at Unakoti.

Standing before these monolith structures, I reflected back to how a couple of months ago I knew neither history nor myth about Unakoti! 

Unakoti, Tripura, India, Shaiva


rock carving, sculpture, Unakoti, Tripura, India, Hinduism
Rock carving with Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh

Laxmi Narayan Mandir
There are quite a few temples in and around Kailashahar. And we visited almost all of them – more at Sujit’s insistence than our own devotion. Once inside a place of worship though, out of my innate curiosity, I’m drawn towards the devotees’ religious fervour! Which is what I found in a striking manner at the Laxmi Narayan Mandir. The temple is known for the tomaal tree within its premises on which devotees tie strips of red linen as a symbol of their invocations.

Elsewhere in the world, people clasp locks on to bridge while chucking the key in the water-body below. Interesting how similar both these practices seem in spite of the diversity in cultures!

tree, Tripura, Unakoti, Laxmi Narayan Mandir
The tomaal tree at Laxmi Narayan Mandir

temple, Hindu, Tripura
Laxmi Narayan Temple

Manipuri food in Tripura
If experiencing Tamil Nadu’s Pongal celebration in Bihar’s Patna two years ago had helped me experience India’s diversity in its full glory, then licking off Manipuri delicacies from my plantain leaf plate at Sujit’s home was an insight of its own kind. The Bishnupriyas are an ethnic group that belong to Manipur who fled oppression sometime during the 18th and 19th centuries and sought refuge in parts of Assam, Tripura as well as present day Bangladesh. 

Sometimes you encounter food through the cultures you learn about. And sometimes you learn a lot more about culture and history through the food you encounter!

Manipuri food, lunch, Indian, food, India, kitchen
Preparations for lunch underway

Manipuri food, lunch, Indian, food, India, kitchen, girl child, child, children,
The tiny human was most content getting us flowers as ingredients for salad were readied in the plate behind

Authentic Manipuri thaali

Jampui Hills and Vanghmun
On a less hazy day, this view of the Jampui Hills would have been spectacular. But on the day I got there, I almost had to pinch myself ...Sometimes reality is more than what you imagined; albeit in a good way.
The Jampui Hills are along the Tripura-Mizoram border and are inhabited by the Lushai as well as the Reang tribes. The Lushai follow Christianity (you start seeing crucifixes along the road, just like in Goa) and speak English quite fluently (we were asking for directions).
Incidentally, during the WWII, locals from the nearby Vaghmun village rescued two American air-force pilots... (*things my history books didn't tell me*)

I've had many more moments such as this one during my journey in the northeast where I hadn't known about certain places, let alone knowing that I'd ever be there.
But there I was
Exploring my country

Beyond what the newspapers were saying or my school syllabus had ever done any justice to!

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There are times on the road when you have to blink twice to acknowledge that what you're looking at, ain't a mirage. Meet Neermahal (which literally means ‘water palace’) on Rudrasagar located at the outskirts of Agartala. It is the only other water palace in India besides the Jal Mahal in Rajasthan.

Personally my highlight of the day was the journey -- hopping on to public transport (which BTW, is quite comfortable) to get from Agaratala to the palace. What made this 55 kilometre journey interesting was how everyone from the hotel reception to the stranger on the street kept advising us against public transport – not because of anything else, except that it was considered too far of a distance to be undertaken by two girls by themselves unless they were hiring a private cab!
Of course, we had pennies to save and local experiences to lap up and savour – and we were glad we took the bus!

water palace, Agartala, Tripura, India
Neer Mahal | Agartala

water palace, Agartala, Tripura, India
Neer Mahal | Agartala

water palace, Agartala, Tripura, India
Neer Mahal | Agartala

Streets of Agartala
It's not enough that I just see the recommended sights or live as locally as possible when I travel. Sometimes my curiosity gets the better of my otherwise reserved nature and pushes me to ask questions to strangers that I'm itching to get answered.

That's what I did while walking through the streets of Agartala after we returned from Neer Mahal. In the lead to Saraswati puja, the streets were lined with artisans working away at their statues. While my camera helped make an entry point to initiate a conversation, I, unfortunately, couldn't glean much about the process of statue making because of the language barrier; though I did get asked about the statue-making process in Mumbai!

statue, god, goddess, Agartala, Tripura, India
Goddess Saraswati statues being work-in-progress

statue, god, goddess, Agartala, Tripura, India

statue, god, goddess, Agartala, Tripura, India

street food, samosa, chaat, Agartala, Tripura, India
Street food - samosa chaat with a Chinese zing to it | Agartala


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