The name Unakoti means ‘one less than a crore’. It is the prime tourist spot of Unakoti District in the Kailashahar Subdivision in the North-eastern Indian state of Tripura. The marvelous rock carvings, murals with their primitive beauty, waterfalls are charismatic.
Unakoti is situated at a distance of 10 kilometres from the North District headquarters, Kailashahar. The road was inaccessible four decades ago. One had to come all the way on foot passing through deep jungles and crossing over mountains. The scenario changed after the road connection was established. A diversion road runs from Dharmanagar-Kailashahar connecting road upto the place of pilgrimage. On the hilly terrain many idols of gods and goddess are lying scattered. At the main peak there are idols of Uma-Maheshwar, five-faced Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Hanuman and Ravana. Among the carved-out images on the rocky fringes those of Ganesha and Shiva are prominent. This image of Shiva as Lord of Unakoti (Unakotiswar) is famous as Kal-Bhairava. Goddess Durga is also carved on the side of the hill. The four-faced idol of Unakoti is known to all though the fourth face was damaged long back.
Huge sculptures were chiseled out from the rock-sides and the images were carved. A beautiful spring is descending down the hill terraces. This has filled up the cavern, called “Sitakund” and then danced down in sprightly pace. This resulted in the origin of a modest pond (cherra) with sparkling water which is cool and refreshing. Every year during Ashokastami and Makar Sankranti big fairs are held at Unakoti. Peoples from far and near come there for a holy dip in Sitakund.
According to Hindu belief, the god Shiva was travelling to Kashi (Varanasi), one of the holiest cities in India, along with a number of Gods and Goddesses. Including Shiva, these deities numbered at one crore. When the deities arrived at Unakoti, they decided to stay for the night. Before going to sleep, Shiva had instructed all to wake up at sunrise so as to continue their long journey. When dawn broke the next day, only Shiva was awake, whilst the rest of the deities were still fast asleep. As a result, Shiva continued his journey to Kashi on his own while all other gods and goddesses turned into stone images as they were fast asleep. Hence, Unakoti’s name refers to the number of deities turned into stone.
There is also an alternative myth regarding the way Unakoti got its name. This myth is about a famous sculptor by the name of Kalu Kamar. According to the story, the sculptor intended to make Unakoti a site of pilgrimage by carving onto the rocks the images of a crore of deities. His desire was not fulfilled, however, as he was just one image short of completion. Although the carvings in Unakoti may be the work of Kalu Kamar but nobody really knows who made them. Unakoti’s rock carvings are even more mysterious, given the fact that there is neither certainty as to the time they were carved nor the reason for their carving in such a secluded place.
Although Unakoti is a well-known pilgrimage site for Hindus, there is much more to learn about the site and its reliefs. Apart from the lack of information regarding the age of the reliefs and the people who made them, it is also unclear as to the total number of reliefs. According to an assessment made by the Archaeological Survey of India, it seems that there are still reliefs and statues in the jungle yet to be discovered.