Northeast’s best kept secret

I ndia is home to many water palaces but Neermahal Palace in Tripura remains the most underrated one.

Published: 06th January 2019 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th January 2019 09:11 AM   |  A+A-

Ujjayanta palace; guards at the India-Bangladesh border;

Express News Service

I ndia is home to many water palaces but Neermahal Palace in Tripura remains the most underrated one. Almost every visitor finds it no less spectacular than the Lake Palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan, both being built by Maharajas to beat the summer heat. Located 53 away from state capital, Agartala and set in the middle of an expansive waterbody, this gleaming white edifice crowned with several Mughal-styled domes stands on red-brick foundations.

It was built by the Tripura kings in the early 20th century. Its reflection on the greyish lake water sprinkled with pink water lilies amidst green foliage creates an ethereal scene, which is the key reward for those visiting Tripura— a tiny state in the northeastern part of the nation.

Tripura Sundari Temple

Besides Neermahal, the city offers varied attractions to trigger any traveller’s quest for discovery—such as splendid nature points, royal architectural leftovers and unexplored rock art at many Hindu temples spread across the state. As the ensemble gradually unfolds, visitors are left wondering why Tripura is still an offbeat destination.

With crowd, chaos and cacophony missing, Agartala is different from rest of India. The landscape is immersed in a hilly serenity, pastoral life and tribal tranquillity. Drawn by the lush green valleys, rivers and streams, innumerable lakes and pristine forests, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is known to have frequented Tripura, often as a royal guest.

History records that Tripura achieved its golden era under the Manikya dynasty which ruled this land-locked region for almost 500 years. The state then joined the independent Indian Union in 1949. The kings were great patrons of art, literature, music and architecture, with Tagore being one of their devoted idols. Their architectural creations can be seen scattered throughout the state  such as the Ujjayanta Palace. Placed inside a manicured Mughal-style garden, it looks similar to the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata. Today this palace, which once housed the royal family, has been converted into a state museum displaying memorabilia that proclaim past glory.

Tripura is home to primarily Hindu and Buddhist faith. Around 170 km away from Agartala, 
the archaeological ruins of Unakoti, Pilak and Devtamura display gigantic rock-cut carvings and stone images Shiva, Vishnu and other Hindu gods as well as Buddhist creeds. Some of them are over a thousand years old—a reminder of how talented the local civilisation was during the heyday. Among the Hindu temples the most significant is that of Tripura Sundari—a local version of Goddess Kali. It is located in Udaipur, 56 km from Agartala where, as per Hindu mythology, one of the 51 body pieces of Mata Sati fell according to folklore, thus becoming a ‘pith’ or a revered holy site. No visit to Tripura is complete without paying a tribute at this pious junction.

History aside, Tripura is one of the northeastern states where the rare and endangered spectacled monkeys can be spotted. The Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary, 28 km outside the capital boundary, is home to the species. The 18 square km forest is home to these langurs, who have white circles around their eyes as 
if wearing glasses.

Interestingly, Tripura and Bangladesh share over 100 km of land boundary with a border check-post on the outskirts of Agartala. A daily military show, similar to  the one at Wagah Border, is held at sunset. It involves trumpet blowing, uniformed guards marching and then lowering the nations’ flags. Efforts 
are being made by both the governments, to use this as a trump card to attract tourists to the almost untrod den region of Tripura.

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