I would have never imagined that a small state of Northeast India, closest to the Bangladesh border also known as the “Land of water,” would truly fascinate me. Although visiting Tripura was not a choice I had made willingly (I thought it as a boring place with minimum communication with the rest of the world), it turned out to be a memorable trip.
I visited Tripura in mid June. When the plane landed at the airport, it was raining, and the air humid. As I headed to the hotel, I observed that the streets were quiet; only a few shops were open and few people were out and about.
I was curious to explore this quiet city but I decided to rest for a while till it stopped raining. In the evening, I woke up to the hustle and bustle of that place. When I looked out of the window, I was amazed to see the street below me alive with lights. The quietness earlier on was now replaced with the chatter of people. The shops that were closed during the day were busy catering to the needs of the customers. As I walked across the street I saw many small roadside shops selling street food in carts such as chat, panipuri, chowmein, a variety of pakodas, and even momos. I tasted almost everything on the way to the town and roamed around the vegetable and fruit market. The markets here are stretched so long that there is a good chance of getting lost if you venture too deep.
It was surprising to see people from Bangladesh coming in autos for shopping in Agartala, Tripura’s capital, and returning back the same day. It made me think how easy it is to visit Bangladesh if they have a passport—just a few security checks and you can pass through and go back by the same evening. Also, if you are a book lover then there’s an entire market here filled with only books. It’s almost like a giant library with just a bit of noise.
I fortunately got a chance to see the flag ceremony being hosted by the Indian and Bangladesh army at the border. It was not as grand as in Wagha border, but it was a patriotic moment when I watched it. You can’t help but feel proud when you look at those soldiers. For dinner I went to a lovely restaurant. What I found interesting was that they served my food on a fresh banana leaf on top of a plate. They also kept two glasses of water in front me—I had no idea what the two glasses of water were for. I asked the waiter in Hindi (people there mostly speak Bengali although they understand Hindi and English), and he told me that one was for drinking and the other one was for rinsing the plate before eating.
The next day I visited Neermahal, a royal palace of the Tripura kings. It is situated in Melaghar, 53 kilometers away from Agartala. The palace is situated in the middle of Rudrasagar Lake. The palace was built as a summer resort for the kings during 1930's. This palace is primarily accessible only via a boat ride, which makes it unique. They charge Rs. 30/- per head for the ride and Rs. 10/- for the entry. The palace was beautiful inside and out and even had a mini garden inside it. There are different open rooms named dance halls, court room, meeting room etc that depict the lifestyle of the kings and royal families. The white palace looked perfect under the blue sky. One can see the beautiful sight of the palace at sunset too when its reflection can be seen in the water. I just wandered around the palace getting lost in its architectural design and peaceful ambience.
As I returned back from Neermahal to Agartala, I visited another palace “The Ujjayanta Palace,” which was a home to many past rulers of Tripura. This palace is also known as the Tripura State Museum. The white structure in front of my eyes was so fascinating that I just stood there for quite some time savoring its beauty, design, and architecture. This palace is just like the ones that are shown in historical films: a grand gate at the entrance and a long road leading straight to the palace, beautiful fountains and gardens on both sides of the road, and marble staircase at the palace entrance. The palace turned museum showcases the history, culture, ethnicity, traditions, lifestyle, utility crafts, and custom practices of various communities of North East states including Tripura. I started exploring the museum from the first floor. It had so many rooms and halls that when I reached the other floor I was really tired. However, my enthusiasm of having a glimpse at all the art in the museum kept me going. Some of the collections included sculptures, terracotta, coins, copper and stone inscriptions, bronze images, textiles, oil paintings, sketches and drawings, tribal ornaments, musical instruments, and art and craft objects. One particular room in the museum filled my eyes with tears. The whole room depicted the scene of the India and Bangladesh war of 1971. It took me around 3 hours to completely explore the museum. By the time I came out of the palace, it was already dark. Outside the palace the night life had started: people were enjoying snacks with their friends and families bought from the street food carts and ice cream carts.
Overall, it had been a pleasant day for me. I was not able to explore some hidden gems of Tripura such as Unnakoti Hill, where you can see marvelous rock carvings of Hindu deities and beautiful waterfalls. According to the locals, Unnakati is the best place to visit if you want to enjoy the mythological aspect along with the calm and serene surrounding nature of Tripura.
The scenery, temples, palaces, museums, and the wilderness are what attract travelers to Tripura, and Unnakoti Hill will definitely be first on my list if I ever visit it again.