Tripura’s over 1,000-year-old archaeological site Pilak is all set to attract more tourists as the state government has initiated steps to develop it into a historical tourism circuit along with two other places.
Located at Jolaibari, about 100 km from here, the site was part of a network of Hindu-Buddhist sites at the tri-junction of East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Tripura and Arakan (Myanmar) regions.
“It is a popular tourist destination in the southern district of Tripura, which is visited by people from different parts of the country. We have created an archaeological tourist circuit that includes Chhabimura in Gomati district, Udaipur and Pilak in South Tripura district. There is a package tour connecting the three places,” state tourism department director TK Das told PTI.
Around 200 people visit Pilak every day.
Starting from Agartala, the tourism circuit connects Pilak with the temple town of Udaipur in the northeastern state, home to the Tripureshwari Kali Temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. Bhubaneswari Kali Temple, which featured in Rabindranath Tagore’s novel ‘Rajarshi’, is also in Udaipur.
It also houses Chhabimura, famous for its panels of rock carvings on the steep mountain wall on the banks of the Gomati River.
Stone carvings of Hindu Gods, Shiva, Surya, Baishnabi, Mahishasuramardini, Buddha statues, Shyam Sundar Tilla, Deb Bari, Thakurani Tilla, Balir Pathar and Basudeb Bari dot the Pilak site, carved in stone in Buddhist style. Over three square kilometers in the uplands and green valleys of the Belonia subdivision.
Research by the late Ratna Das, author of a book on Pilak, suggests that the site emerged as an important Hindu-Buddhist center in the 8th century.
A number of rock-cut images and terracotta plaques are scattered in the area and the archaeological survey of India is the custodian of the site.
State Tourism Department Executive Engineer Uttam Pal said the state government has plans to develop the place for Buddhist tourists from South-East Asia and other places.
Since 1999, the site has been taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Since Pilak has been declared an archaeological site, no permanent structure can be built within 150 meters, but several facilities for tourists have been created outside the restricted zone. The traffic of visitors is very good. The state government has constructed a tourist bungalow at Jolaibari near the site.
A stupa was excavated at Sundari Thilla under the supervision of ASI Superintendent P Kumaran, a senior ASI official said.
Explaining its significance, the official said, “It is a full-sized Buddhist stupa built in the 11th century on the architectural model of the reign of the Palas of Bengal,” said author and historian Panna Lal Roy. Pilak stands as an eloquent symbol of the Hindu-Buddhist cultural bond and the glorious cultural past of the state.
The dominant style of rock paintings and sculptures at Pilak illustrates the influence of the Palas and Guptas of Bengal and the Arakans of Myanmar (earlier Burma) and regional style, Roy said.
Various images of Tantric Buddhist gods and goddesses can also be found in this area. Buddha, Chunda (10th century) Avalokitesvara (8th-9th century), Marichi (9th century) Stone and Tara, Avalokitesvara, Hariti (made in bronze). “Pilak style of sculpture was popular in Bengal during the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries,” Dr. Historian Biswadeep Nandi wrote in his book ‘Rock-cuts and Sculptures of Tripura’.
The molded terracotta plaques bear similarities to molded plaques recovered from Paharpur and Mynamati in Bangladesh, Roy said.
According to a state government website, “It can be assumed that the vast plains of Tripura were under the control of several dynasties that ruled over East Bengal and the plains during ancient times. Some of them were Buddhists and others were Hindus. Most of these rulers had their capitals near this region. The ancient kingdom of Pathilkera had its capital in the Comilla region, Pilak not far from Comilla.
The Tripura government has received over Rs 1,600 crore in funds to develop the tourism sector for the next five years, State Tourism Minister Sushanta Chaudhary said in April.
In 2022-23, the northeastern state is expected to receive nearly 3 lakh tourists, of which over 35,000 are foreigners.
Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly has recently been roped in as the brand ambassador of Tripura Tourism, an initiative that is expected to give a boost to unexplored tourist destinations in the state.
(This story has not been edited by DavidDiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)