Pilak, an over 1000-year-old archaeological site in Tripura, is set to woo more travellers as the state government has initiated steps to develop it as a historical tourism circuit with two other places.
The place, nestled in Jolaibari, about 100 km from Agartala, formed part of a chain of Hindu-Buddhist sites on the tri-junction of East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Tripura and Arakkan (Myanmar) region.
“It is a famous tourist spot in Tripura’s South District which is visited by people from different parts of the country. We have created an archaeological tourist circuit, including Chhabimura and Udaipur in Gomati district and Pilak in South Tripura district. There is a package tour connecting the three sites”, T K Das, Director of the state tourism department told PTI.
Approximately, 200 people visit Pilak every day.
The tourism circuit starts from Agartala and links Pilak with Udaipur, a temple town in the northeastern state where Tripureswari Kali temple, one of the 51 Shaktipiths is situated. Bhubaneswari Kali temple, which featured in Rabindranath Tagore’s novel ‘Rajarshi’ is also located at Udaipur.
It also covers Chhabimura, famous for its panels of rock carvings on the steep mountain wall on the bank of river Gomati.
Stone engravings of Hindu Gods carved on stone in the Buddhist style, figurines of Shiva, Surya, Baishnabi, Mahishasurmardini, and Buddha statue can be found Shyam Sundar Tilla, Deb Bari, Thakurani Tilla, Balir Pathar, and Basudeb Bari at the Pilak site spread over three sq km in the uplands and green valleys of Belonia subdivision.
Research by late Ratna Das, who had authored a book on Pilak, suggest that the place had emerged as a major Hindu-Buddhist site in the eighth century.
Several rock-cut images and terracotta plaques lie scattered in the area and the Archaeological Survey of India is the custodian of the site.
Executive engineer of the state Tourism department, Uttam Pal, said, the state government has plans to develop the site for Buddhist tourists of South-East Asia and other places.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had taken over the site since 1999.
Pal said, “Since Pilak is declared an Archaeological site, no permanent structure can be built within 150 metres of it, but many facilities have been created for tourists outside the restricted zone. Footfall of visitors is remarkably good. The state government has built a tourist Bungalow at Jolaibari, near the site”.
A senior official of the ASI, said, a stupa was excavated at Sundari Tilla under the supervision of ASI Superintendent, P Kumaran.
Explaining its importance, the official said, “This is a full-size Buddhist stupa built in the 11th century on the pattern of architecture during the reign of Palas of Bengal.”
Panna Lal Roy, a writer, and a historian said, Pilak stands as an eloquent symbol of Hindu-Buddhist cultural affinity and the glorious cultural past of the state.
The dominant style of the rock-cut images and the sculptures in Pilak depict the influence of the Palas and Guptas of Bengal, the Arakkans in Myanmar (formerly Burma), and the local style, Roy said.
“Various images of Tantric Buddhist gods and goddesses are also found in the area. Buddha, Chunda (10th c) Avalokitesvara (8th -9th c), Marichi (9th c) made of stone and Tara, Avolokiteswar, Hariti (made of bronze). The style of Pilak sculptures was prevalent in Bengal during the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries’,” Dr Biswadip Nandi, a historian, wrote in his book ‘Rock-cut and sculptures of Tripura’.
“The moulded terracotta plaques bear resemblance with moulded plaques recovered from Paharpur and Mainamati in Bangladesh”, Roy said.
According to a state government website, “it may be presumed that the extensive plains of Tripura were under the control of several dynasties who ruled in Eastern Bengal and Samatata in ancient period. Some of them were Buddhists and the others were Hindus. Most of these rulers had their capitals near this region. The ancient kingdom of Pattikera had its capital in Comilla region and Pilak is not very far from Comilla”.
The Tripura government received over ₹1,600 crore in funds for developing the tourism sector for the next five years, state Tourism Minister Sushanta Chowdhury said in April.
In 2022-23, the northeastern state received nearly 3 lakh tourists of whom more than 35,000 were foreigners.
Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly was recently roped in as the brand ambassador for Tripura Tourism and the initiative is expected to give a boost to the state’s unexplored tourist destinations.
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