The Gomti River flows through the gorge within the steep rocky walls on both sides. On looking carefully, we saw a few rock carvings on the vertical faces of the mountains. Why were they there? Who made such rock carvings on the mountain faces? All these questions flocked my mind, taking me to some distant past. But I was jolted down to the present again as the engine of our motorboat roared taking us along the stream. There are few more surprises in store for us at Chabimura or Chhabimura near Amarpur in Gomati district of Tripura. Well, Tripura seemed to surprise us again after Unakoti.
To be honest, we had not known about Chabimura before we arrived at Tripura. We saw about the place in an advertisement by the Tripura Tourism. I dare say that they did a good job because one look at the place and I was totally sold. I wanted to visit Chabimura no matter what. We had less time in hand. A visit to Chabimura meant that we have to give up on Pilak that looked quite promising as well. However, Chabimura won hands down and we were off towards Amarpur to see the rock carvings.
What is Chabimura all about?
A few rock carvings had been found on the banks of Gomati River in Tripura. The place known as Chabimura is a rare combination of history and natural beauty. A boat ride on the Gomati River through the gorge is surreal in itself. The entire experience cannot be just explained in simple words. And then there are the rock carvings on the mountain faces. The boat would take you downstream until you reach the colossal panel of having a rock-cut image of Goddess Durga in her fierce Mahisasur Mardini Avatar, locally known as Devi Chakrama.
The boat journey feels as if you are travelling through the Amazon rain forest. Chabimura literally means mountain of pictures. The place is also known at Devtamura (meaning mountain peak of Gods). Chabimura is just as isolated and mysterious like that of Unakoti. At least, Unakoti has several stories and legends to fall back to. But Chabimura has no specific history, not even any legends and myths. The place is still an enigma. And this is what increases the charm of the place manifold.
Located deep in the forest, there are a few rock-cut panels of deities of Hindu pantheons. These are carved out at the steep rocky face of the cliff that descends directly in the river bed some 150 feet below. This archaeological wonder seems to be just in the middle of nowhere. There are no people around, only the chirping sounds of birds and the sound of the rustling of leaves.
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Rock Panels of Chabimura
So what do we see at Chabimura? There are rock carvings on vertical mountain faces made of light yellow sandstone. There are a total of 4 panels of rock-cut sculptures on the mountain walls. Numismatist and scholar Jawhar Acharjee said the carvings on the Debtamura and Chhabimura hill ranges had been created by artists in the eighth century. The first panel that we noticed on start of our journey is the panel consisting of the images of Panchadevata. The panel measures about 9m x 5m. This panel consists of images of Shiva, Vishnu, Kartikeya, Ganesha and Devi Shakti with their proper vahanas according to Hindu mythology.
Further downstream there is another smaller panel showing a procession of a queen in palanquin followed by several persons. This group consists of 37 male and female figures along with their leader. The group seems to be engaged in music and dance and holding various musical instruments.
A little further away about 500 m downstream, there is another panel containing an image of Brishabahana Shiva holding Damru in his hand. Finally, we arrive at the panel having the 13-metre high image of Goddess Durga. Here the Goddess is known as Devi Chakrama. She has ten hands. Her right leg is firmly placed of the buffalo demon Mahisasur, while the left leg rests on the back of the lion. The hair of the Goddess is replaced by a number of snakes erecting from her head. It is something like that of Medusa.
A casual glimpse at these images engraved on the rocks might suggest the worship of some Tantric cult, not something that we had seen in Unakoti or found in Pilak.
All these beautiful images have been carved with great dexterity on the rocky faces of the hills which is almost 90 degrees steep. I wonder how the artists have managed to complete this feat!
Legends of Chabimura |The cave of King Chichingfa
After a weird bend in the river course, there is a cave on the left side. Jamatia legend has it that King Chichingfa had stashed all his treasures in large wooden chests inside the cave. The treasure was then guarded by a gigantic python.
The cave is an interesting place. There is a waterfall inside the cave and the tourists visit only up to that point. The locals believe that beyond that the cave is protected and should not be entered. Infact, our boatman told us that a few people had tried entering deep inside the cave, but was unable to do so.
There is another lore that says that the Jamatia people were scared away by a huge cobra and left the region, making it deserted. However, this lore is discarded by Hada Akra, a religious society of the Jamatias. They believe that the Jamatias left the region because of severe drought conditions. Actually, the kingdom of King Chichingfa was at Burtiari located to the west of the region.
Story of Princess Hirabati
There is another story about the place told us by our boatman. It is the legend of Princess Hirabati, the daughter of King Chichingfa. Once upon a time, a white elephant abducted Princess Hirabati (I don’t know how that happened!). Two brothers Rangia and Fateh took it upon themselves to rescue the princess. They fought a fierce battle with the elephant at Tirthamukh and rescued the princess. King Chichingfa, very pleased with the brothers, quite predictably gave the hand of Hirabati in marriage with Fateh. I think the white elephant was perhaps some metaphor used to depict a certain person.
The story does not end here. The King also informed the 2 brothers about his huge treasure being hidden at the cave and also gave them hints about the place. But he strictly warned them that they have to return back from the cave before evening, otherwise, they will incur the wrath of Devi Chakrama.
Infact, even now, no one is allowed to go near the cave after dusk. The locals believe in the wrath of Devi Chakrama. All these stories are good to hear. They add an aura of mystery to the places. Whether you believe it or not, is up to you!
Coming back to the present! The Boat Journey
To view all these archaeological sites, you have to take a boat ride from the Rangamati area in Amarpur up to a place called Maharani. The cruise ride will take you through the narrow gorge between the forested hills. You can see the rock carvings as well as enjoy the exquisite natural beauty of the place. This region is also full of different kinds of avian species. Infact this area is a place of interest for the ornithologists.
We had reached at Chabimura after our visit to Dumboor Lake and it was already late afternoon. We hired a motorboat and went downstream along the Gomati River up to the panel of Devi Chakrama. That we will enjoy seeing the rock panels were known, but we also enjoyed the natural beauty of the place to the fullest. There was an eerie silence as our boat moved through the waters of Gomati. The green vegetation at both sides looked strikingly beautiful. What we heard there were the rustling sound of leaves and the sounds of birds. We felt as if we were moving through the Amazon rainforest. Maybe when we visit Amazon, I would be able to compare the two experiences. But for now, Chabimura was simply fascinating for us.
While returning, we saw a huge water snake near our boat. Agni tried to capture a few pictures, but the creature was quite fast. We also saw a few birds there but did not try to capture them in our cameras.
Chhabimura (Devtamura) – an ecotourism initiative
This region in Tripura was once the hotbed of insurgency and did not have much tourist footfall. Now the situation is much better and Chabimura has great potential for tourism. The place is still neglected by the Government. Inclusion of the place in their tourism advertisement does not constitute promotion of the place.
The place has a huge potential for the development of ecotourism. The boat ride on the Gomati River is arranged and looked after by a local self-help group. These local youths take the tourists for a boat ride. There is also a small museum at Chabimura that houses some pictures and write-ups about the place. If you want to know more about the place, you must visit the museum. A local man told us that not many days back a team from a foreign news channel had come there for a documentary. He could not tell which channel and I could also not find out about it.
You cannot stay at Chabimura. There are a few cottages there, but those can be rented only for the day between 9AM to 5PM. The cottages cannot be rented for night stay.
Rent for cottages: Rs200.00 per hour per cottage
Guide charges: Rs100.00 per hour
Boat charge: Rs150.00 per head. Each boat takes about 10 people. If you want to hire the entire boat, then you have to pay Rs1500.00. But you can get it for Rs1100-1200 depending on your bargaining capacity. The boat journey will take about an hour by motorboat.
How to reach Chabimura
The main approach to Chabimura is by road from Udaipur – Amarpur state highway. The distance between Udaipur to Amarpur is about 26 km and you can take a bus from Udaipur to reach Amarpur. From Amarpur, you have to come to another 10 km to Debtamura Hills or that starting point of Chabimura through a village road. The village is known as Deb Bari.
Chabimura rock carvings are ancient masterpieces that need to be preserved. Now the 4 panels on the rock faces lie uncared for. I have a feeling if proper excavations are made more such panels can be found out. But the present ones should be taken care of. Chabimura or Debtamura has a huge potential for both Indian and international tourists. We only wish the government was a little more proactive in protecting our heritage and history.
What do you think about this place of archaeological importance in Tripura? Let us know in comments below. Have you visited any such places where history lies in ruins? Let us know about your experience.
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