Mysteries of Asia: Unakoti, India

Surrounded by lush hills and waterfalls, this peaceful area in northeastern India is worthy of gods and their pilgrims

Whoever created Unakoti’s giant bas-relief rock carvings and sandstone sculptures of Hindu deities found a fittingly majestic canvas for the task. Surrounded by lush hills and waterfalls, the peaceful area in northeastern India is a worthy location for a tribute to the gods and an attractive spot for pilgrims. Hundreds of Hindu images are found here, featuring, most prominently, a nine-metre-high Shiva face and a large Ganesha figure with his recognisable elephant head.

The works, believed to date back to the ninth century, aren’t as intricate as many found across India, but they’re perhaps the most mysterious: there are no records of this large collection’s creation, only legends, like the one telling of an artist who completed them in one night after seeing Shiva in a dream. Although remote, the place’s hushed beauty draws visitors, as do events like the Ashokastami Festival (this year falling on 14 April), when pilgrims bathe in a lake to seek blessings. 

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