Evenings by the water
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  Clouds drift slowly across the blue hills and over the lakes, dotting the landscape like so many mirrors to heaven. The weather’s cool and festivities are in the air. Autumn’s the perfect time to wander through Tripura’s lake districts: stopping a night, or driving out from Agartala and weaving back.
  The road to Kamlasagar takes its own leisurely pace through the Tripuri villages, with their complement of waving schoolchildren. Autumn means that everything is idyllic after the monsoon rains. When you get there, you find a small manmade lake built in the 15th century with the Kalibari nearby standing on a small hillock. The temple is older than the lake and was built by Raja Dhanya Manikya. Inside is a sandstone image of Goddess Durga that has devotees crowding from miles around, especially during the Durga Puja celebrations in the autumn.
  Agartalaites visit the place for regular picnics and for one rather odd reason—trainspotting. Because of its peculiar location, Tripura has yet to have a proper railway network. However, across the border from the top of the temple mound you can snatch a glimpse of trains running in between prayers and dips in the lake.
  If you want to stay on to watch the evening puja, there’s the Comilla View lodge nearby. Run by Tripura tourism, it’s a basic place but comfortable enough with a choice selection of Bengali delicacies in the restaurant.
  Follow your lake pilgrimage trail to Kalyansagar. You’ll find it in Tripura’s Udaipur which houses the ancient shrine of Tripura Sundari, brimming with mystic saffron-garbed priests and occult practitioners because it’s considered one of the 52 Shakti Peethas in Hindu mythology. People think the temple looks like a turtle so there are large turtles in the Lake which thrive on scatterings of moori and biscuits. Pilgrims hover on the banks hoping that one of them will crawl out so that they can worship it.
  Find time for another day’s trip to the Sepahijala wildlife sanctuary with its lake and zoo. Just about 20 sq km, it’s tucked away in a corner that India has forgotten. You can take a boat and let yourself drift on the water while the calls of the huku monkey and myriad birds echo in your ears. Occasionally the mist covers the water, wrapping it in gauzy mysterious veils. With tall old trees covered by thick creepers, Sepahijala is home to 34 of India’s endangered species, and in autumn, when nothing runs, not even the toy train and there are few picnickers, it’s the perfect place to lose yourself for a while.   The lake that everyone marvels over of course is Rudrasagar, famous for its floating palace, the Neermahal. To get there you have to head for the dusty little town of Melaghar and flag a rickshaw puller. Everyone knows the way to Neermahal and the rickshawala will take you careening through the narrow winding lanes and bylanes until you reach the Rajghat jetty. From there you can either hire a private boat or board one of the motorised launches that take roughly 40 people.
  They call Neermahal Maharaj Bikram Bir’s folly and it rises out of the lake in sandstone and marble. If you’re lucky to find the right boatman he will tell you that the most atmospheric way to see the place is to row around it at night. If you do—and you should—you’ll find it surreal and wonderful.
  The son et lumiere show in the back garden tells the story of Rudrasagar and the building of the palace. Neermahal is in the process of being transformed into a museum but it’s worth a couple of days of atmospheric sightseeing. You can stay at the Sagarmahal Guesthouse on the opposite shore that offers surprisingly comfortable rooms and private balconies and is fairly generous with its food, though it’s best to make your bookings before you set out from Agartala, especially in autumn.
  Dumboor was where Tripura’s first hydroelectric project was executed, and it’s a 41 sq km lake dotted with more islands than there are square kilometres. You’ll find orchids on many of the islands and migrating birds come to nest in the branches. According to legend, the lake is shaped like Shiva’s drum and the falls in the surrounding hills echo the sound.
  And last but not least, there’s Khowra Lake, which is famous for its Shivasthal and sprawling banyan tree. The area is so beautiful in its solitude that one of the kings of Tripura built a palace there, which is why they call it the King’s Lake.
  Lake viewing is part of the new tourist initiatives in Tripura but it is being developed gradually so as not to disturb the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Before it starts full swing, you should catch it and enjoy the pleasure of wandering in solitude… as a cloud.

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