Estd. 2006
Sneak peek into Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport

Kakali Bhowmik

AIR CONNECTIVITY is a prerequisite of modern world. Tripura became a part of Air network years back in 1942 when the Maharaja of Tripura, Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur designed and constructed Agartala Airport.

Since then it had been witness to various historical developments. Now as a token of respect to the Maharaja it has been renamed as Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport on July 5 2018.

In those historical days, it was at his initiative, an aerodrome at Agartala was constructed that has over the years evolved as the second busiest Airport in the Northeast after Guwahati. Work is in full progress to make it an International Airport. This Airport provides crucial air connectivity to rest of the country.

Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya who is considered the father of modern architecture and the valiant ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Tripura, was the son of Maharaja Birendra Kishore Manikya. He donned the mantle of King in the year 1923 at the tender age of 16 and he was coroneted as Sovereign king in the year 1928.

The king had extensively visited India, Europe and America and gathered valuable experiences in statecraft and governance. He for the first time in imperial history realized that tourism could gain wide currency in the state and huge revenue could be earned from this sector.

As Tripura was a landlocked state, he tried to remove this bottleneck by designing and building the Airport in 1942 at Singerbil Mouza which was eventually named as Agartala Airport and recently   re-named as MAHARAJA BIR BIKRAM AIRPORT. Then Md. Gedu Mia was engaged for construction of the Airport. Mia also built other airports in the state, like one  at Khowai & Kailashahar.

Now, flights are taking off from Agartala for destinations like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.  It had one primary runway, 05/23, which is now used as a taxiway to runway 18/36.

During World War II, the airport was used by the 4th Combat Cargo Group (4th CCG) of the United States Air Forces, flying curties C-46 Commando transport aircraft over Burma. The airport was used as a supply point from which the unit air-dropped supplies and ammunition to the advancing allied forces on the ground.

The 4th CCG operated from the airport during December 1944 and January 1945, after which it moved to Chittagong (now in Bangladesh)

The airport has experienced international operations in the distant past when Indian Airlines used to fly for various locations like Dhaka and Khulna in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) from Agartala.

The royal family of Tripura had sent food grains to the people of Bengal during the Bangla famine. Both Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore and his son Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya played a significant role in providing refuge to the Hindu Bengalis fleeing East Bengal at the time of partition.

Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya extended generous financial support to Rabindranath Tagore and his dream project ‘Viswa Bharati’ at Bolpur in West Bengal from its inception. This assistance soon took the shape of annual grants and became part of princely Tripura’s annual budget till the last days of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya (1923-1947).

After signing of the Instrument of Accession Act on 13th August, 1947, the Indian forces were airlifted from Tripura by using this airport. During the Indo - China war of 1960 the Indian Air force fighter planes used this airport for night sorties.

At present, around ten thousand flights commute and around fourteen lakh passengers fly through this airport annually.

The renaming of the airport as Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport recognising the great role of visionary and legendary king Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya was possible with the initiatives of the Government of Tripura within the ambit of “Ashta Laxmi” mooted by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister has been according special emphasis on development of the Northeast and Tripura in particular through his ambitious concept of HIRA (Highways, I-ways, Rail-ways, Air-ways).

July 14 2023