The Diamond Hill of Enlightenment
Ratnagiri of the Birupa river valley in Cuttack district is a famous Buddhist centre. The small hill near the village of the same name has rich Buddhist antiquarian remains. A large-scale excavation has unearthed two large monasteries, a big stupa, Buddhist shrines, sculptures and a large number of votive stupas.
The excavation revealed the establishment of this Buddhist centre at least from the time of the Gupta king 'Narasimha Gupta Baladitya' (first half of the 6th century A.D.). Buddhism had developed at this place unhindered up to the 12th century A.D. in the beginning this was an important centre of Mahayana form of Buddhism. During the 8th & 9th century A.D. this became a great centre of Tantric-Buddhism or 'Vajrayana' art and philosophy.
'Pag- Sam-Jon-Zang', a Tibetan source, indicates that the institution at Ratnagiri played a significant role in the emergence of the 'Kalachakrantra' during the 10th century A.D. this is quite evident from the numerous votive stupas with reliefs of divinities of the Vajrayana pantheon. Separate images of these divinities and inscribed stone slabs and moulded terracotta plaques with 'dharanis' found in the excavation at Ratnagiri.
All these indicate the importance of Ratnagiri as one of the main Buddhist centres of Orissa from very early times. The 'Mahavihara' at Ratnagiri, as revealed from Orissan inscriptions, was a great centre of learning in Buddhist philosophy. Presently this university of Buddhist learning is found in ruins, which attracts scores of visitors every year. For lovers of art and architecture, lay tourists and special groups.
Ratnagiri offers in its magnificent ruins a large brick monastery with beautiful doorways, cella, sanctum with a colossal Buddha figure and a large number of Buddhist sculptures. There is a smaller monastery at the place along with a stone temple, brick shrines and a large stupa with numerous smaller stupas around.
The Rising Hill
Udaigiri, the largest Buddhist Complex in Orissa, in district Jajpur has assumed further importance after recent excavations, which revealed the ancient name of the monastery as "Madhavapura Mahavihara". The excavations also brought to light a sprawling complex of brick monastery with a number of Buddhist sculptures. The entire area is found located at the foothills of a large hill that acts as an imposing backdrop.
Located in the basin of the u-shaped hill this Buddhist centre is still not completely excavated and exposed. Along with the nearby Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri this comprises the mini Golden Triangle of Orissa tourism.
The archaeological remains at Udayagiri consist of a brick stupa, two brick monasteries (one excavated and the other unexcavated), a beautiful stone stepped well with inscriptions on it and rock cut sculptures at the top of the hill behind. Chronologically the Udayagiri Buddhist complex is later than Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri and the monasteries were probably flourishing well between 7th to 12th centuries A.D.
The large number of exposed sculptures from excavation as well as those found half-buried and in 'situ' belong, obviously to the Buddhist pantheon and consists of Buddhist pantheon and consists of 'Boddhisattva' figures and 'Dhyani' Buddha figures. Interestingly, although located close to Ratnagiri (about 5-kms), Udaigiri does not possess a number of 'Vajrayana' sculptures.
Much remains to be known about this site. But at its present state it provides a grand sight to the visitors with its newly excavated sprawling monastery complex, which is to be reached through a long stairway. The unexcavated area is inviting and challenging to the archaeologists as well as art lovers for the hidden treasure that lie buried. The ascent to the hilltop to see the rock cut sculptures is very adventurous and difficult.
The newly laid out hilly road, which has a serpentine passage along the foot hills, on the other side of Udaigiri is an added attraction and ensures all weather approach to the site.
These three hills and their environs
comprise a remarkable Buddhist complex. HiuenT' sang, the Chinese Pilgrim
found it to tbe the seat of a flourishing Buddhist University called
Extensive ruins of brick pagodas, sculptured stone portals and esoteric Buddhist images testifying its ancient glory, have been unearthed.
Ratnagiri is the gem of this complex. The two large monasteries here flourished from 6th to 12th centuries AD. The magnificently carved doorjamb of the Vihar and the superbly finished Buddha images form perhaps the greatest concentration of the post-Gupta period Buddhist sculptures.
The nearest airport is situated at Bhubaneswar.
Cuttack is 29-km from Bhubaneswar and has direct trains from Bhubaneswar, Puri, Calcutta, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Drive down or catch a bus from Cuttack, which is 70-km away from Ratnagiri, 60-km from Udayagiri and 55-km from Lalitgiri.One can also pick up a rickshaw near the Lalitgiri turn-off.
OTDC's Panthasala, Patharajpur
Cuttack From Ratnagiri: 70-km
Cuttack From Udaygiri: 60-km
Cuttack From Lalitagiri: 55-km