Sights to See
The oldest of the three sites, Lalitgiri is evidence of the glory of a heritage spanning the 3rd century BC to 15th century AD. Huge brick monasteries, the remains of a chaitya hall, a number of votive stupas and a renovated stone stupa atop a small rugged sand stone hill dominate the rural greenery around.
The Sculpture Shed of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) displays a large number of Mahayana sculptures consisting of life-size figures, most of which interestingly contain short inscriptions on them. The standing Buddha figures with the knee-length draperies over the shoulders reminds one of the influences of the Gandhara and Mathura schools of art. The Bodhisattva images are some of the most finely sculpted figures produced in India.
The discovery of golden caskets in 1985 containing sacred bone relics, probably of the Tathagata himself, from the stone stupa atop the hill further enhances the sacredness of the stupa and the place for the devout Buddhists. It also brings to mind the description of Hiuen T’sang about the magnificent stupa on the top of a hill at Puspagiri Mahavihara which emitted brilliant light because of its sacredness.
Another point of the Diamond Triangle, Ratnagiri has a rich concentration of Buddhist antiquities. Extensive excavation has unearthed large monasteries, a big stupa, numerous 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 AD). Buddhism had developed at this place unhindered up to 12th century AD. Initially this was an important centre of Mahayana form of Buddhism. During 8th-9th century AD, 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 Kalachakra Tantra during 10th century AD. This is quite evident from numerous votive stupas with reliefs of divinities of Vajrayana pantheon, separate images of these divinities and inscribed stone slabs and moulded terracotta plaques with dharanis. There is also a smaller monastery at the place along with a stone temple and brick shrines. In the midst of the magnificent monuments, what gives Ratnagiri a special identity is the beautifully craved stone door-jamb at the entrance of the brick monastery.
All the above indicate the importance of Ratnagiri as one of the main Buddhist centres of Odisha from very early times. The Mahavihara at Ratnagiri, as revealed from Odishan inscriptions, was a great centre of learning in Buddhist philosophy. The new Museum of the ASI houses the scattered images of the area for the visitors.
Ratnagiri Museum: Ratnagiri museum under ASI was set up in 1999and showcases the important finds from the area (closed on Fridays). For further information please contact the Assistant Superintendent of ASI Ratnagiri, Tel: 06725 240004.
Located in the basin of the u-shaped hill, Udayagiri, the third point of the Diamond Triangle, is one of the largest Buddhist complexes in Odisha. It has assumed further importance after recent excavation which revealed the ancient name of the monastery as Madhavapura Mahavihara and brought to light a sprawling complex of Buddhist remains consisting of brick monasteries, a brick stupa, rock-cut sculptures and a stepped well with an inscription. Chronologically, the Udayagiri Buddhist Complex is later than Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri and the monasteries were probably flourishing between 7th-12th centuries AD.
The large number of well-built images of Dhyani Buddha, Bodhisattva, Avalokiteswara, Tara, Jambhala, Aparajita, Heruka, etc., a double storied monastery with a shrine chamber, having a circumambulating path, a water reservoir and such other features make Udayagiri unique in the Buddhist world.