Udayagiri - Ratnagiri - Lalitgiri : The Diamond Triangle

 Buddha Statue
This famed circuit of India's cultural heritage associated with Buddhism is rightly called the Diamond Triangle. It harbours the priceless artefact of Bhddhist times. Orissa is closely associated with Buddhism since 5th century BCE. The excavations at these three places have produced the remains of a culture which flourished between CE 5th and 13th centuries.
Mahastupa Udayagiri

 The name 'Diamond' also signifies the form of Buddhism - tantric or vajrayana, which was the prevailing Buddhist order in those times. Since the area falls in rural Orissa wide off the townships of district headquarters, finding good accommodation is not possible. At Ratnagiri, however, they have a very good property namely Toshali Resort where they provide quality accommodation. Some lodges etc are also advertising for the guests and there are official OTDC properties under the Panthanivasa brand name. Nothing much to write home about them.

Inside the Monastery I, Ratnagiri
The good thing is that all these destinations can be done in one day. Taxis are available at Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack and you will be back in the city by  the evening. I hired one for Rs 2500 and comfortably did all the three though I missed out on Langudi - a small excavated site where some rock cut satupas have been found. Start early, keep 10-12 hours itinerary (including 4-5 hrs in car plying to and fro) on mind.

The component lay out of all the three Buddhist sites is similar. They have monastery area, one major stupa and numerous smaller ones, and an assembly area called caityagriha or Chaityagriha. 


Sinhaprastha Mahavihar, Udayagiri
The first site to visit is Udayagiri - The Hill of sunrise, situated at the foot of a hill now denuded of trees though they call it forest area, 85 Km from Bhubaneshwar via Chandikhole (60 km) on NH5. It has two monasteries located approximately 1 km apart. the Monastery I called Madhavpura Mahavihar has one Mahastupa, a meeting area, and the monastery area. Some statues are visible in the ground as well on the periphery.

The second monastery called Sinhaprastha Mahavihar has the Chaitya stupa complex, the shrine complex, and the kitchen complex. There is a rock cut water well as well.

Caityagriha, Udayagiri

After enjoying two hours at Udayagiri I moved to the next stop - Ratnagiri, some 8 km away. One young man from the forest department acted as my guide at Udayagiri. His description of the area was wonderful.


Doorway, Ratnagiri
Also the hill of jewels, the site is atop a small hillock. The entrance is through the shrine complex. There are two monastery areas, I & II, and then there further on a higher location is the stupa complex including the mahastupa. Numerous statues adorn the area. The main doorway of monastery I is an attractive ornate structure made from chlorite stone. This is a very attractive doorway and the inside hall has numerous statues of Buddha and other gods of Buddhist pantheon. The second monastery is adjacent to this one.
Buddha, Ratnagiri

The stupa area is imposing with many small stupas and the one mahastupa. After an enriching experience at the location it is time to visit the museum where many artifacts and finds are displayed. Surprisingly, some daggers are also on the display in one of the gallerias. And the Buddhist pantheon has its gods and goddesses too.
Mahastupa area, Ratnagiri

Two hours in Ratnagiri was enough to satisfy my appetite for photography and exploring the area. Struck up conversation with lots of people including the caretakers to get into the depth of things.


Ratnagiri landscape
For Lalitgiri, come back to Chandikhol and take NH5A to Paradeep. Paradeep being a busy port, you will find heavy laden trucks plying to and fro. Some ten km on the NH5A and then a small link road road takes you to Ratnagiri 3 km off the highway. This is a well maintained site, larger in area than Ratnagiri. The main attraction is the apsidal caityagriha. This semicircular structure is an imitation of church apse as in Christianity. There are monasteries and stupas as in other places.
The Apsidal catyagriha, Lalitgiri

Some issues:

The sites are not being taken care of properly like an object of cultural heritage or a rare monument. At Udayagiri cowdung can be seen strewn all around as animals have free access to both the monasteries. I saw school children on picnic whereas the ASI caution boards say picnicking in the area was prohibited. The area is littered with plastic and other disposables. Empty plastic bottles can be seen floating on the water in rock cut well.
Monastry area, Lalitgiri

In the Monastery II also plastic and cowdung is visible in all around. One Mahakalamma temple has been constructed right among the stupas and this mars the overall grace of the place. Wonder why the ASI allowed this construction?

Example of graffiti

Why this temple (in white) at this site?

Back to Bhubaneshwar by sunset. Food is cheap in Orissa. Both breakfast and lunch were taken in road side eateries. The people of Orissa are gentle and helpful. Orissa has a very good network of well maintained roads. The fields appear to be good crop yielding as there is plenty of water in the area. People appear satisfied with economic development and their living standards. Poverty, at least in this area was not visible. Orissa is culturally rich, without any doubt.
I visited in Jan 2015