Ratnagiri in the Birupa river valley in the district of Jajpur, is another famous Buddhist centre. The small hill near the village of the same name has rich Buddhist antiquities. A large-scale excavation has unearthed two large monasteries, a big stupa, Buddhist shrines, sculptures, and a large number of votive stupas. This excavation revealed the establishment of this Buddhist centre at least from the time of the Gupta king Narasimha Gupta Baladitya (first half of the sixth century A.D.). Buddhism had developed at this place - unhindered upto 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 Kalachakratantra 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.
Presently this university of Buddhist learning is found in ruins that attract a number of visitors every year. For lovers of art and architecture, lay tourists as well as 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.
Attractions in and around Ratnagiri
- The main stupa of Ratnagiri is encircled by several medium and smaller stupas. Pilgrims gather near the main stupa, as the stupa stands as a symbol of their devotion. These stupas of different varieties represent a perfect picture of fully developed Buddhism in ancient India. Donated by various donors, the stupas differ in their structure, materials and constructions.
- The monasteries at Ratnagiri remind the splendid past to visitors. These delicately built monasteries stand as the proof of rich culture and flourishing Buddhism in India. The monastery I, which is called as Chatuh-Sala is rectangular in shape and it has 24 cells. The monastery consists of a large courtyard, a shrine in the front and a lobby etc. The monastery is famous for its size and symmetrical plan and also for the rich delicate carving. The monastery II is relatively smaller in size and is not much impressive. Nevertheless the main image of the Buddha displayed here, which surpasses all other images of Buddha.
Ratnagiri has not its own airport, nearest airport is Bhubaneswar. The nearest railhead is Cuttack (70 Kms). So it is better to first reach Cuttack to start the tour of Ratnagiri.
Air - Bhubaneswar is the nearest airhead from Ratnagiri. Bhubaneswar is connected to most major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad etc.
Rail - Cuttack (70 Kms) is the nearest railway station from Ratnagiri. Cuttack has the trains from all major cities across India.
Road - Good motorable roads connect Ratnagiri with Cuttack (70 Kms) and other nearby cities. Regular buses run between Ratnagiri and Cuttack.
The base should be either Cuttack or Bhubaneswar. The hotels at Cuttack or Bhubaneswar offer plenty of accommodation choices to visitors.
Best Time for visit
The climate of Ratangiri is somewhat extreme, the temperature soars during summers. It rains heavily in monsoons. So the best time to visit Ratnagiri is September-March.