Ratnagiri in Odisha is often referred to as the ‘Hill of Jewels’ because of the many Buddhist remains that one can find on this isolated hillock of Assia. The most interesting remains include the Maha Stupa, monasteries, temples and other Buddhist antiquities, all dating from the 5th-century to 13th-century AD.
If you’re in Odisha, you’ve established to be a culture vulture; so have some time out for exploring the ruins at Ratnagiri. The ruins of the Maha Stupa (which is believed to have been made of burnt bricks) is apparently surrounded by 700 votive stupas that were found here during the course of excavation. A mound, locally called Ranipokhari or Queen’s Tank, located to the north of Maha Stupa, is quite an interesting attraction in itself too.
The remains of the two monasteries, lying side by side with a narrow passage in between is a few steps away. Infact, both the monasteries face the Maha Stupa. Amongst the antiquities excavated – the most important are the stone and bronze images of the Buddha and a host of other divinities like Tara, Vajrapani, Heruka, Sambhara and Hariti. The exquisitely carved doorway and the remains of a 10m high stupa are also quite noteworthy. A visit to Ratnagiri can not be considered complete without visiting the Buddhist museum on the north-west corner of the site, which exhibits an impressive collection of these antiquities that were excavated from the site.
Interestingly, the beautifully carved entrance gate of the monasteries is one of the most photographed Buddhist structures in the world. Ratnagiri is also the only monastery in India to have a curvilinear roof. The numerous Votive Stupas (stupas erected on fulfillment of wish), Commemorative Stupas (stupas erected in memory of monks with their relics), the massive Maha Stupa (main stupa), Chaityagrihas (prayer halls), statues of Buddha and the ornately carved rooms set amidst serene surrounding on top of hillock will make you wonder about the greatness of an era gone by.
Ratnagiri was considered a rival to Nalanda as a site of Buddhist learning and it is believed that the Tibetan texts regard that the Mahayana and Tantrayana sect of Buddhism originated from Ratnagiri. It played a significant role as a philosophical academy in disseminating Buddhist culture and religion back in the day, and today, it’s a great place to explore if Buddhist culture piques your interest. Ratnagiri is 100km away from Bhubaneswar and can be reached by road.