Lalitgiri and Udaigiri
Lalitgiri, the earliest Buddhist complex of 1st century AD is the part of the mini golden triangle (Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri).
It is at a distance of 90 km. from Bhubaneswar. Lalitgiri is well connected to Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. The recent excavation has revealed the significant archaeological material which makes Lalitgiri a great centre of Buddhist attraction. The place is covered with greenery. What makes it an interesting site are the ruins of the huge brick monastery, the remains of the Chaitya Hall, a number of stupas and a renovated stone stupa at the apex of a small sandstone hill. The museum here displays a large number of Mahayana sculptures consisting of huge Buddha figures, big Boddhisattva statues, statue of Tara, Jambhala and others. Most of the sculptures have short inscriptions on them. The monastery complex can be reached after crossing a long staircase. The place is grand and the sculptures render a majestic look to it.
Ratnagiri, the site of the 'Jewel Hill', on the bank of River Keluo, has produced the best finds. The extensive remains show excellent sculptural skill combining different coloured stones, from blue-green chlorite to the purple-red garnets encrusted in brownish silver khondalite. The finds include three monasteries (two quadrangular), eight temples and several stupas believed to date from the seventh century. The largest monastery (No 1) is 55 m sq with a surrounding veranda with 60 pillars built around a courtyard entered through a carved gateway. At one end a shrine has a khondalite Buddha image and remnants of about 24 cells for monks which were built of brick but had stone door frames. Look for the intricate carving on the doorway of the back porch wall: a dancer stamping her feet; a royal lady with her arm around a maid; a woman meditating. The seventh-century University of Pushpagiri may have flourished here; Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller, after his visit in AD 639 described it as one of Orissa's two Buddhist centres of learning. Four galleries display fine sculptural figures dating from the ninth to the 10th centuries, terracotta and ivory objects, inscribed copper plates and miniature bronzes produced by the lost-wax process.
Excavations by the Archaeological Department have unearthed better preserved carvings including the door jambs to the sanctum. The monastery, within a large compound, has 18 cells with a veranda arranged around a courtyard. The 3-m Lokesvar Buddha image here has an eighth-century inscription on it. Further up the hill, fragments of sculpture have been excavated among the ruins.
The site about 3 km south of Bandareswar village was first excavated in 1985. Large architectural remains including a 20-m-high apsidal temple have been found together with sculptures and decorated door jambs. A stone platform with inscriptions dates this site closer to the second century although Kushana Brahmi inscriptions on an underlying brick stupa suggest Buddhist occupation around the first century BC. Three caskets were also found, two of which contained stone, silver and gold caskets with preserved relics inside. The caretaker will open the small museum. There is a stone-carvers' village at the base of Lalitgiri which traces its connections back to ancient times and produces excellent sculpture.
How to reach there:
Drive down or catch a bus from Cuttack, which is 70 km away from Ratnagiri, 60 km from Udayagiri and 55 km from Lalitgiri.