By Anil Dhir, Bhubaneswar:
Ratnagiri is among the finest examples of Buddhist settlement in eastern India. Situated is an isolated hill in the Jajpur district of Odisha, it is surrounded by alluvial plains and further bounded on all sides by three rivers, the Brahmani, the Kimiria and the Birupa and their tributaries. The village of Ratnagiri grew along the southern, eastern and western slopes of the hill. The top of the hill, which gives a panoramic view of the surrounding areas, was chosen for the Buddhist establishment for its beauty, serenity and isolation. Its eminent position attracted the attention of the people living in the surrounding areas while providing the necessary seclusion for the conduct of monastic life.
The settlement, which was already in place by the 4th-5th century AD, was certainly a famous Buddhist monastic complex during the time of Hiuen-Tsang (639 AD). It was one of the major monasteries described by him. The monastic settlement flourished during the 7th and 8th centuries AD, and seems to have thrived till the 13th century AD. As a seat of learning, Ratnagiri was highly regarded. Though Buddhist activities continued in this area up to the 16th century AD, its influence gradually declined.
It was not till 1958 that a systematic study of Buddhism in Odisha was undertaken. The antiquarian wealth of the site came to light after the initiative taken by the Archaeological Survey of India under the direction of Debala Mitra.
I was there for a shoot of a documentary for Odisha Tourism three years back in 2015. The Discovery Channel/TLC are making a short documentary on Odisha’s lesser known tourist spots. I was the moderator for the shoots in the ruined fort of Potagarh and the nearby Cemetery. The Potagarh Fort has been given one complete chapter in my recently released book “Confluences : Journeys into the heart and soul of Odisha.” I was also involved in the Ratnagiri shoot.
A visit to Ratnagiri and its adjoining Buddhist ruins of Lalitagiri, Udayagiri and the Langudi hills is an eye-opener. It is just about 80 kms from Bhubaneswar. Potagarh too is only 120 kms away and is one of the most interesting Forts in the State. The cemetery has graves of Danes, French, Dutch and the Englishmen who occupied the fort during different times.
Anil Dhir is an archaeology researcher. He is associated with INTACH and the chief project coordinator of INTACH Jagannath Sadak Project. He is also working as the National Secretary, Bharat Raksha Manch, Odisha.