Monday, October 10, 2011

Exploring Odisha - Day four: Buddhist Circuit, Olasuni, Chandikohl and Mahavinayak

“The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” --- Samuel Johnson, Letter to Hester Thrale, 21 September 1773
Travelling is always important; it allows us to see the world in the first hand. As Mark Twain pointed out 'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness'. It give us an opportunity to see the world as it is, to see the people as it is, to experience the matter as it is. It gives us a fresh perspective on various subjects - no matter whether it is on nature, people, food, language etc. In India you will not find any shortage for diversity – here in every hundred kilometers you can find different food, different language and a different culture; still all united under one flag.

We decided to spend the fourth day on Buddhist circuits of Odisha (Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Pushpagiri - believed to be the part of ancient Pushpagiri University), Olasuni, Chandikohl and Mahavinayak temples.

From the morning itself atmosphere was little bit disturbed as if it was in confusion on whether to rain or not. Slowly it become normal and we hit the roads in bikes. We were four people - me, Milon and two colleagues of Milon's father. Both sides of National Highway 5 was covered by the green leaves of various crops, after that beautiful green branches of Eastern Ghats stand as a wall. By this time sky was clear and the white clouds started to move along with us. For quick refreshment small dhabas are available in the sides but less in number and fat between. In the opposite lane lorries are moving in the direction of Paradip port.

Soon we reached at the bottom of Olasuni hills - which contain a temple and a number of old caves. Bike took us close to the top, but the unnatural sounds coming from the engine forced us to continue the rest of the journey on the time tested mode of transportation – on foot. After visiting the Olasuni temple and a number of caves we stated our returning journey but the sudden appearance of drizzle threatened our plan for the day.

Drizzle continued, but the long branches of trees located on both sides of the roads offered us the much needed shade. Soon we were in front of the gates of Lalitgiri - considered to be a part of ancient Pushpagiri University.

After leaving the bike at the front gate we moved inside. An old foundation with thick walls made up of red brick was visible in the left. These bricks were a little bit smaller than the modern one, but strong enough to with stand the centuries long climate changes. I slowly went to the middle of the structure – it looked like a foundation for hostel - a small verandah with a number of rooms on both sides of it, one end of the verandah had one Buddha’s statue and the other end had an outside door. There were some more foundations like that in the complex. After some time we reached another foundation - this one was very different from others.

We followed the path, and reached a flight of steps which eventually lead us to a Stupa located at one end of Lalitgiri complex. That was a picturesque scenario, from the top the hill villages in the ground were appearing like small dots. After taking a round around the stupa we went to museum and then to Chandikohl temple.

Chandikohl is located in the Baruni hills of Eastern Ghats, the deity of the temple is 'Maa Chandi'. This place also had a good number of Monkeys running here and there and holding discussions after forming their own groups. At one place a mother monkey was scratching the head of her son; in another place a monkey couple was expressing their feelings towards each other, small kids are running here and there. As we came late the temple was closed, after spending some more time in that cool atmosphere we went to Mahavinayak Temples located in Mahavinayak Hills (Jajpur district, Odisha). On the way we passed in front of a school - girls and boys in the uniform are aligned to various groups in front of the school and engaged in talks.

Soon we reached Mahavinayak Temple - one of the oldest Ganesh temples in Odisha, enshrines five God heads Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Sun and Ganesh in a single lingam. Some metres above the hill there was another temple dedicated to Ma Banadurga. All these temples have perennial springs flowing very close.
Time was around one 'o' clock, we were running short of time - Ratnagiri and Udayagiri are yet to be covered. So we were again on the roads - Mahavinayak Hills and other parts of Eastern Ghats on one side, and vast plains on the other side. I tried to locate the Bana Durga temple on the hills from a distance.

Next destination was Ratnagiri complex, on the sides of National Highway there was a majestic signboard, pointing a diversion from NH. The road is not so wide but in good condition. I didn’t see much population on both sides other than a couple of home groupings here and there. For a late lunch we get down at a hotel, as it was late meals were already over so we orders some samoosas and sweets. In front of the hotel one person - looks like owner - was cooking some sweets; a number of desks and benches are placed in the middle of the hotel, a number of sweets were exhibited in a glass box at the left side.

Together with Lalitgiri and Udayagiri, Ratnagiri is considered as a part of Pushpagiri university. According to archeological sources, Ratnagiri was established around first half of the sixth century CE and flourished till twelfth century CE. This place was considered as an important centre of Kalachakratantra

A number of houses are located close to the site. The interesting thing was, many of these houses also had many statue in their front yard. After buying the ticket from the entrance we went inside - by this time rain was back. Although fully drenched in water we continued to walk through the area - in one side a lot of similar statues are arranged in order. From there we went to the main complex - this too don’t have the upper covering but the remaining walls are higher here. Next to this building there was one more structure with Buddha's statue on one side.

In front of this lays a lot of small statues of Buddha and after that a number of Chitanhya stoopas. Interestingly a Shiva temple is located at one corner of This Buddhist complex. Time was quickly running out, if we spend some more time here will not be able to enter Udayagiri, so we quickly went to Ratnagiri museum and went to the first gallery. Galleries here contain the statues of Buddha, Adinatha, Tara and various other figures related to Buddhism. Suddenly the guards announcement came - Time to close. So we quickly covered the remaining galleries and went to Udayagiri.

One the way back we passed through many tribal homes - constructed using the naturally available materials. Small kids are running here and there and adults are moving across the road more seriously. Close to 5 'o' clock we reached Udayagiri. I don’t know who selected this place for the construction monastery and University, but the choice is really an ideal one - a flat surface covered by green hills in almost three sides. This picturesque atmosphere will certainly holds your mind for some time. As it is about to close we walked very fast to see the places including a path way which is believed to be constructed in first century AD, covered by stones this pathway lay close to a number of Chitanya Stupas. Walking through that 20 century old path is an experience which nobody wants to forget.

Here there are some paths going here and there about which we don’t have much idea and there is not sign board also. We too one the path and tries that one, there was nothing to see for some time, we even thought of going back. But finally the top of Mahastupa became visible, climbing the steps I was on the plat form of the Mahastupa. Sun rays were looking more reddish,  clear sky with a clouds are moving as a group of sheep, three sides are covered by green hills - a unforgettable experience at the grounds of an ancient university.


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