On 22nd Dec. 2019, a total of 10 cultural and heritage enthusiasts participated in the one- of-its-kind exploring tour aptly named Gautama Gatha Tour comprising of Ratnagiri Buddhist monastery, Ratnagiri ASI Museum and Udayagiri Buddhist Monastery. Established around 1500 years ago or even more than that, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri Buddhist monasteries were the centre of Buddhist cultural activities and growth. These sites were also, part of lost Puspagiri Mahavihar, as per some eminent historians. The first stop was at Ratnagiri (hill of jewels) at Bari block of Jajpur district. Its better known for the elaborately carved chlorite doorway at the entrance of on one of the monasteries there. Lots of antiquities were discovered here during the excavations including monastic complexes, statues of Buddha, Tara, Manjusri, Avalokiteśvara, Jatamukuta Lokesvara and many terracotta (earthenware) seals, said Taranisen Pattnaik, one of the organisers.
The team then moved towards the recently made Ratnagiri Museum managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Some of the excavated artefacts have now been shifted to his museum for safety & display purpose. The last stop was in the lap of hilly Udayagiri area. Interactive discussion among the participants sprung up every second while the team showed everyone around the heritage sites. “I have never known about such monasteries and they are so old. The government should try to bring them to notice and try to boost tourism there,” said Ms. Maria Belgrave, one of the participants.
“The hundreds of small votive stupas at Ratnagiri suggest it was an important site for pilgrimage, and it is really fascinating to come and see these important things. Ratnagiri museum is also a treasure trove for all heritage enthusiast and lovers”, said Mr.R.C. Dhal. It is very important to preserve these important places as these are some of the very important part of Buddhist heritage and also our history which is mostly unknown to all of us, said Mr. Anirban Bhattacharya during his maiden tour with Aitiha. It was mutually felt that such ancient Buddhist sites needs to be highlighted on pan India basis & Buddhist circuit can be developed for tourism purpose.
Aitiha is an initiative to promote heritage & culture through guided tours & trails. Founded by a dedicated team from the twin cities of Cuttack & Bhubaneswar, Aitiha’s sole motto is to make more people aware of the lesser known sites along with the popular ones, be it heritage, culture or nature. More details can be found in its website www.aitiha.com, through the social media handles on Facebook (aitiha1), Twitter (https://twitter.com/aitiha1) and Instagram (aitiha_) or via email at [email protected]