Ratnagiri – Preserving the Buddhist Heritage

Association of Odisha with Buddhism goes long way back, to the early days of Buddha, as evident by the Buddhist texts mentioning how the two merchants from Odisha became the first lay disciples of Buddha. As per Mahavagga1, two merchants of Ukkala (i.e. Utkala, modern Odisha), Tapussa (Tapassu) and Bhallika, met Buddha, on their way to madhyadesa (majjhimadesa), under the rajayatana tree during the eighth week after Buddha’s enlightenment. They were directed by a spirit of their departed relative to follow Buddha. Obeying the same, they became Buddha’s disciple and offered him rice cakes and honey-balls. They both became the first lay-disciples of Buddha. Extending over the same story, commentary of Anguttara Nikaya2 tells that Buddha gave them eight handful of his hair which the merchants took back to their native city, Asitanjana, and enshrined in a majestic stupa. In a commentary on Theragatha3, it was told that these two merchants also visited Buddha while the latter was at Rajagriha and Tapassu became sotapanna and Bhallika entered the sangha becoming an arhat. The Pujavaliya4 of Sri Lanka mentions that these two merchants also visited the east coast of Sri Lanka and erected a stupa to commemorate their visit.

Donaldson5 mentions that though Ukkala is most likely a variant form of Utkala however later text and traditions vary on its identification. Xuanzang identifies the homeland of Tapassu and Bhallika far north-west of Balkh. The same indications is also drawn from Lalitavistara and Mahavastu. The kingdom of Kalinga was instrumental in the story of tooth relic of Buddha. Dathavamsa6, a Sri Lankan text dated 4th century CE, provided detailed account on how the tooth-relic is taken by Khema to the court of Brahmadatta, the king of Kalinga, and the latter built a magnificent stupa to enshrine the same in his capital Dantapura.

Though, in the texts, Odisha appears to have enjoyed quite an importance for Buddhism, however based upon its architectural remains, it appears that Buddhism did not penetrate on a large scale during the early years or after the demise of Buddha. It is also a fact that this country was never visited by Buddha. The real impetus to the Buddhism in Odisha would have happened after its conquest in the hands of the Maurya king Ashoka. Two of his edicts, one at Dhauli and another at Jaugada, along with the rock-cut elephant at Dhauli are important evidences of his contribution for the growth of the religion in this region. Further support comes from a tradition stating Tissa, Ashoka’s brother, settled in Kalinga for his retirement and Ashoka built a monastery for him known as Bhojakagiri-vihara. Dharmarakhita, the preceptor of Tissa and a well-known Buddhist acharya, visited Bhojakagiri-vihara to spend his last days with Tissa7.

Traditions of Ashoka were still in vogue when Xuanzang8 visited Orissa in 7th century CE. The traveler mentions that king Ashoka constructed more than ten stupas in Wu-t’u (Odra) at places where the Buddha had preached. This suggests that Buddha visited the Odra country and delivered sermons. However, there is no other authority providing similar information. Therefore, the tradition mentioned by Xuanzang should be taken at its face value with caution.

Though Buddhism got impetus during the Mauryan period, however Kaling was soon wrestled back from them by king Kharavela. Him being a Jain, the royal patronage was diverted towards Jainism. When we try to compare the scant remains of the Mauryan period with the magnificent cave architecture of Khandagiri and Udayagiri, it becomes very evident that the Jainism grew over Buddhism and retained its supremacy for a considerable time. The situation would have changed during the Gupta period ad there are enough epigraphical and architectural evidences suggesting that Odisha underwent significant Buddhist activities during and after the Guptas9. However, the golden period of Buddhism came after the advent of the Bhaumakara rulers during 8th century CE. The first three rulers of the dynasty were titled paramopasaka Ksemankara-deva, parama-thathagata Sivakara-deva I Unmattasimha and parama-saugata Subhakara-deva I suggesting their Buddhist association10. Among the then Buddhist centers of Odisha, Ratnagiri developed into a prominent seat of learning under the patronage of this dynasty.

Ratnagiri earned its fame and glory as the center of learning for yoga and tantra. Chinese Buddhist texts11 credit Orda king Subhakarasimha for introducing tantrayana Buddhism in China. He arrived at the China capital in around 716 CE at the invitation of T’ang Hsüan-tsung. The same text also mentions that Subhakarasimha belong to the ruling family of Odra (Odisha), ascended the throne at the age of thirteen however soon abdicated it in his pursuit to become a monk. He studied, possibly at Ratnagiri, and traveled distances to Sri Lanka, Gandhara and Nalanda before reaching China. From another Chinese text12 we are told that the Chinese emperor Te-tsong received in 795 CE as autographed manuscript, containing the last section of the Avatamsaka, from a king of Odra, who was an ardent followed of Mahayana Buddhism and whose name rendered into Chinese, means ‘the fortunate monarch who does what is pure, the lion’. S Levi13 identifies king Subhakarasimha with Subhakaradeva I, son of Sivakara-deva I. Panigrahi14 identifies him with Sivakara-deva I. The manuscript and a letter was entrusted with a monk named Prajna, who was a native of Kapisa (Afghanistan), who after learning at many other monasteries finally settled in a monastery in Orissa to study yoga philosophy.

In his History of Buddhism in India, completed in 1608 CE, Taranatha15 notes that both Hinayana and Mahayana were being propagated at Ratnagiri-vihara during its early phases of development in the Gupta period. “Now, near the coast of the ocean, on top of a hill in country of Odivisa in the east, king Buddhapaksa, in the latter part of his life, built a temple called Ratnagiri. He prepared three copies of each of the scriptural works of the Mahayana and Hinayana and kept these in the temple. He established there eight great centers there the Doctrine and maintained five hundred monks.” As per Taranatha’s accounts, king Buddhapaksa appears to be before the period of Harshavardhana. However, no such king has been identified to the known list of kings of that period. Nalinaksha Dutt16 identifies king Buddhapaksa with the Gupta king Narasimhagupta Baladitya suggesting that the name was given by the Buddhist for his support in reviving the religion after the Huna invasion. Excavations at Ratnagiri have not revealed any evidence to connect king Buddhapaksa with the site, however the generally agreed period of the construction of the site appears to be the later part of the Gupta period.

Buddhism is classified into three major branches, Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. The last, Vajrayana, is primarily a tantric version of Buddhist practices. Tracing the origins, evolution and chronology of Tantric Buddhism is complex and difficult task. The simple reason is that there is no single source, place or event which can be associated to the origins of this sect. It is generally believed that Tantric Buddhism grew to a significant position during the early medieval period, from 3rd century CE onward. Before being codified and put to texts, for a very long period, these tantric activities were being transferred orally through teacher-disciple lineage as their nature was esoteric and secretive. Most of our knowledge on Tantric Buddhism in India is drawn from texts in Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese, which are essentially translation of earlier Sanskrit works from India. Cathleen A Cummins enumerates various such translated texts, translated between 4th and 8th century CE.

Tibetan Buddhist traditions associate the region of Sambhala with the Kalachakra-Tantra. Sambhala is told to be a region in Uddiyana and supposedly ruled by Indrabhuti. According to Taranatha17, Pito received a commission from Vajrapani, to acquire virtue, went to Sambhala (Cambhala) magically, brought many Tantras with him and in Ratnagiri taught many students. In the Blue Annals, it is stated in connection with the search for the Kalacakra-Tantra by acharya Cheluka (Tsi-lu-pa), that the acharya had read it in the vihara of Ratnagiri (Rin-chen-ri-bo) which had been left undamaged by the Turuskas18. Various other Tibetan traditions connect Cheulka with Odisha and Ratnagiri. Considering all these, Debala Mitra19 opines that Odisha, and Ratnagiri in particular, played a significant role in emergence of Kalachakra-tantra. And whoever retrieved it from Sambhala, went to Ratnagiri for studies. Also, if Sambhala is not a mythical realm, then it should be located not very far from Ratnagiri. In the late Tibetan work Pag-Sam-Jon-Zang we are told that the famous teachers Bodhisri, Naropa and others were engaged in Tantric practices on the hill of Ratnagiri20. It states that Acharya Bitoba went through magic to Sambhala where he obtained the Kalachakra-tantra, brought it to Ratnagiri and explained the doctrine to Abodhutipa, Bodhisri and Naropa.

Rai Monmohan Chakravarti, the sub-divisional officer at Jajpur is credited with the discovery of the site of Ratnagiri in the beginning of the twentieth century CE, year is unknown however his first report was published in Cuttack District Gazetteer in 190621. Ratnagiri is located on the bank of river Keluo, not very far from the confluence of the Brahmani and the Birupa. The hill was locally known as Rani-pukhuri or queen’s tank where queens of king Vasukalpa Kesari used to take bath22. The locals attributed the remains to the same king who is said to have constructed a palace on Naltigiri hills. The next reference of Ratnagiri is found in the memoirs of Ramaprasad Chanda, Superintendent Archaeological Section of Indian Museum, during his Odisha exploration in 1927-28. Next visit was paid by Birendra Nath Ray, Secretory of Orissa Historical Society, in 1927. At his request, in 1928, Haran Chandra Chakaldar, Lecturer, University of Calcutta and Nirmal Kumar Bose made a visit to Ratnagiri. In the same year, 1928, their accounts were published in The Modern Review under article A Great Site of Mahayana Buddhism in Orissa23. R P Chanda published his brief survey in 1930, in Explorations in Orissa, where he covered sculptures found at Ratnagiri. Next reference was from Devaprasad Ghosh who in his article in The Modern Review tried to establish a relation between the colossal Buddha head and a Bhumisparsha-Buddha image of Ratnagiri to the Dhyani-Buddha images of Borobudur. In 1949, P Acharya published his brief summary in The Orissa Review, in which he suggested that the remains of the Pushpagiri monastery visited by Xuanzang was comprised of the present remains at Naltigiri, Udayagiri and Ratnagiri.

In 1954, S C Chandra, Assistant Superintendent or Archaeological Survey of India, published his survey article, Early Medieval Sculptures of Utkala (Orissa) in The Orissa Historical Journal vol III, no 2, in which he also covered sculptures found at Ratnagiri24. The first systematic excavation at the site were carried out in 1958-61 by Archaeological Survey of India under the guidance of Debala Mitra.  The excavations revealed imposing remains of one of the most important Buddhist establishment, known as Ratnagiri-maha-vihara. The site contains a large stupa (Stupa 1), two magnificent quadrangular  monasteries (Monastery No 1 & 2), a single-winged monastery, a large number of small stupas, eight temples and numerous sculptures, largely in stone and some in bronze. Mitra dates the nucleus of the site to 5th century CE and development continued till 12th century CE. The site witnessed its decline with the Muslim invaders during the 13th century CE, however the activities at the site continued till 16th century CE. Mitra tells that in its pristine form, establishment at Ratnagiri can be compared with that of Nalanda. With its overwhelming numbers of votive stupas, Ratnagiri can even compete with Bodh-Gaya.  All these evidences suggests popularity Ratnagiri enjoyed among the Buddhist pilgrims and bhikshus. Finding of many seals bearing legend sri-Ratnagiri-maha-vihariyarya-bhikshu-sanghasya (“of the community of venerable monks belonging to the great monastery of the auspicious Ratnagiri”) puts stop to all speculations over the name of the monastery.

After the excavation by Mitra, brief references of the site appear in different books and journals, however an authoritative work dedicated to Ratnagiri came only in 1987. It was in form of a PhD dissertation from Nancy Hock titled, Buddhist Ideology and the sculpture of Ratnagiri, seventh through thirteenth centuries, University of California, Berkeley. Hock deduces that kriya texts, especially Manjursri-mula-kalpa, were utilized at Ratnagiri in relationships to sculptures. Numerous Amoghapasa images suggests cult of this Bodhisattva at Ratnagiri. She suggests that the term tantric best describes the Buddhism practiced at Ratnagiri. She quotes Manjusri-mula-kalpa stating that Buddha accompanied with Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani is primarily a tantric concept.

Cathleen A Cummins25 is also of opinion that the first large corpus of extant art of Tantric Buddhism in India appears in approximately the 6th century CE and relates primarily to the traditions of Kriya and charya tantras. She further mentions that the monasteries in Odisha witnessed this form of art from 7th century CE onward.

In 2001, T E Donaldson, an authority on the Odishan art and architecture, took out his monumental work, Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa, in which he also covered Ratnagiri among other Buddhist sites of the state. As the work was dedicated to iconography and sculptures therefore structural remains were not covered in detail. In 2016, Natasha Reichle published her article Imagery, Ritual and Ideology: Examining the Mahavirara at Ratnagiri in Esoteric Buddhism in Mediaeval Maritime Asia. The article discusses Ratnagiri in light of the sculptural art of Java.

Ratnagiri – A Tantric Buddhism Site – Tibetan accounts seen above indicates that Ratnagiri had reputation as a great Tantric site where many famous tantric teachers got their education and also taught to other students. Is this also confirmed by excavation findings? Mitra, in general, agrees that many images found at Ratnagiri suggests tantric or Vajrayana association however the site was first a Mahayana site and later got introduced to Vajrayana. Hock is outright straight telling that the best term to describe Buddhist practices at Ratnagiri is tantric. Cummins, while tracing Tantric Buddhism in India, tells that this form of Buddhism got introduced to Odishan monasteries during seventh century CE. Linrothe26 tries to counter the arguments forwarded by Hock. Hock suggests that presence of Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani accompanying Buddha is a tantric concept. Linrothe points to a Mahayana text of Tibet which pairs Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani with preaching Shakyamuni therefore presence of these two Bodhisattvas with Buddha is not purely Tantric. Hock suggests that majority of Buddha images found at Ratnagiri is tantric. Linrothe point outs that if only a fraction of the Buddha images at Ratnagiri display the tantric nature, how can we accept Ratnagiri a predominantly a Mantrayana site? Among the sixteen large Buddha images at Ratnagiri, Hock identifies only five as definitely tantric, and some of these five are identified as tantric on very loose threads.

Hock also suggests that presence of dharanis is also tantric in nature. Extracts of dharani inscriptions are identified to be from Bodhigarbhalankaralaksha-dharani and either the Sarvaprajnantaparamitasiddhachaitya-nama-dharani or the Samantamukhapravesarasmivimalosnisa-prabhasa-sarvatathagata-hrdayasamayavilokita-nama-dharani by Gregory Schopen. Linrothe quotes Schopen where the latter explains that these dharanis have nothing tantric about these as the text is part of past Mahayana sutra literature.

Maha-Stupa – This stupa lies on the highest point of the hillock. Only the remains of its base or podium has survived. Only few courses of circular drum exists above this podium. This brick podium is built over the base of an earlier stupa. This earlier stupa can be dated to the Gupta period based upon discovery of several stone slabs, in the small stupas in vicinity, inscribed with text of the Pratityasamputpada-sutra in the characters of 5th-6th century CE27. However, dating of the stupa on the basis of stratiagraphy is difficult due to lack of regular stratified deposits. Two construction periods are evident, the only remains of period-I is the plinth. Period-II changed the base from polygonal to circular.

Period-II also has two different construction activities, one in 9th century CE and another in 13th century CE28. 13th century CE period is evident due to finding of a Ganga coin amidst deposits in a small stupa lying under debris when reconstruction of the Main Stupa was carried out. Podium or base is in tri-ratha pattern where each ratha is divided into two division, thus each side has six vertical projections. Each projection is separated by a recess. The design of a the drum above this podium was in shape of a wheel. The wheel has an outer rim, connected to the inner core with twelve spokes. The stupa and its surrounding area was enclosed within a wall at some later time. The area in between was leveled and over the same cropped up various small size stupas.

Votive Stupas – In the vicinity of the Mahastupa are various small size of varying dimensions and forms. These stupas literally studded the precincts. There are two categories of stupas, structural and monolithic. Though monolithic stupas outnumber the structural ones however the latter is in considerable number. Structural stupas are either built in brick or stone. These are of various forms, circular, square, square with ratha offsets and octagonal. These structural stupas have deposits or no deposits. In case of deposits, these either have some corporal remains or inscribed plaques. In case of inscribed plaques, we find Pratitya-samutpada-sutra, Buddhist creed, images or dharanis.

In case of monolithic stupas, these are either saririka (containing corporal remains) or votive in nature. Many of these stupas carry images, on one face or on all. Among these images are found Buddha, Dhyani-Buddhas, Tara, Lokesvara, Aparajita and Vajra-Tara.

Monastery No 1

Monastery No 1 – This is the largest monastery at the site. The structure is near square externally. It is built in chatuh-sala style, with a central courtyard around which runs a pillared veranda which in turn is surrounded by twenty-four cells. At the rear end, it has a shrine preceded by a pillared antarala and an entrance complex. This is a two story vihara, staircase was provided in its south-west corner. Mitra29 assigns three distinct periods of constructions for the monastery. Period I structure was mainly built in brick except for the pillars, pilasters, door-frames and facing of pylons. Though there is no direct evidences for dating this period, however based upon the similarities of its sculptures and decoration with that of the Vaital and Sisireshvara Temples of Bhubaneswar, Period-I can not be dated later than the 8th century CE.

The monastery suffered nature decay and loss resulting in its restoration on a major scale. This restoration made the monastery more impressive. Cut-stone was used to veneer the front walls. Cells on the lower story were abandoned and filled up with debris. Cells on the upper story were constructed. Space in front of the rear wall shrine was enlarged, making provisions for a antarala. Based upon certain inscribed stones, Period-II can be dated not earlier than 11th century CE. Period-III marks few abrupt additions and modifications appearing in careless manner. Period-III can be dated much later than the 13th century CE.

Female Divinity

On all its three sides, except at front, the monastery is of tri-ratha pattern. In the front, facing south, it is pancha-ratha to allow for an entrance complex. It is approached through a flight of steps from the south. On either side of this stair case is provided a niche. Niche in the west is empty while in the east has a female divinity whom Mitra30 suggest to be a river goddess.The entrance complex has two porches, front and rear, where the rear porch opens into the inside veranda of the monastery.

Avalokiteshvara Padmapani

In the front porch, on its side brick walls, are provided two niches, one on each wall. Inside these niches are adorning images of Padmapani in the west and Vajrapani in the east. Dhyani-Buddhas are present on either side of the halo of Vajrapani, these are Akshobhya in bhumisparsha-mudra on the dexter and Ratnasambhava on the sinister. Both these images, Vajrapani and Padmapani, are shown with two attendants at their feet. One of the attendant is shown with four-arms. The one with Vajrapani, Mitra31 suggests him to be Hayagriva. While describing the krodha-vighnantaka (wrathful images meant for removal of obstacles) imagery, Linrothe32 suggests that the appearance of such four-armed figures was the phase one of this imagery. He mentions that the principal phase one krodha-vighnantaka deities are Hayagriva, Yamantaka, Mahabala and Vajrapurusha. They were mostly shown in company of Bodhisattva where they harness the power of Bodhisattva in removal of fears and obstacles to a devotee. In phase two, these figures attained the full deity status and started appearing as independent images. Though Linrothe mentions that identification of these four-armed figures is still in doubt, however he suggests that the one accompanying Vajrapani can either be represent Vajyapurusha or Mahabala33.


Chlorite door-frame at the rear of the front porch is exquisitely carved with Gaja-Lakshmi over its lintel and dvarpalas with attendants at the jambs. The figure next to dvarpala, on both panels, appears to be a royal person as he is shown standing under a parasol. Mitra34 suggests if this is correct then the monastery can be associated to a royal patronage. The door-frame has three shakhas (bands). Bluish-green color of the chlorite door-frame differentiates it from the stone facade, making it prominent in overall scheme. On either side of this door-frame are two sapta-ratha projections. In one of the projection is an image of Yamuna standing over a tortoise. The other projection does not carry an image. Two loose sculptures are also placed in this front porch. About its decoration and embellishment, Mitra35 writes, “Similar front porches exist in many other places including Nalanda. But nowhere else the surface-treatment of its back wall is so lavish and so pleasing. Indeed, this wall, with an admirable exuberance of sculptured figures and decorative patterns, presents a rare texture which is yet unparalleled in the structural monasteries in India.”


A narrow passage connects the front porch with the rear porch. The rear porch has niches on its east and west walls, where we find images of Hariti and her consort, Panchika, respectively. I-tsing36 mentions the custom of installation of image of Hariti in monasteries, the tradition goes, “At the former birth of this mother (Hariti) she from some cause or other made a vow to devour all babes of Ragagriha. In consequence of this wicked vow, she forfeited her life, and was reborn as a Yakshi, and gave birth to five hundred children. Every day she ate some babes at Ragagriha and the people informed the Buddha of this fact. He took and concealed one of her own children, which she called Her Beloved Child. She sought for it from place to place, and at last happened to find it near Buddha. ‘Art though so sorry’, said the World-honored One to her, ‘for thy lost child, thy beloved? Thou lamentest for only one lost out of five hundred, how much more grieved are those who have lost their only one or two children on account of thy cruel vow?’ Soon converted by the Buddha, she received the five precepts and became an Upasika. ‘How shall my five hundred children subsist hereafter?’ the new convert asked the Buddha. ‘In every monastery’, replied the Buddha, ‘where Bhikshus dwell, thy family shall partake of sufficient food, offered by them everyday’. For this reason, the image of Hariti is found either in the porch or in the corner of the dinning-hall of all Indian monasteries depicting her as holding a babe in her arms and round her knees three or five children.”

Real wall shrine

In the northern rear wall of the complex, the central cell is dedicated for a shrine. It is preceded by a narrow antarala connecting it with the veranda. The door-frame to the shrine has not survived expect its jambs. On the jambs are four niches, on each side, housing dvarpala, Bodhisattva, chamara-dharani and a naga figure. Surviving band above dvarpala niche has some examples of incredible craftsmanship in depicting human figures in various acrobatic poses, known as manushya-kautuki among Odishan artists. A pancha-ratha projection is placed on either side of this door-frame.

Inside the shrine is placed a tri-ratha pedestal over which are put images. In the center is placed Buddha seated in vajra-paryankasana attitude with his right palm in bhumisparsha-mudra. Backside of Buddha is shown a Bodhi-tree. This image is made up of six different stones, connected together with iron-clamps and dowels. All these different parts of the image were found dislocated within the shrine, and were restored back to their former glory. On either side of Buddha is placed Avalokiteshvara Padmapani in the west and Vajrapani in the east. As they both hold a chamara, therefore their purpose here is to serve as chamara-bearer to Buddha. Secret cells, one each in the west and the west side walls, are provided.

Western wall of the modified ante-chamber

During Period-II, various modification were made to this shrine. Nothing was modified to the innermost sanctuary however its antrala was further widened projecting it further towards south. The narrow passage connecting the sanctuary and antarala was also elongated by covering the side walls leaving only the Period 1 entrance door-frame as it is. As the front facade to the shrine is extended, the antarala or ante-chamber was also extended in the same proportions. Extension of antarala was achieved by bricking up cells at the rear. Niches were provided in the side walls on the east and the west. On the western wall are six niches, three empty and three occupied. An image in Mitra’s excavation report37, five of the niches were occupied. Upper two niches which were occupied by Buddha images, one in bhumisparsha-mudra and another in dharma-chakra-pravartana-mudra, are now empty. In the lower three niche on the western wall are provided images of Buddha, two of those depicting Akshobhya theme. The Akshobhya Buddha image, first in line from south, has eight Bodhisattvas in two rows on either side of Buddha. In the dexter, from top to down, we have Samantabhadra, Maitreya, Lokesvara and Kshitigarbha. In the sinister, from top to down, we have Khagarbha, Vajrapani, Manjusri and Sarvanivaranavishkambhin. Two niches are present on the north and south extension of western wall. These niches are also occupied. In the south niche is an image of Vasudhara while in the north niche is an image of Buddha in bhumisparsha-mudra. Mitra also mentions a free standing Buddha image near to Vasudhara niche, however this image is no more at the site.

Period II facade
Central doorway lintel
Western Face

Many carved stones belonging to this Period II facade were found among the debris at different depth, and all these have been assembled together and placed at the side of the front entrance. The layout of the Period-II facade was a central doorway accompanied with six deep niches, three on each side. The central doorway was in alignment with the Period-I door-frame. Buddha in bhumisparsha-mudra is present over lintel of central door, while Tara is found over lintels of deep cells. On the eastern and the western face of this facade are provided niche housing images. On its eastern face is an image depicting a man cutting hair of a kneeling woman where latter is trying to dissuade the former. It appears that the woman is asking for forgiveness and her punishment is cutting of her hair. The corresponding niche in the west shows an amorous couple. This suggests that probably the image in the niche in the east also has amorous theme. Devangana Desai38 suggests so and has cited three other similar examples where hair cutting is shown during sexual intercourse, one in a temple at Bagali in Mysore, second in a temple in the Lingaraja complex and third in the Sun Temple at Konarka. This particular scene is dated to 11th-13th century CE.

Monastery No 2
Buddha in the shrine

Monastery No 2 This monastery follows the plan of the Monastery No 1 but on a smaller scale. It  has only one storey where eighteen cells are placed around a central veranda. The shrine at the rear has a standing image of Buddha accompanied with two small figures, one on either side. One figure, two-armed and standing over a lotus, is shown holding a long umbrella. As he bears a long crown, Mitra39 suggests that it could be Sakra (Indra). The other figure, four-armed, three-headed and bearded, appears to be Brahma. Presence of Shakra and Brahma with Buddha suggests that the theme here is Buddha’s descent from Trayastrimsha heaven. Three different construction periods have been assigned to this monastery by Mitra40. Period-I is dated not later than the Gupta period. Structure belonging to Period-I is completely decayed and over that stood structure of Period-II. Only the ruined walls and foundation brick-work of Period-II had been found. Period-II is assigned to 7th century CE comparing it with the Parasurameshvara Temple at Bhubaneswar. The present structure of the monastery belongs to Period-III which can not be later than 11th century CE.

Single-winged Monastery

Single-winged Monastery – This monastery has row of three cells fronted by a veranda. Central cell was used for a chapel while adjoining cells were residential. This monastery is built on an earlier structure of the same plan. From this site is found a copper-plate charter of the Somavamshi king Karnadeva Mahasivagupta V (1100-1110 CE)41. The charter was issued from Yayatinagara in sixth regnal year of Karnadeva. It records the grant of village Kona of Uttara-Tosali to Rani Karpurasri who  was the daughter of the son of Udayamati and the daughter of Maharima-Hunadevi. She hailed from Salonapura-mahavihara in Utkala-desa, probably same as the present Solampur near Jajpur. This suggests that Rani Karpurasri spent her retired life at Ratnagiri in this monastery.

Temple No 4

Temple No 4 – This east facing temple is located in the area opposite to Monastery No 2. This was built in brick except for its door-frame. IT is built in tri-ratha pattern. Not much is left of this temple however it is impressive for its three images fixed to three walls of the sanctum. The main image, on the rear or west wall, is of Dharmasankha-samadhi-Manjusri or Amitabha-Manjusri or Vak. On the left bottom of Manjusri, on a separate stone block, is carved an image of Yamantaka. Buddhist creed, carved in the character of about 10th century CE, is inscribed below the Dhayani-Buddha in the dexter of Majusri.

Vajradharma or Rakta-Lokesvara

In the northern wall is an image of two-armed Vajradharma or Rakta-Lokesvara. Mitra42 suggests that the image bears some insignia of both therefore identification is definite. Presence of five Dhyani-Buddhas in his jata-makuta points to Vajradharma however his mount, a peacock, is missing. He sits on a lotus in typical mudra of Rakta-Lokesvara. Tara and Bhrikuti are present in the dexter and sinister at the bottom below lotus pedestal. Buddhist creed is inscribed near the oval halo, in the character of about 10th century CE. In the western wall is a much decayed and unfinished image of Vajrasattva. He is shown holding a vajra in his hand held against his chest. Among the deposits in vicinity of the temple are found few Hindu images, Mahishasuramardini, Ganesha and few broken images. This probably suggests use of the temple for Hindu deities in certain time.

Temple No 5

Temple No 5 – This temple is located beside Temple No 4. It has a garbhagrha enclosed within a peripheral wall of a complex, thus allowing a pradakshinapath around the garbhagrha. Inside the garbhagrha is an image of Manjusri, with its head borken.


1 Horner, I B (1962). The Book of the Disciple vol. IV. Luzac & Company Ltd. London. pp 5-6
2 Donaldson, T E (2001). Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. New Delhi. ISBN 8170174066. p 1
3 Pati, K C (2016). Archaeology of Buddhism in Puri District, Odisha published in Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 77. pp 933-941
4 Pati, K C (2016). Archaeology of Buddhism in Puri District, Odisha published in Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 77. pp 933-941
5 Donaldson, T E (2001). Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. New Delhi. ISBN 8170174066. p 1
6 Mudeliar, Mutu Coomaraswamy (1874). Dathavansa. Trubner & Co. London. p 38
7 Mookerji, Radhakumud (1928). Asoka. Macmillan and Co Limited. London. p 7
8 Watters, Thomas (1905). On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India vol II. Royal Asiatic Society. London. pp 193-194
9 Donaldson, T E (2001). Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. New Delhi. ISBN 8170174066. p 3
10 Neulpur grant of Subhakara in Epigraphia Indica vol XV, p 3
11 Donaldson, T E (1995). Probable Textual Sources for the Buddhist Sculptural Maṇḍalas of Orissa published in East and West Vol. 45, No. 1/4. pp 173-204
12 ibid.
13 Epigraphia Indica vol XV pp 363-64
14 Panigrahi. 1961, p 25
15 Chattopadhyaya & Chimpa (1990). Taranatha’s History of Buddhism in India. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi. ISBN 8120806964. p 144
16 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 16
17 Chattopadhyaya & Chimpa (1990). Taranatha’s History of Buddhism in India. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi. ISBN 8120806964. p 289
18 Roerich, Gerorge N (1949). The Blue Annals part I & II. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi. p 755
19 Donaldson, T E (2001). Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. New Delhi. ISBN 8170174066. p 12
20 Chaudhury, B N (1960). Buddhist Centres in Ancient India. Sanskrit College. Calcutta. P 209
21 Ghosh, Devaprasad (1933). Relation between the Buddha images or Orissa and Java published in The Modern Review, November 1933, vol LIV no 5. The Modern Review Office. Kolkata. pp 500-504
22 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 10
23 Chakladar, H C (1928). A Great Site of Mahayana Buddhism in Orissa published in The Modern Review, August 1928, vol XLIV no 2. The Modern Review Office. Kolkata. pp 217-223
24 Chandra, S C (1954). Early Medieval Sculptures of Utkala (Orissa) published in The Orissa Historical Research Journal vol III no 2. pp 74-79
25 Cummins, Cathleen A (2003). Tantra in India published in The Circle of Bliss – Buddhist Meditational Art, Huntington & Bangdel (eds.). Serindia Publications, Chicago. ISBN 1932476016. pp 23-28
26 Linrothe, Rob (1999). Ruthless Compassion: Wrathful Deities in Early Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhist Art. Serindia Publications. London. ISBN 0906026512. pp 55-56
27 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 25
28 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 41
29 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 155
30 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 158
31 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 159
32 Linrothe, Rob (1999). Ruthless Compassion: Wrathful Deities in Early Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhist Art. Serindia Publications. London. ISBN 0906026512. p 13
33 Linrothe, Rob (1999). Ruthless Compassion: Wrathful Deities in Early Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhist Art. Serindia Publications. London. ISBN 0906026512. p 54
34 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 164
35 Mitra, Debala (1971). Buddhist Monuments. Sahitya Samsad. Calcutta. p 229
36 Takakusu, J (1896). A Record of the Buddhist Religion as practised in India and the Malay Archipelago. Oxford. p 37
37 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 189
38 Desai, Devangana (1972). Some Rare Sculptures depicting offerings of Hair and Maithuna published in Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art V 1972-75. pp 86-90
39 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 273
40 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp 266-267
41 Epigraphia Indica vol XXXIII. pp 263-268
42 Mitra, Debala (1981). Ratnagiri (1958-61) vol I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 291

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