Diamond Triangle is a collection of three Buddhist sites of Ratnagiri, Udaygiri and Lalitgiri. The sites belong to the Vajyarajyan sect of Buddhism, which is popularly known as the Diamond Vehicle, and hence the name Diamond Triangle.
The three Buddhist Monasteries or Vihars are contemporary to Nalanda and Taxila. According to some historians, the Ratnagiri, Udaygiri and Lalitgiri complex was the famed Pushpagiri Mahavihara, mentioned by the Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hieun Tsang), who visited the monasteries in the 7th century CE. According to archaeological evidence, the monasteries were constructed in the 5th century CE and remained functional until the 13th century CE. They peaked between the 7th and 10th century CE. The site was most probably abandoned in 16th century CE and fell into ruins. The sites were identified as historically important way back in the early 1900s, but excavation started in the mid 20th century CE. It was only in the 1980s full-fledged excavation revealed huge structures consisting of large monasteries and giant stupas. It was only in the 1990s an excavation in Langudi confirmed that the sites were indeed part of Pushpagiri Mahavihara, which was visited by Xuanzang.
All the sites are under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and are open from sunrise to sunset.
Ratnagiri, Udaygiri and Lalitgiri have an entry fee of ₹ 15 for Indians and SAARC nationals, ₹ 200 for other foreigners. Langudi entry is free. The site museum at Lalitgiri has an entry fee of ₹ 5, irrespective of nationality.
Ratnagiri and Udaygiri are located in Jajpur District and Lalitgiri is located in Cuttack District. They are loacted about 100 km from Bhubaneswar. They are approachable from Bhubaneswar-Kolkata (NHW 12). From 1 Chandikhol. folloow the Paradeep road. After travelling about 12 km take a left turn from this point 2 . leading to Udaygiri (slightly off the road on left hand side) and Ratnagiri. Get back agin to the Chandikhol - Paradeep road and head towards Paradeep. From this point 3 . take a right turn and head to Lalitgiri.
- 1 Ratnagiri (Hill of the gem). Ratnagiri is the most spectacular of the Diamond Triangle sites. The complex consists of 3 monasteries, a giant stupa surrounded by hundreds of smaller stupas, a votive stupa complex and a site museum. Monastery 1 is the largest monastery in the complex. It is approached through an intricately curved door frame, leading on to an open courtyard. On the far end of the courtyard is the inner sanctum housing a giant statue of Buddha, in bhumisparsha posture, flanked on either side by statues of Padmapani and Vajrapani. The entire courtyard is decorated with artifacts collected from the excavation. They include several Buddha heads of different size, several statues and floral & geometrical motifs. The courtyard is lined with 24 cells large cells still survive, the size of which perhaps suggests that they were occupied by more than one monk. Aset of stairs leads to the upper floor, which has long collapsed. Next to the main monastery lies Monastery 2, much smaller in size it lacks the beauty and grace of its larger counterpart. The inner sanctum of Monastery 2 houses an image of Shakyamuni in a Varada Mudra pose. Monastery 3 is on a small hillock to the north-west, and much smaller again, with only three cells in a row, and a portico. The highest point of the Ratnagiri sight is marked with a giant stupa, surrounded by smaller ones. Some of these smaller (votif) stupas are arranged in circles. The whole hill top contains several structural remains covering a large area. A total of 700+ votif stupas have been unearthed from the side, some of them have been put together in a complex near the entrance. On the southern end of the complex is the Mahakala Temple, dating back to the 15th century. The temple once stood atop the mound covering the giant stupa. It was moved piece by piece to the present location by the by the ASI between 1997 and 2004. The site museum lies on the north of the complex and houses artifacts recovered from the excavation site. The museum displays 238 artifacts in 4 different galleries.
- 2 Udaygiri (Hill of the rising sun). Udaygiri is the largest and the most scattered of the Diamond Triangle sites. The archeological findings are classified in two parts, namely Udaygiri 1 and Udaygiri 2. From the car park a tree-lined pathway leads to an open space displaying a collection on sculptures that have been recovered from the site. Unlike the other two sites Udaygiri doesn't have a site museum but open space serves as an open air museum. Next to the open air museum is a stone step well, a small structure with a narrow set of stairs connected with the main well. It is totally devoid of any ornamentation. Udaygiri 1 is located on the western side of the open space. Udaygiri 2 is located on the south of the open space and trail past the stepwell leads to Udaygiri 2. Udaygiri 1 houses a giant stupa, housing four Buddha statues in the four cardinal directions. The statues are guarded with metallic grills making photography difficult. Further west is the monastery of Udaygiri 1. The trail connecting the stupa with the monastery is lined on either side by fragments of carved stone and even sculptures. The monastery was probably constructed in the8th century CE and probably predates Udaygiri 2. The monastery consists of a central open courtyard, flanked on all sides by cells. Directly opposite the entrance is the shrine housing a giant statue of Buddha. The primary attraction of the monastery is the intricately carved doorway leading to the shrine. Inside is a seated statue of Buddha along with several other statues. A winding dirt road connects Udaygir 1 to Udaygiri 2. Udaygiri 2 is spread over a larger area and follows a more complex plan consisting of at least 2 monastery complexes, scattered stupas and votive stupas along with a large number of subsidiary structures and shrines. The structures are built over a long period of time and archeologists estimate the earliest structures date back to 1st century BCE while construction continued till 12th century CE. The main monastery consisted of a central courtyard lined with 13 cells. The shrine houses a giant seated Buddha, but the decorative door frame, leading to the shrine have been removed to the Patna Museum.
- 3 Lalitgiri (Hill of beauty). Lalitgiri is the holiest of the Diamond Triangle sites. Excavation yielded a casket containing a sacred bone relic, probably of Buddha himself. A newly built Buddhist styled gateway on the Chandikhol - Paradeep highway welcomes visitors to Lalitgiri. The Lalitgiri site consists of a giant stupa, a U – shaped Chaityagriha, four monasteries and a site museum. A long flight of 45 stairs leads to the giant stupa. Excavation of the stupa during 1985 - 91 yielded a khandolite stone casket. The caste contained another silver casket and finally a gold casket housing the holy relic. The relic a small fragment of bone, presumed to be from Lord Buddha himself. The most interesting structure in the complex is the U – shaped Chaityagriha, surrounded by votif (small) stupas. The votif stupas were probably collected from different areas of the archaeological dig and are later arranged in a semicircle around the stupa. The site contains remains of 4 monasteries but non match the grandeur and elegance of those found in Ratnagiri and Udaygiri. Only monastery 4 has some sculptural remains of a giant seated Buddha statue, but the portion above the waist level is missing. Monastery 1, 3 and 4 are located near the U – shaped Chaityagriha, while monastery 2, the smallest and least impressive of te four is located opposite the museum. The site museum houses the caskets and the relics along with dozens of statues and artifacts found from the site. Sadly photography is not allowed inside the museum.
Apart from the three major site Langudi is also anothe important Buddhist archaeological site of the region.
- 4 Langudi. Langudi Hill is another archaeological sites, lying near the three famed sites of Ratnagiri, Udaygiri and Lalitgiri, which together comprise the Diamond Triangle. The archaeological site was first sighted by British historians way back in the mid 18th century but the proper dig happened only in 1990s. During the dig a fragmented Brahmi inscription revealed the name of puṣpa sabhar giriya (flower-filled hill) and it was finally established the Langudiu was the famed Pushpagiri Mahavihara, mentioned by the Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hieun Tsang). Today the site of Langudi houses a giant stupa, several rock-cut stupas and sculptures along with partially dug out archaeological pits. The stupa is believed to be one of the 10 stupas constructed by Ashoka himself after the Kalinga War. It dates back to the 3rd century BCE and the original stupa may have been much smaller. It has been expanded over the years and presently the base has a diameter of about 20 m. A total of 34 stupas, dating from the 1st to 4th centuries A.D, have been carved out of the hill wall. The larger stupas include human figures along with floral and geometric designs. Another portion of the hill contains sculptures mainly consists of human figures. The sites also hosts a few freshly excavated archaeological trenches with structural remains.
The Diamond Triangle tour can be done from Cuttack or Bhubaneswar. The round trip from Bhubaneswar is almost 250 km. There are hardly any places to eat, so it is advisable to carry dry food like biscuits, cakes and chocolates.
1 Toshali Ratnagiri Resort, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Located opposite the Ratnagiri Archaeological site is the only place to stay in the Diamond Triangle area. A stay in the resort will make the trip less hectic.