Bangriposi – of Rains, Novels and Buribalam

Bangriposi

How many times have you read a book and longed to go to a place where the book is based on? I have so many times fallen in love with cities and villages and countries after a good read. My heart yearned for Tibet after reading “Seven years in Tibet” and also “Tintin in Tibet”. I want to visit the Andes in South America after reading “Prisoners of the Sun”. Visit to the Bhulbhulayia in Lucknow was so much fun when I knew a certain “Feluda” had been here! So, when I read “Bangriposir du Ratri” (2 nights at Bangriposi) by Buddhadeb Guha, I knew I had to go there. The wait was long. But it is never too late to do all those crazy things you want and visit the places you so desperately want to.

Bangriposi
Road to Bangriposi

Bangriposi is a tribal village at the Thakurani ranges of Odisha offering the perfect union of topography and tranquillity. Bangriposi means “beautiful daughter of the hills” and is very aptly called so.


So on a July weekend, we took a train to Balasore. It is best to take the Dhauli Express from Howrah if you are coming from Kolkata. Dhauli reaches Balasore by 9:30 AM and then there is a connecting train to Bangriposi from Balasore at 10:00 AM. But as fate had it, that day, Dhauli was running late. We had actually come from Bhubaneswar after our Diamond Triangle Trip, but our fellow travellers Debika and her mother was coming by Dhauli. Finally, the train reached Balasore at 10:20 AM. Thankfully, the local train to Bangriposi had not yet left. It seemed that it was actually a connecting train and it would start only after taking the passengers from Dhauli. So we clambered on the train quickly and got our seats.

Bangriposi
View from the Train

The train journey was a beautiful one. As the train stopped at the small stations, the local people boarded the train and some got down. There were also a few school girls who boarded the train. They were returning from their school. It reminded me of our school days when all of us used to make so much noise and commotion in the trains and buses!

And then we reached Bangriposi – a small railway station and nothing else much. As we got down the train, we had a pleasant feeling.  It was drizzling and we booked an auto to our Khairi Resort. The Khairi Resort was originally the OTDC Panthanibas, but now it is run by private. The resort stands on a large area and is quite beautiful.

Bangriposi
Khairi Resort

By the time we reached the Khairi Resort, it had started raining heavily. We had a very sumptuous lunch and sat at the verandah looking at the rains and waiting for it to stop. As soon as the rain stopped, we were out.

Bangriposi
Abode of clouds

Our first stop was the Buribalam River. Yes, it is along this Buribalam River where freedom fighter Baghajatin had fought the British. The river had a soothing effect on all of us. Buribalam was in her full glory flowing over the rocky terrain. We usually don’t see so much greenery in Kolkata. Here it was green everywhere. And with the rains, the trees, shrubs and bushes looked fresher than ever, each having a different hue of green. “50 Shades of Green” is what we called it. If not 50, but we were quite elated to see so much greenery around.

Bangriposi
The Buribalam River

A few local men were fishing along the banks of the river. We spent some time there and then headed for the Dwarsini Temple. The temple is also known as Bonbibi and Kanak Durga Temple. It is perched on the Thakurani Hills. Bonbibi Temple is quite popular here. The place where the temple is situated is actually regarded the gateway to the Simlipal Forests. Likewise, the locals take the blessings of Bonbibi before venturing into the forest.

Bangriposi
Dwarsini Devi Temple

The villagers believe that if you pray to the Goddess for something, she grants your wish. But you have to come back to the temple again and pay your homage. In case you do not, She will come in your dreams to remind you of your promise.  Well, I don’t know whether it is true or not, but it is the faith that can move mountains. I think all of us had a secret wish for them to Bonbibi.

Our next stop was the Bisoi Haat (Local village market). Bisoi is 17 km from Bangriposi and the drive to the place is so scenic that we wanted to keep on driving! It was a weekly market held on every Saturday, with all the local people buying and selling their merchandise. It was an utterly colourful and chaotic affair. Sometimes, cockfights are held here. We had just missed one when we arrived at Bisoi.

Bangriposi
Way towards Bisoi Haat

After our eventful trip, we returned to our resort. The evening was spent amidst the much-awaited revelry and “adda” (informal talking) session.

The next morning we decided to visit the Sulaipat and Bankbal Dam and while returning toward Balasore, we would visit Kuliana, the dokra village of Odisha. We started early and it was raining quite heavily. Today also we took the same route towards Bisoi and then further went towards Sulaipat Dam. When we reached there, it was raining quite heavily.

Bangriposi
Sulaipat Dam

We took out our umbrellas and came out of the car. We were in for a surprise! The Sulaipat Dam over the Kharkai River looked absolutely mesmerizing. The vast stretch of water with the hills and grey clouds at the background looked surreal. And with the rains falling on us, the whole place looked and felt romantic. Monsoons have a special charm and some places take a gorgeous look during the rainy season. Bangriposi is one such place. We did not want to leave Sulaipat, but Bankbal was calling us. So we started our journey towards Bankbal Dam.

Bangriposi
Sulaipat Dam

The Bankbal dam is also beautiful, though not so much as the Sulaipat. But, the large reservoir brimming with water, the surrounding hills and greenery made the place no less gorgeous. It was not raining here, so we walked along the dam at our own pace.

Bangriposi
Reservoir at Bankbal Dam

The grey clouds at a distance looked ominous and very soon, the clouds were rushing towards us bringing with it heavy rain.  Here, we literally saw black clouds approaching us along with rain.

Bangriposi
Chased by the clouds

After a visit to these two dams, we started towards Balasore. En route, we stopped at Kuliana, the village where Dokra handicraft is made. Dokra is an ancient handicraft form of non-ferrous metal casting using lost wax technique. You can read more about Dokra in our post here.

Kuliana is a small village of few families still practicing the ancient handicraft form and keeping it alive. We went inside one house. They showed us the craft they had so lovingly created. During the monsoon, they do not make the dokra artifacts, as sunlight is required for drying. The handicrafts were made with so much care and finesse; the intricate details made them look so unique.

With Kuliana, our trip almost came to an end. We were back at Balasore waiting for Dhauli Express and reminiscing about our wonderful weekend trip.

Some tips about Bangriposi:

Bangriposi is a wonderful weekend destination from Kolkata. If you have a couple of days to spend, visit this wonderful place.

The Simlipal Forest is quite near from here and if you have a day more at hand, you can definitely visit the forest.

How to reach Bangriposi:

Balasore is the nearest main railway head. If you are coming from Kolkata, it is best to take the Dhauli Express. It reaches Balasore at 9:30 AM. There is a connecting DMU local at 10:00 from Balasore to Bangriposi. Alternatively, you have to take a cab to Bangriposi.

You can also come to Baripada and then reach Bangriposi. Buses are available from Esplanade to Baripada.

Best time to visit:

Bangriposi is an all year destination. In the winters, you can visit the nearby forests. We visited during the monsoons and the place has a different charm at this time. The Simlipal Forest remains close however during the monsoon.

Bangriposi
Enjoying the Rains

Places to see:

Visit the Buribalam River, the Duarsini or Bonbibi Temple and the local Bisoi Haat. The next day you can visit the Sulaipat Dam (105 km) and the Bankbal Dam. Also, don’t miss the Kuliana Village. That can be visited while you are returning to Balasore. And if you have another day to spare, visit Simlipal Forests.

A Trivia:

At Khairi Resort, we made an interesting finding. Debika is from Geography background and she was quick to spot a GTS Benchmark. GTS or the Great Trigonometrical Survey was a project to measure the entire Indian subcontinent with scientific precision started in 1802. Among the many accomplishments of the Survey were the demarcation of the British territories in India and the measurement of the height of the Himalayan giants: Everest, K2, and Kanchenjunga. (Source: Wikipedia). We asked the people at the hotel about the benchmark. They could only say that it was there since long, from the British time. We could only conclude that it must have been a local GTS benchmark.

GTS
GTS Benchmark

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.
Did you like the post? Please share your views by commenting below.

Bangriposi
Pin it !

The Diamond Triangle – Buddhist Heritage in Odisha

Diamond Triangle Odisha

Whenever we talk about travelling in Odisha, we usually think about the Golden Triangle of Bhubaneswar, Konark and Puri along with the Chilika Lake. But Odisha is also quite rich in heritage and archaeological sites. We are talking about the Diamond Triangle of Odisha, excavation sites that are rich in Buddhist relics and heritage.

Odisha is one such place where Buddhism had flourished quite well.  Infact, the first ones who had become lay-disciples of Lord Buddha were two merchants from Ukkala (Utkala, Odisha). It is also well known that the Mauryan King Asoka had played a major role in the propagation of Buddhism in and around India after the infamous battle of Kalinga. Orissa finds very less mention as Buddhists centre of learning; we hear more about Bodh Gaya, Sanchi, Sarnath, Nalanda, Amravati and the likes. But Orissa too had a thriving centre of learning and excellence in the form of the Diamond Triangle – the three Buddhist sites of Ratnagiri, Udaygiri and Lalitgiri. Odisha was, in fact, the cradle of Vajrayana or Tantric or esoteric Buddhism. Believed to have been originated from Bengal and then spread to other parts of India and Asia, this sect of Buddhism is hailed as the purest form of Buddhism by its followers. This sect of Buddhism is also known as the Diamond Vehicle and so comes the name Diamond Triangle. The Ratnagiri Mahavihara was an important centre of Tantric Buddhism.

Odisha was, in fact, the cradle of Vajrayana or Tantric or esoteric Buddhism. Believed to have been originated from Bengal and then spread to other parts of India and Asia, this sect of Buddhism is hailed as the purest form of Buddhism by its followers. This sect of Buddhism is also known as the Diamond Vehicle and so comes the name Diamond Triangle. The Ratnagiri Mahavihara was an important centre of Tantric Buddhism.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
The relics and statue lying at the courtyard of Ratnagiri

Discovery of the Diamond Triangle:

As early as in 1869, a sub-divisional officer in Orissa discovered two mounds within a deep jungle. He also found a large number of relics and other antiques at that place. from here, started the interest for unearthing the treasures of Orissa.  In 1890, another official discovered a huge mound full of rare antiques. This place was Ratnagiri. Gradually, the sites of Lalitgiri and Udaygiri were also unearthed. The discovery of these large numbers of sculptures, images, pottery, coins, tablets and the huge stupas led to the inference that this place was actually the ruins of a university complex named Pushpagiri Mahavihara. These three places find mention in the writings of the famous Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang as the centre of Buddhist learning as elite and famous as the Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila universities. Hiuen Tsang visited India during 627 – 643 AD. These centre of excellence flourished during the period 5th  to 11th Century.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
A stone statue at Udaygiri – Diamond Triangle, Odisha

Location of the Diamond Triangle:

The three sites are located in the Jajpur district of Odisha about 75 km to the northeast of Bhubaneswar. The Diamond Triangle is the most important sites of Buddhist heritage and culture but unfortunately, also the least promoted.

There are no proper accommodations near these sites and also there are no eateries at these places. The best part in this way is that we had all the three beautiful places all to ourselves – to roam around and take photographs. There was not a single visitor other than us in Udaygiri and Lalitgiri. And whenever I find such solitude, my imagination runs wild and I usually start visualizing how the place actually was centuries ago! This time was also no exception!

To cover all the three places, it is better to start from Bhubaneswar early in the morning. We too did the same and reached Udaygiri first.

Udaygiri:

Our first destination of the Diamond Triangle was Udaygiri, which literally means the “Hill of Rising Sun”. Udaygiri is the largest site out of the three but also the least excavated one.  The excavated sites are situated at a vast stretch of grassland at the foot of a hill. There are four excavated sites numbered as I, II, II and IV. One of the sites was atop a hill. We did not visit the site as the path was through thick vegetation and snakes!

Diamond Triangle Odisha
Site I at Udaygiri

As we entered the complex, we followed a tree lined path until we came to an open space where a few statues of Buddha were kept. There was also step well that led down to the water body. Now all dilapidated and with dirty water, this step well once served as the source of water for the Buddhist monks.

Diamond Triangle
The Step well of Udaygiri

There is a path beside the step well that led to the first Monastery. This was called the Madhavpura Mahavihara and has one large stupa, a meeting place and an open space. The monastery was believed to be two-storied though now we have only the remnants of the ground floor. There is a giant statue of Lord Buddha inside the Stupa.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
The Giant Buddha Statue in Udaygiri

A little distance away was another site. This site also has a monastery and is called the Sinhaprastha Mahavihara.  This place also has a Chaitya Stupa complex with several smaller stupas and a shrine complex.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
Mahastupa at Udaygiri

After spending a couple of hours at Udaygiri, we went towards Ratnagiri.

Ratnagiri, the jewel of the Diamond Triangle:

Ratnagiri, as the name suggests means the “hill of jewel”. This is the most excavated site of the trio and stands atop a small hillock. A flight of mossy stairs leads to an open space and we were in front of a large number of votive stupas. The votive stupas are miniature versions of the stupas that were consecrated as a votive offering.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
Votive Stupas at Ratnagiri

The monasteries at Ratnagiri were built around 6th to 12th century. The site has two monasteries and a large stupa surrounded by smaller ones. The monastery at Ratnagiri has a strategic advantage over its position. It gave the monks the much needed seclusion and protection.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
The Gateway of the main monastery leading to the courtyard

There is a beautifully carved gate as the entrance to a large courtyard. The door frame made of green granite was intricately carved with motifs and designs and depicts the artistic exuberance of the sculptor. The figures are exceptionally distinct. There are various stone statues at both the sides. As we entered the courtyard, we were simply awestruck seeing a large number of statues and relics there.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
The Giant Buddha head at the courtyard at Ratnagiri

On the left side of the door, there is a huge Buddha head followed by many other heads of Lord Buddha of various sizes. Infact, we felt that we are somewhere in Indonesia (though we haven’t been there, we have seen many pictures of the wonderful place). These heads actually resemble the ones in Borobudur in Indonesia and Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka.

But let me tell you, it is the Ratnagiri school of architecture that had influenced the sculptures of Java, Sumatra and Bali. Such was the impact of the then Oriya King Sailendra that the Buddha statues of Borobudur in Indonesia are the prototypes of the Buddha statues of Ratnagiri.

At the farthest end of the courtyard, there is a massive 12 feet statue of Buddha in Bhumisparsha Mudra. There are two statues of Vajrapani and Padmapani on either side of the giant Buddha statue.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
The 12 feet statue of Buddha at Ratnagiri

Next, to this monastery, there is another monastery but this one is not as grand as the other one. It has one Mahastupa along with other smaller stupas.

There is a museum at Ratnagiri where many artefacts and relics are displayed. But please keep in mind that the monastery is closed on Fridays.

There is a path leading towards the back of the monasteries. We followed the path to see a breathtaking view of the encompassing green valley. The overlooking valley with paddy fields looked simply mesmerizing and the beauty of the place was enhanced by the imposing Mahakal Temple a little downhill.

Diamond Triangle
View of the valley from Ratnagiri

Lalitgiri:

Our next and final stop for the day was the last site of the Diamond Triangle, Lalitgiri or the ‘crimson hill’.  We had to take the Paradeep Highway to go towards Lalitgiri. We entered in the oldest Buddhist site that dates back to the 1st century. Lalitgiri is considered to be the holiest of the sites of Golden Triangle as it had unearthed a casket containing the sacred relic considered to be of Lord Buddha himself. The tooth of Buddha in the form of a bone was excavated from a stone casket inside a stupa.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
Chaityagriha at Lalitgiri with Votive stupas

Lalitgiri has four monasteries, but the main attraction of the place is the u-shaped Chaityagriha, surrounded by votive stupas. The sacred relic was found among one of these stupas.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
A broken Buddha statue at Lalitgiri

At the far end of the complex, there is a 45 steps stairway that leads to the Mahastupa, a giant circular stupa. We took the stairs to have a look at the stupa. We were also greeted with a panoramic view of the green rural Orissa from there.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
The Mahastupa at Lalitgiri

There is also a museum here that houses beautiful and illustrious relics, statues and figurines of Lord Buddha in various forms and other Buddhist pantheons.

We did not know how time flew by while we were engrossed in our past. Soon it was dusk and we were on our way back to Bhubaneswar.

The Diamond Triangle of Odisha surely shows that Buddhism was followed quite widely in Odisha and the place was also a centre of learning and excellence. Time and other historical incidents have led to a decay and decline of this rich heritage and these places were lost in the annals of time. Now that these sites have been unearthed by ASI, these places should be promoted well. These places should be well maintained and promoted. We found plastic bottles thrown at the step well in Udaygiri and Ratnagiri. Not to mention, people have immortalized their name on the stone structures. This is one habit of ours that is quite deplorable. It is high time that we become responsible towards our natural heritage. If maintained properly, the Diamond Triangle can be one of the most beautiful sites of Odisha.

Diamond Triangle Odisha
A broken Buddha statue at Udaygiri

Some Tips for Visiting the Diamond Triangle:

You can stay at either Bhubaneswar or Cuttack and hire a car for doing the Diamond Triangle tour. It is better to book a car for the tour.

There are no proper accommodations at these places. Ratnagiri has one property. Also, there are no eateries at the three places. There are only small shops. Carry your own lunch pack if you want.

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You have to walk around to see the three sites.

The Diamond Triangle, Odisha
PIN IT !!!

We would like to mention that we came to know about the Diamond triangle after reading Rangan Da’s blog.

Liked the post? Please support us by sharing the post and please share your thoughts by commenting below!