The word ‘Ratnagiri’ literally means ‘a hill adorned with jewels’. Perhaps it was the crowning glory of the Pushphagiri Mahavihara and, the largest of the Buddhist monastic settlement found in this area. ASI excavation under the supervision of D.Mitra unveiled the magnificent monasteries, stupas, temples, and votive stupas from under the earth. The Ratnagiri Mahavihara flourished most from the 5th to the 11th century AD in art, architecture and learning. The votive stupas are eloquent proofs of the fact that more than ten thousand students were under the tutelage of Ratnagiri during this time. A sharp decline occurred 13th century onwards perhaps due to lack of royal patronage and because of Muslim invasions in India. Still, it is believed to have survived till 16th century AD. A small trek uphill from the entrance gate took us to the votive stupas. The amazing stone votives with inscriptions and figures stood in neat rows, the distance between them being exactly the same! It’s a wonder with how much precision and accuracy these were made. It is said, students were supposed to build a votive to symbolize the successful completion of learning.
We, the modern erudite people couldn’t even dream of paying such wonderful adulation to our alma-mater.A narrow pathway led us to the main monastery. The green field on one side was resplendent with wildflowers. The existing relics here speak of the magnificence of the monastery. A large stone courtyard lies in the middle with monastic cells all around the porch. The intricate designs of the entablature attest the glory of the Vihara in its heydays.
Directly opposite to the entrance towards the rear end of the courtyard, there is a cell housing a huge statue of Lord Buddha in the Bhumisparsha Mudra. Two male figurines are there on either side of the statue with lotuses and chamars (fans) in their hands. Perhaps this served as an altar. Huge heads of Buddha, statues of Tara, Jambhala, and several other sacred Tantric deities are strewn all over the place. You can feel the awe, the excellence, and the wonder of Ratnagiri here.Standing in the middle of the huge courtyard, with the vast blue sky above, it seemed history came alive to us. It gave me a shiver down the spine to think of those days when India was one of the most revered countries of the world.
The giant Buddha head besides the entrance looked like as if it was healing us from the core. Those lotus eyes still shine with mercy and love spreading ahimsa. You are bound to feel the magic when you’re in Ratnagiri, the divine essence dominating all devilish spirits around. The lush green freshness will rejuvenate your eyes and mind, the somber serenity will provide you a somnolence. The Tantric Buddhist monks wisely chose these places to attain enlightenment through learning while Mother Nature carefully curved her beauty here to match the soulful illumination. I’ve witnessed the past in glimpses of the present. The opulent architecture, the mesmerizing scenic beauty will be in my mind forever.
P.S. There is an air-conditioned museum in Ratnagiri housing over 3000 artifacts that have been excavated from the site is also a must visit.
This trip was originally published on Scattered Thoughts.