Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Journey To A Treasure Trove

Updated: May 2, 2015 10:51 am

Anyone who has an interest in history of Buddhism in Odisha will thoroughly enjoy oneself on a visit to the archeological museum at the famous Buddhist site in Ratnagiri of Jajpur district. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) built the museum in 1998. Since its inception, the museum is the treasure trove of the extensive collection of unearthed Buddha images, potteries, relic pots, terracotta plaques, bronze objects, stone sculptures and other artifacts that are now on display at the four big halls of the two storied museum on a hillock. All the displayed objects had been unearthed from the Buddhist site Ratnagiri and its nearby areas.

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“The museum has 3535 listed antiquities of which 244 are displayed in the museum galleries, corridor, back-side verandah and in the front entrance of the museum. The museum consists of four big galleries with a long stepped corridor displayed with various antiquities mainly related to Buddhism. The museum also exhibits stone sculptures between 9 and 11th century. Images of Buddha in various  poses, Bodhisattava, Jambhala, Vasudhara, woman in dancing posture and the colossal heads of Buddha at the center of gallery no-1 and 2 highlight the glory of medieval art. Besides the exquisite images of Tara in different Mudras, Chuda in Medhi, Jambhala, Vasudhara the goddess of plenty are on display. The elegant figures of the mediaeval period represents the rich cultural heritage of that period in its exuberances”, said Dr Susanta Kar, the Assistant Superintending Archaeologist of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and in-charge of the museum.

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The gallery no-4 is miscellaneous in nature in which various antiquities like inscribed pottery, relic pots, terracotta plaques, iron implements and some bronze objects are on display. The potsherds with inscriptions, the terracotta plaques depicting Buddha, seals, inscribed copper plates are displayed in this gallery. Buddha in bronze and other decorative bronze objects are also the main attraction to the visitors to this gallery. The gallery no-3 displays Buddha image in Bhumisparsa mudra, stupa depicting Buddha, goddess Vaishnavis and Durga, inscribed stone slabs and other antiquities.

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The museum also exhibits a Tara stone image which was unearthed in Ratnagiri. Tara is a female Boddhisatva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. Tara was known as mother of liberation and represents the virtues of success, said Dr Kar. Dedicated to state’s rich Buddhist history, the museum presents state’s most extensive artifact collections and historic exhibits in the museum, added Dr Kar. “I would love to come back to Ratnagiri and see the museum again,” said a tourist from France who recently visited along with other French tourists to the museum. The archaeological treasures of Ratnagiri known as “Hill of Jewels” were first noticed by M.M. Chakravarty in 1905. Extensive excavations at Ratnagiri carried out by the ASI between 1958 and 1961 brought to light the remains of a magnificent Buddhist establishment consisting of a stupa, monastic complexes, shrines, votive stupas, myriad of sculptures, architectural fragments and other antiquities. On the basis of the sealings bearing the legend “ Sri Ratnagiri Mahavihariya arya bhikshu sanghasa” the place has been identified as Ratnagiri. The construction activities of Ratnagiri got special impetus under the royal patronage of the Bhaumakaras during 9th-10th century. The exquisitely carved chlorite doorframe is unique of its kind and marks the highest watermark of decorative art of the country. The sanctum enshrines a massive seated Buddha in bhumisparsa-mudra flanked by the standing figures of Padmapani and Vajrapani holding chamaras on each site. Excavations have yielded a rich hoard of antiquities including the stone and bronze images of Buddha and Buddhist divinities like Tara, Lokesara, Vajrapani, Padmapani, Aparajita, Heruka, Sambara, Harifi, Manjusri etc, said Harish Chandra Prusti, a noted researcher of the district.

By Ashis Senapati from Ratnagiri

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