Some serious packing after dinner leaves the night in tatters – yet, we are ready to leave the hotel at 5.30 in the morning to catch our flight to Bhubaneshwar. Sushanto, the epitome of courtesy, is our guide for the Orissa (officially renamed Odisha in November 2010) segment of our journey. He meets us at the airport, with welcoming gestures and smiles, brimming with keen anticipation and excitement at the next 10 days that we must all spend together. We settle in for the long drive to Bhitarkanika Marine Sanctuary, our final destination.
Our route winds around the Buddhist ruins of Udayagiri and Ratnagiri in the district of Jajpur. In fact, the Chinese traveller Huien T’sang noted that the three hills – Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri -- which housed a Buddhist complex, was the seat of a flourishing Buddhist University called Pushpagiri. In the northern part of Langudi Hill of the Udayagiri village there is an archaeological site with several Jain and Buddhist rock-cut caves. One of these is a double-storied cave with ranges of cells cut into three sides of an open courtyard. Inscriptions from the caves date from the 2nd century BCE to the 10th century CE. Ratnagiri was established during the reign of the Gupta king Narasimha Baladitya in the first half of the 6th century CE, and flourished until the 12th century.
The archaeological site at Udayagiri is not to be confused with that found in the twin hills of Khandagiri and Udayagiri, 8 km to the west of Bhubaneshwar, which had become strong centres of the Jain faith under the Chedi king, Kharavela.
We wander at will around some magnificent sculptural ruins – few people notice us. Foreigners are an extreme rarity in these parts but Ken is left well alone, apart from some surreptitious sidelong glances.
|A cloud of Rose-ringed Parakeets swarms over the fields of grain|
|In the fields, Hanuman Langurs complete the day's picking of peanuts|
|Preparing dung cakes for fuel is cheerful work|
Text and photos by Jennifer Nandi
All rights reserved
Previously by Jennifer Nandi:
The Andamans Diary
The Sundarbans Diary