All of us must have heard of Golden Triangle that refers to Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur in the tourist circuit at the national level, and Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneswar, when it comes to tourism at the state level in Odisha.
However, how many of you have heard of the Diamond Triangle?
When we talk of a Buddhist circuit in India, we imply a visit to Bodhgaya, Vaishali, Kushinagar, Lumbini, Kapilvastu, Shravasti and Sarnath.
But here is a travel tip: next time you intend to visit some places connected with the life of Buddha, you must choose the Diamond Triangle in Odisha.
Yes, I am talking of Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri, hidden away in the green hills and lush paddy fields of Mahanadi basin where you can expect to find exquisite temples, stupas, and monuments set in serenity.
Besides, destinations of the Diamond Triangle are easily accessible from the state capital Bhubaneswar, within 80-100 km range.
What this means is that one can easily combine a visit to these treasure troves when planning to visit Bhubaneswar, Puri, and Konark.
When I last visited the three hidden gem—Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri—in 2009, there was no place to stay during the night, and we had to halt at Paradip.
However, I learn that fairly decent accommodation is available now for the tourists who intend to explore the place at leisure.
Of the three, Lalitgiri is the earliest Buddhist complex, dating back to the first century AD.
Recent excavations here have brought to light significant archaeological material that upholds Lalitgiri as a great centre of Buddhist attraction.
There is a museum here that displays a large number of Mahayana sculptors consisting of colossal Buddha figures, and huge Bodhisattva statues. According to the epigraphy and artifacts found here, the historical name of Udaygiri was Madavpura Mahavihara, while Ratnagiri was part of Puspagiri University together with Lalitgiri and Udaigiri.
Excavations conducted by ASI have unveiled the remains of an impressive stupa surrounded by a large number of votive stupas and a number of monasteries.
So, next time you plan to visit Odisha, do not forget to include the Diamond Triangle in your itinerary.
How to reach?
Lalitgiri is the main centre that connects to Ratnagiri and Udaygiri through the road.
The nearest airport is Biju Patnaik International Airport at Bhubaneswar, which is 87 km from Lalitgiri and you can either go by bus or car from there.
From Bhubaneswar, one can take the national highway number 16 and then the national highway number 53 that goes towards Paradip to reach Lalitgiri.
Bus services are available up to Bandarswar Chhak (61kms) on the Cuttack-Kendrapada-Paradip route via Chandikhole.
The remaining 3-km is to be covered by cycle rickshaw.
The nearest railway station is Cuttack which is 58 km from Lalitgiri.
(The author is 1985-batch Odisha cadre IAS officer currently posted as the secretary with the Water Resources Department, Government of India.)