Budhist MonumentsBuddhism was known in Odisha, right from the time of its inception, though the Lord Buddha never visited Odisha during his lifetime. Buddhist chronicles refer to Buddha's Kesa, Asthi (Hair, relic) brought to Odra (Odisha, Odisha) by two rich traders Tapassu and Bhallika. In the subsequent period, the nail and tooth relices of Buddha too entered into Odisha. The influence and impact of Buddhism continued in Odisha until 15th century. The innumerable stupas, viharas (monasteries) and images found across Odisha testify to its long heritage.
Major Buddhist Monuments
Dhauli, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri, Udaygiri
Minor Buddhist Monuments
Padmapur, Deogarh, Banpur, Kuruma, Biswanath Hill, Jaugada, Naraj
Dhauli8 km south of the present Bhubaneswar, across the Daya River, Dhauli has major edicts of Ashoka engraved on a mass of rock. It is presumed to be the area of the bloody battle of Kalinga, won by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 265 BC. Though he conquered, but the horrors of having slain over 150,000 people and misery it inflicted on the people filled Ashoka with remorse and brought about a sudden change of heart. He gave up his ambition of digvijaya (military conquest) in favour of dharma-vijay (spiritual conquest). The great mauryan king renounced the path of violence to embrace Buddhism and publicized his new maxims in rock edicts, installed in different part around the empire.
There exists Vishwa Shanti Stupa, peace pagada, at the top of Dhauli Hill, built by Indo Japaneswe collaboration in 1972, standing in the form of a massive dome with lotus petals as its crown. The five chhatris (umbrellas) placed on its flattened top represent five important aspects of Budhism. Four colossal images of Buddha and scenes from Jatak stores depicted on walls catch attention.
Dhauli is located just 5 kms away from Bhubaneswar city on the way to Puri. A visitor can hire a taxi or auto riskshaw from Bhubaneswar to reach there in an 15-20 minutes drive.
Ratnagiri, Udaygiri, LalitgiriHidden away in the beautiful hill sand lush paddy fields, amidst the serene surroundings of Mahandi basin lie the remains of an imposing Buddhist Monastery complex (of the Vajrayana sect) called pushpagiri, housing Ratnagiri, Udaygiri and Lalitgiri. About 20 km from the main road, its scenic beauty and the archaeological importance is tremendous.
Ratnagiri (Jewel Hill) on the bank of river keluo was a major monastic establishment referred to in the travelogue of Hiuen Tasang who visited this area is 639 AD. Located on top of a moud, crowned by a enormous stupa, the finds include a structure with a surrounding verandah supported by 60 pillars, built a around a central courtyard entered through a beautifully carve gateway made of local blue green chlorite stone. Inside the shrine is large seated Khondalite Buddha image (in a rare Bhomisparsa posture) together with other Buddhist divinits, several Budha leads (two of them in enormous size of over 1m in circumference) and carvings of Bodhisattvas and a figure of Tara, the female counterpart of Buddha. A small museum displays fine sculptural figures found at the side dating from 9-10th centuries, tetra cotta and ivory objects and some miniature bronzes.
10 km south of Ratnagiri, the most recently discovered of these three sites, Udyagiri (sunrise Hill) has a bell shaped stupa signifying the Vajrayan Buddhism. The site still being excavated has better preserved sculptures. The monastery, within a large compound, has 18 cells for monks within a verandah arranged around a courtyard. Further up the hills (a bit difficult climb) in the west is a row of rock-cut sculptures, while the northern spur is covered with the ruins of brick stupas. The 3m sculpture of Buddha here has an 8th century inscription on it.
Further, 10km South of Udayaigir Lalithgiri (Hills of Grace) is better accessible, directly connected by bus to Cuttack, along the main road towards Paradeep. This is believed to be the oldest of the sites and thought to be the Pushagiri described by Hiuen tsang. Most of the ruins, spread over two adjacent hills date this site closer to the 2nd century, though an inscription in ancient Brahmi script on an underlying brick stupa suggests Buddhist presence around the 1st century BC. The finds, include a terraced stone platform, a gallery of huge Bodhiasttva figures and a 20 m high apsidal temple. Of the three caskets found, two contained stone, silver and gold caskets with preserved relics inside. The views across the lush green paddy fields and the sister sites from her splendid. At the foot of the hill, a small stone carvers' village traces its connection to craftsman who worked on the original wonders of stone sculptures.
GETTING TO THESE THREE SITES
There three sites are located about 60 km northeast of Cuttact and can be conveniently visited in a day excursion from Bhubaneswar or Cuttack.
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