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Home > Explore by Theme > Buddhist Circuit > Buddhist Sites in Orissa
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Buddhist Sites in Orissa
  Dhauli
 
The rock outcropping on Dhauli hill at the bank of the river Daya, is a little away from the main road as one drives 8 km south of Bhubaneswar. It is the site of a set of rock edicts left by the Indian emperor Ashoka in about 260 BC.
   
 
The Odishan edicts, consisting of two special edicts not found elsewhere, are essentially public injunctions to the empire's administrators in the area, enjoining them to rule with gentleness and justice:
 
'...these are my instructions to you. You are in charge of many thousands of living beings. You should gain the affection of men. All men are my children, and as I desire for my children that they should obtain welfare and happiness both in this world and the next, the same do I desire for all men...'
   
 
The elephant which emerges from the rock above the inscription was probably meant to draw attention to the edict, and to serve as a symbol. Elephants are frequently associated with the Buddha, either as the form in which he is believed to have entered his mother's womb, as the form the Buddha assumed in a previous incarnation, or as the sacred symbol of Buddhism itself.
   
 
The serenity of the place and the legacy of Buddhism motivated the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha, under the guidance of Guruji Fujii, Founder President of Nipponzan Myohoji of Japan to establish a Peace Pagoda or Shanti Stupa at Dhauli along with the construction of the monastery called Saddharma Vihar in early seventies of 19th century. Along with the Ashokan Edicts, the Peace Pagoda and modern Buddhist Monastery, Dhauli offers the visitors small-rock cut caves, Hindu temples of early medieval period and a renovated Siva temple known as Dhavalesvara on top of the hill are added attractions.
   
  Lalitgiri
 
The earliest Buddhist Complex dating back to the 1st century AD, Lalitgiri forms an important node of the Diamond Triangle ie Lalitgiri (in present Cuttack district) and Ratnagiri and Udayagiri (in present Jajpur district). Well connected by excellent roads to Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, recent excavations here have brought to light significant archaeological material that upholds Lalitgiri as a great centre of Buddhist attraction.
   
 

The majestic ruins of the huge brick monastery, the remains of the chaitya hall, a number of votive stupas and a renovated stone stupa at the apex of a small rugged sandstone hill dominate the rural greenery around.

   
 
In addition, the museum displays a large number of Mahayana sculptures consisting of colossal Buddha figures, huge Boddhisattva statues, statues of Tara, Jambhala and others. Interestingly, most of these sculptures contain short inscriptions on them. The Standing Buddha figures, with knee length draperies over the shoulders remind one of the influence of the Gandhara and Mathura school of art. This also brings to mind the fact of Prajna, who had come from Takshasila to ancient Odisha to learn the philosophy of Yoga.
   
 
He later left for China in the eigth century A.D. with an autographed manuscript of the Buddhist text Gandavyuha, from the then Odishan king Sivakara Deva 1, to the Chinese Emperor Te-tsong. The discovery of caskets containing sacred relics, probably of the Tathagata himself, from the stone stupa at the top of the hill, further enhances the sacredness of the stupa as well as of Lalitgiri for Buddhists around the world. It also brings to mind the description of Hiuen T'sang, the famed Chinese traveller of the seventh century A.D., about the magnificent stupa on top of a hill at Puspagiri Mahavihara which emitted a brilliant light because of its sacredness. "On the basis of archaeological materials including inscriptions brought to light by excavation, Langudi hill in Jajpur district may be identified as Puspagiri."
   
  Ratnagiri
 
Ratnagiri in the Birupa river valley in the district of Jajpur, is another famous Buddhist centre. The small hill near the village of the same name has rich Buddhist antiquities. A large-scale excavation has unearthed two large monasteries, a big stupa, Buddhist shrines, sculptures, and a large number of votive stupas. This excavation revealed the establishment of this Buddhist centre at least from the time of the Gupta king Narasimha Gupta Baladitya (first half of the sixth century A.D.). Buddhism had developed at this place - unhindered upto the 12th century A.D.
   
 
In the beginning, this was an important centre of Mahayana form of Buddhism. During the 8th-9th century A.D., this became a great centre of Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana art and philosophy. Pag Sam Jon Zang, a Tibetan source, indicates that the institution at Ratnagiri played a significant role in the emergence of Kalachakratantra during the 10th century A.D. This is quite evident from the numerous votive stupas with reliefs of divinities of the Vajrayana pantheon. Separate images of these divinities and inscribed stone slabs, and moulded terracotta plaques with dharanis found in the excavation at Ratnagiri.
   
 
Presently this university of Buddhist learning is found in ruins that attract a number of visitors every year. For lovers of art and architecture, lay tourists as well as special groups, Ratnagiri offers in its magnificent ruins, a large brick monastery with beautiful doorways, cella, sanctum with a colossal Buddha figure, and a large number of Buddhist sculptures. There is a smaller monastery at the place along with a stone temple, brick shrines and a large stupa with numerous smaller stupas around.
   
  Udayagiri
 
The largest Buddhist Complex in Odisha, Udayagiri in the district of Jajpur has assumed further importance after recent excavations which revealed the ancient name of the monastery as Madhavapura Mahavihara. The excavations also brought to light a sprawling complex of brick monastery with a number of Buddhist sculptures. The entire area is found located at the foothills of a large hill that acts as an imposing backdrop.
   
 
The archaeological remains at Udayagiri consist of a brick stupa, two brick monasteries (one excavated and the other still unexcavated), a beautiful stepped stone well with inscriptions on it, and rock-cut sculptures at the top of the hill behind. Chronologically, the Udayagiri Buddhist Complex is later than Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri, and the monasteries probably flourished between the 7th and the 12th centuries A.D.
   
 
The large number of exposed sculptures from the excavations, as well as those still in situ, belong, obviously to the Buddhist pantheon and consist of Boddhisattva figures and Dhyani Buddha figures. Interestingly, although the site is located close to Ratnagiri (about 5 km), Udayagiri does not possess a number of Vajrayana sculptures. Much is still to be known about this site. In its present state, Udayagiri provides visitors a grand sight with its newly excavated sprawling monastery complex that has to be reached through a long stairway. The un-excavated area poses a mystery to archaeologists, art lovers and lay visitors alike with the prospects of the hidden treasures that lie buried. Adventure seekers will be thrilled by the ascent to the hilltop. The hilly, serpentine, all-weather approach road on the other side of Udayagiri is another added attraction.
   
  Recognition for Buddhist heritage and learning centers of Odisha
   
 
 
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