The Five Buddhist Sites of Odisha
Where Buddhism is talked about, Odisha’s name is certainly one of the leads. Having embraced the rich Buddhist heritage from the 6th century BCE, Odisha has its share of many Buddhist sites scattered across the length & breath. Moreover, there are some which not only have the largest concentration of Buddhist remains but are also a must-visit for instant enlightenment.
Ratnagiri (Jewel Mountain) is an excavated area comprising of two quadrangular monasteries, along with the remains of eight temples and about 300 minor stupas. The development of Buddhist art and architecture at Ratnagiri, whose ancient name was Ratnagiri Mahaviharaya Arya Viksu Sangha, took place between 5th century AD and 13th century CE. Most of the sculptures found here date back to 8th and 9th centuries. It was a part of the Puspagiri University, together with Lalitgiri and Udayagiri.
Set in the valley of two rivers, Birupa and Chitrotpala, the monastery was discovered by a local British official in 1905. A seven year excavation of the site by the Archaeological Survey of India beginning in 1985 yielded a number of stone inscriptions, seals, sealing, and potsherds, which established the site as having flourished between 2nd-3rd and 14-15th century CE. It is a popular tourist destination and pilgrimage site for its enormous brick monasteries.
UDAYAGIRI & KHANDAGIRI
If Lalitgiri is the oldest Buddhist site in the area, Udayagiri and Khandagiri is the most picturesque. Located at the base of verdant rolling hills forming a semi circle, this site exemplifies the blissful and tranquil natural surroundings selected for the construction of Buddhist monasteries in ancient India. It is a Buddhist complex in Odisha comprising major stupas and monasteries and is also famous for its Jain monuments.
Dhauli is also famous for its Buddhist monuments. It happens to be the place where the bloodiest of battles were fought and won by Emperor Ashoka. This monument marked his transformation from an ambitious king of a prospering kingdom to a follower of Buddha and his teaching. The evidence of this transformation can be seen at Dhauli, 8 km from Bhubaneswar, in the form of a rock edict marked by the image of an elephant sculpted from the overhanging rock. There are two such rock edicts still surviving in Odisha.
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