Temples & Monuments :: Buddhist Monuments


Base for visit: Bhubaneswar
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 Orissan 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.

Base for visit: Jeypore, Rayagada
The village of Padmapur in the district of Rayagada is a flourishing agricultural centre today. However, a 7th century inscription found here indicates that the Jagamanda hill, located close by, once housed the monastery of the famous Buddhist logician-philosopher Dharmakirti. The hill also has 5 Shiva temples dedicated to Manikeswar, Dhabaleswar, Mallikeswar, Nilakantheswar and Podukeswar as well as a perennial water reservoir at the top.


Balasore District
Base for visit: Balasore
Sites of interest include Ayodhya, where rich sculptural remains have been found; Kupari, with the ruins of an old Buddhist temple and monastery; Solampur where images of Buddha have been discovered; and Khadipada and Soro, where scattered images can be found. 

Base for visit: Balugaon, Chilika
Here bronze statues of the Buddhist pantheon have been excavated. The large number of Buddhist images discovered here relate the place to the Vajrayan cult of Buddhism. 

Base for visit: Konark, Puri
8 km from the world famous Sun Temple of Konark, Kuruma is a small village. Recent excavations here have brought to light the reminiscence of some ancient Buddhist antiquities like the image of Buddha seated in Bhumisparsa Mudra along with the image of Heruka, and a 17 metres long brick wall (brick size: 22 cm X 17 cm). Scholars are of opinion that this was one of the sites containing Buddhist stupas described by Hiuen T'sang. The place is approachable by jeep.

Biswanath Hill
Base for visit:
Biswanath Hill is known for its ancient monastery of Dignag, the Buddhist Logician and Philosopher.

Base for visit: Cuttack, Bhubaneswar
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 (Formerly Orissa) 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 Orissan 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."


Base for visit: Cuttack, Bhubaneswar
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.

Base for visit: Cuttack, Bhubaneswar
The largest Buddhist Complex in Odisha (Formerly Orissa), 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.

Base for visit:
Jaugada forms a part of the Malati range of hills and occupies an important place in Ashokan studies. It is the second place in Odisha (Formerly Orissa) where Ashokan rock edicts specially addressed to Kalinga have been inscribed. Here on a clean surface of granite is an edict of Emperor Ashoka which provides valuable information about the pattern of administration followed by the great emperor. About 2 km from Jaugada is Buddhakhol, where visitors can see images of the Buddhist pantheon along with the Shaivite shrines.

Sambalpur District
Base for visit: Sambalpur
The ruins on Gandhamardan Hill are thought by some to be the remains of the monastery called 'Parimalagiri' by Huien T'sang; Ganiapali is an early site which has been recently excavated.

Cuttack District
Base for visit: Cuttack, Bhubaneswar
In addition to the major site at Lalitgiri, Buddhist sculptures and ruins have been found at Brahmabana (near Salipur, dated to the 10th century A.D.) and at Baneswaranasi (near Narasinghapur, dated to the 8th century A.D.). Close to Cuttack city lies Naraj, a picturesque scenic spot which was once a famous seat of Buddhist culture & learning.

Khandagiri & Udaigiri
Base for visit: Bhubaneswar
To the west of Bhubaneswar are the twin hills of Khandagiri and Udaygiri (c. first century BC), the next major Orissan historical monument after Ashoka's rock-cut edict.

The rocks of the Khandagiri and Udaygiri hills were carved and tunneled, to create this multi-storied ancient apartment residence for Jain monks. They were the work of the first known Orissan ruler, King Kharavela, and probably begun in the first century BC. Kharavela was a king of the Mahameghavahana dynasty, who is known for expansion of the Kalinga empire and his installation of public improvements, such as canal systems. His queen was evidently quite a patron of the arts, and probably had much to do with the impressive sculptural decoration of the caves.

As you approach the site, Khandagiri, with its 15 caves will be on the left. Udaygiri will be on the right. The 18 caves of Udaygiri include the famous Hathi Gumpha ('Elephant Cave') with its famous inscription of Kharavela. From the inscription, we learn much about Kharavela's military exploits, and also that his royal city had gate towers, bathing and drinking tanks, and was the scene of formally organized music and dance performances, as well as sporting and social events. The city, says the inscription, "was made to dance with joy". Kharavela was evidently a skilled musician, and it seems as if he created a remarkable center of the arts.

The famous Rani Gumpha ('Queen's Cave'), also on Udaygiri, has upper and lower stories, a spacious courtyard, and elaborate sculptural friezes. The carvings show popular legends, historical scenes, and religious functions, as well as many dancers. The style seems quite well-developed, and of a singular grace and liveliness.

The Ganesha Gumpha, which is reached by a walkway from the lower storey of the Rani Gumpha, is isolated, and perhaps for this reason, better preserved. Its two dwelling-spaces with verandah in front are reached by a short staircase from the courtyard.

All of the caves are small, and follow the natural configurations of the 'living rock'. The sculpture throughout exhibits a strong, lively folk element, which has been executed with a sure and confident hand. Already, the spaces are filled with animal, human, and divine personages and decorative details, showing at an early stage the love of the Orissan artist for richly elaborated scenes.