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Buddhism in Orissa
Buddhism was known in Orissa, right from the time of its inception, though the Lord Buddha never visited Orissa during his lifetime. Buddhist Chronicles refer to Buddha's Kesa Asthi (Hair relic) brought to Odra (Orissa) by two rich traders Tapassu and Bhallika. In the subsequent period, the nail and tooth relics of Buddha too entered into Odra. Scholars believe that Biraja (modern Jajpur) was a sacred land of Buddha Padmaprabha and the cradle of Mahayana, supported by fact that Jajpur and its neighbourhood are seen to be rich in Mahayanic antiquities. In the 7th century, the visit of Hiuen Tsang to Orissa vividly accounts the flourishing state of Buddhism in Odra. Between the 8th-10th century, Buddhism was the state religion under the Bhaumakaras and this period also saw evolution of tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism. The influence and impact of Buddhism continued in Orissa until 15th century. The innumerable stupas, viharas (monasteries) and images found across Orissa testify to its long heritage.
Buddhist tourism in Orissa has observed the opening up of some new vistas by recent findings from excavations. Despite a lot of Buddhist monuments already present in Orissa, these newly identified sites with Buddhist remains have also added to the charm of Orissa. With Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri hills located 90 kms from Bhubaneshwar and 60 kms North East of Cuttack, Orissa attracts a number of Buddhist tourists each year.
The Ratnagiri Hill is known to have the most extensive ruins and is famous for housing the monastery of 'Pushpagiri' reported by Chinese traveler Hiuen T' Sang. Most of the sculptures found here date back to 8th and 9th centuries. The Laitaghiri hills in Orissa also serve to be a historical site of. An ancient stupa containing relics preserved in caskets of stone is one of the recent and spectacular discoveries.

The Shanti Stupa at Dhauli hill on the bank of the river Daya is also one of the much famed Buddhist site at Orissa. It was here only that emperor Ashoka underwent a psyche change and abandoned war for the rest of his life in the 3rd century BC. Therefore, the Nippon-Buddha Sangha established a peace pagoda or Shanti Stupa at Dhauli. A monastery named Saddharma Vihar Lalitagiri was also constructed here thus making it the earliest Buddhist complex of 1st century AD.

Apart from these, Buddhist monuments are scattered throughout the state still awaiting further excavation and study. Cuttack, Sambalpur, Balasore, Ganjam and Phulbani are some to name
Buddhist Sites in Orissa  
Ruthok Monastery in Orissa

Buddhist Sites in Orissa - Devotion and History

Orissa might not have many Buddhist sites, but the few places that are there, hold a very important position in history of Buddhism. Huge excavation projects were launched in areas around Bhubaneswar, which showed few signs of Buddhism. The discoveries that were made told us that Orissa has always been an important Buddhist center. The most important center is Dhauli and the oldest is Lalitgiri. Excavations show that Lalitgiri has been an Buddhist settlement since 1st century making it one of the earliest Buddhist sites in the world. There are many monasteries, stupas and caves as tourist attractions.

 

Dhauli
Dhauli is the most important Buddhist site in Orissa. Dhauli is famous as the place where the War of Kalinga took place. It is also the place where Emperor Ashoka transformed from a war craving ruler into a peace loving saint. He became one of the most revered idols of compassion and love. Emperor Ashoka took up Buddhism and mastered its principles. Major attraction in Dhauli is the Buddhist peace Pagoda. Built on top of a hill, this Shanti Stupa was built with the help of Japanese. The magnificent white structure is probably the most beautiful sight to behold in Dhauli. Other attraction of Dhauli are Saddharma Vihar Monastery and many Buddhist art forms. Situated just 8 km from Bhubaneswar, Dhauli is easily accessible and also a great excursion spot.

Lalitgiri
Dating back to 1st century, Lalitgiri is among the oldest Buddhist settlement in the world. Lalitgiri is situated at a distance of 90 Km from the capital city of Bhubaneswar. Here you will find Buddhist caves, stupas and monasteries. All the buildings are still very well preserved and give out an ambiance of bygone era. It is said that the structures here are quite similar to those in Southeast Asian countries. The stupas unearthed contain many relics believed to have belonged to Lord Buddha himself. An apsidal temple has also been discovered. The temple is belted by many stupas and monasteries.

Ratnagiri
Large stupas and monasteries tell us that Ratnagiri was once an important Buddhist center. Just 18 km from Cuttack, the town turns out to be a great option for day excursion from the city. In recent years, huge excavations were carried out in Ratnagiri leading to many valuable information about the past of the town. Ratnagiri dates back to 6th century, a period of Gupta dynasty. The major find during the excavations was a monastery. It is believed that the monastery belongs to Mahayana sect. The monastery has a huge courtyard and 24 chambers inside the premises. Many stupas and chaityas were also discovered.

Udayagiri
Situated close to Ratnagiri and at a distance of 20 Km from Cuttack, Udayagiri is an important Buddhist site in Orissa. Here you will get to see many ancient Buddhist caves. Looking at the structure and inscription on the cave walls, it can be seen that the caves once served as learning centers for Buddhist monks. There are many Buddhist sculptures inside the caves, most of which are of Buddha in meditating positions. The Buddhist monasteries and stupas are also worth a visit. There are few caves on the Udayagiri hills as well that tells us about the rich history of Udayagiri.

 

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