Buddhist Sites in Odisha
Buddhism was known in Odisha, right from the time of its inception, though the Lord Buddha never visited Odisha during his lifetime. In the 7th century, the visit of Hiuen Tsang to Odisha 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 Odisha until 15th century. The innumerable stupas, viharas (monasteries) and images found across Odisha (Orissa) testify to its long heritage.
- 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 Odisha (Orissa) also serve to be a historical site of importance. An ancient stupa containing relics preserved in caskets of stone is one of the recent and spectacular discoveries.
- Dhauli Hill: The Shanti Stupa at the Dhauli Hill, on the bank of the River Daya, is also one of the much famed Buddhist sites at Odisha. It was here that emperor Ashoka underwent a psyche change and abandoned war for the rest of his life, in the 3rd century BC. So, 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.
- Puphagiri was one of the earliest Buddhist mahavihara spread across Cuttack and Jajpur district; about 90 km from the Mahanadi delta contains contained several stupas, monasteries, temples, and sculptures in the architectural style of the Gupta period. Puphagiri University ranks along with Nalanda, Vikramshila and Takshila universities and are mentioned in the travelogues of the famous Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang, who visited it in 7th century, as Puphagiri Mahavihara as well as in medieval Tibetan texts.
- Lalitgiri also known as Naltigiri is a Buddhist complex in Orissa comprising major stupas and monasteries (viharas), similar to Ratnagiri and, together with Ratnagiri and Udayagiri, part of Puspagiri University. The site was extensively excavated by the A.S.I. from 1985-92. The remains of a huge stupa, and relic caskets consisting four containers made of khondalite, steatite, silver and gold were discovered along with other important structure and archaeological remains.
- Udayagiri is a Buddhist complex in Orissa composed of major stupas and monasteries (viharas), similar to Ratnagiri, and together with Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri part of Puspagiri University. As per epigraphically artifacts found here, its historical name was “Madhavapura Mahavihara.