Ancient Buddhist Centre of Odisha: Lalitgiri

In this article I have explain about Lalitgiri, one of the oldest Buddhist centres of Odisha, about its geogrophical location, how it is a standing witness of the glorious past, the excavated stupas, images and brick monastries, the discovery of Khandolite stone and golden caskets that brings to mind about the Chinese traveller Hiuen T’sang and the other attractive places near by it.

Buddhism in Odisha is as old as the religion itself. The Buddhist heritage in Odisha is remarkable for its rich architectural remains and sculptural wealth. The miraculous transformation of great Ashoka after the famous Kalinga war on the bank of Daya was results the radiation of Buddhism light to the world. Odisha is almost littered with several Buddhist centres of art and learning. Lalitagiri,Ratangiri and Udayagiri on the bank of Birupa river is the most opulent Buddhist site.

Lalitgiri of Jajpur district is one of the oldest Buddhist centres of Odisha. It is situated at distance of 90km away from the capital of Odisha and well connected to it by good road. It is one of the points of the Buddhist triangle which is popularly known as the diamond triangle of Odisha. It stands as a witness of the glorious past heritage spanning from 3rd century to 15th century AD. A number of votive stupas , huge brick monasteries, the remains of chaitya hall and a renovated stone stupa upholds a great centre of Buddhist attraction. The recent excavation has brought to light significant archaeological material in Lalitgiri.

Lying in the close vicinity of Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri unfolded itself with the excavation carried out in 1985 by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The sculpture shed of the ASI displays a large number of Mahayana sculptures consisting of life size figures, most of which interestingly contain short inscription on them. A wonderful brick monastery with beautiful carvings, a temple with bow shaped arches, 4 monasteries and a huge stupa were extracted by the excavation carried out in 1985. A large number of gold & silver articles, a stone container, earthen pot and Brahmi script were excavated here from treasure. Hundreds of Mahayana sculptures and artifacts found here include the images of Budha, Aparijita, Avalokitesvara, Majusri, Tara,Jambhala and Hariti and most of the sculpture contains short information about them. The Mahayana sculpture consists of the colossal Buddha figures. The Budhisattva images present over here is the most finely sculpted figures produced in India.
The standing figure of Buddha here reminds us one of the influences of Gandhara and Mathura craftsmen ship. It also reminds us to Pranja, who had come from Takshasila to Odisha to learn the Yoga philosophy and later left to China with an autographed Buddhist manuscripts Gandavyuha.

The discovery of three caskets made up of Khandolite stone kept in the core of a stupa made scholars the unique method of preservation adopted in ancient Odisha. The casket contains the relic of Buddha discovered here. Apart from this the other discoveries here includes three monasteries made of stone and burnt bricks with stone pillars and doors jambs. Bihiku Sangha had identified the site as a vihara.

In 1985 the golden caskets containing sacred bone relics, probably of Tathagata was discovered from here. It also brings to mind the description of the Chinese traveller of 7th century A.D. Hiuen T'sang . The stupa on the top of the hill Puspagiri reminds us about the emitter of sacred light to the world, Mahaveer.
Of all the excavated from here the the most attractive is the one which depicts Buddha's descent from heaven, an act considered to be one of the eight miracles of Lord Buddha.

The other attractions near Lalitgiri are

Chatia(25km from Cuttack):Famous for Lord Jagannath temple.
Olasuni Pitha: Famous for the Samadhi Pitha of sacred Hadi Das.
Chandikhol: Famous for attractive picnic spot with natural sceneries and Lord Mohabinayak temple
Ratnagiri,Udayagiri: The famous Buddhist centres of Odisha.

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