Buddhism has played an integral role in shaping the religious history of Odisha. Home to more than 200 Buddhist sites, Odisha is dotted with innumerable stupas, virahas (monastery) and images that testify to the long heritage of the religion in the state. The wide influence of Buddhism in Odisha is evident from the art, literature, architecture, sculptures and philosophy of the period. Discover more of this delightful state in the second part of the series:
Often called the `Little Tibet of Odisha', Jirang, nestled in the hills of Chandragiri is the ideal blend of nature’s bounty and spiritual enlightenment. One of the lesser known Tibetan settlements in the country, Jirang with its imposing sights, verdant surroundings and lushness, serves as the largest Buddhist monastery in eastern India. Acclaimed for the Padmasambhava Mahavihara monastery, also popularly known as the Jirang monastery, it is a 5-hour drive from the capital Bhubaneswar. The Tibetans call this place ‘Phuntsokling’, which literally translates to ‘land of plenty and happiness’.
Situated in Ganjam district, near the cities of Behrampur and Purushottampur, Jaugada is famous for the rock edicts of emperor Ashoka. Once an ancient fortified settlement, Jaugada is believed to have been associated with the Mahabharata period, with the fort being commissioned by Duryodhana. The fort served as the Mauryan capital of the Kalinga province and was made of lac, thereby making it impregnable, as enemies could not scale the walls. An important archaeological and historical site today, it is under the protection of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). Engraved in Prakrit, the inscriptions contain information on the administrative policies during the reign of Ashoka.
Set in the plains of Mahanadi Delta in Jajpur district, the Buddhist stupas and shrines of Langudi date back to the medieval period. One can come across ruins of a monastery, terracotta figures, seals and different types of pottery that were unearthed here. The hill also houses the remains of Pushpagiri Mahavihara, a major Buddhist centre of learning that gained prominence in the 2nd century. A hub of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana sects of Buddhism, Langudi Hill is also home to the country’s oldest Ashoka stupa. Today, it is one of the top tourist attractions in the Buddhist circuit and has been declared a heritage site under the supervision of the state government and Archaeological Survey Of India.
Renowned for the three stupas built by emperor Ashoka, Tarapur is home to the Kesa Stupa, one of the earliest stupas of Buddhism. It is believed that the relic was built by Buddha’s disciples Tapusa and Bhallika. According to legend, Lord Buddha had given them eight strands of his hair, which are stored in the stupa. The stupa was discovered in Tarapur and the two pillars carried the inscription “Kesha Thupa” and “Bheku Tapasu.” Tarapur also houses several plain railings, pillars and crossbars with inscriptions—some in Brahmi, while others are in proto-Odia and Odia script.
See odishatourism.gov.in for more.
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