Odisha: a home for abundant natural life, wildlife sanctuaries and beautiful monuments.
Odisha has multi tourist attractions ranging from the beautiful monuments to the craftsmanship of artistic excellence. Each of these Monuments has a significance in the history of Odisha. Some of these monuments are in a derelict condition as the ravages of time leaves nothing untouched.
Most of the monuments in Odisha that remain today are large temple complexes dedicated to a presiding deity, with the construction of the temple parts likened to a human body. The monuments in Odisha provided for worshippers in a separate square shaped porch called the "jagamohana" to congregate and await their turn to pay their respects to the deity.
Many of these Monuments in Orissa are archeological finds that have been unearthed. Some bear testimony to Buddhist influence while others tell of Jain influences. Some of the most frequented Monuments in Orissa are:
Dhauli is famous for the edicts related to Buddhism that were composed from the Brahmi script and used Prakrit language. One can spot a series of rock cut monuments on this hill. Numerous artifacts tell us about the urban settlement at this place in the 3rd century B.C. One finds the image of intricately carved elephant and close to this elephant, you have a stupa.
An enormous temple in Dhauli is the Dhavaleswar Temple, which is much frequented by the visitors. In addition to this, you have the Bahirangeswar Temple, Siva Temple as well as the Ganesha Temple that together add to the religious aspect of this place.
Moreover, Dhauli also has another attraction named as the Shanti Stupa whose foundation was laid by the Japan Buddhist Sangha. Therefore, Dhauli is a worth visiting place by the diehard devotees of Lord Buddha.
Lalitgiri is a major center of Buddhism hemmed between the Parabhadi and Landa sandstone hills in the standalone Assian hill range. It is situated in the Mahanga Tahsil in Cuttack district.
The site about 3 km south of Bandareswar village was first excavated in 1985.Large architectural remains including a 20-m-high apsidal temple have been found together with sculptures and decorated door jambs. A stone platform with inscriptions dates this site closer to the second century although Kushana Brahmi inscriptions on an underlying brick stupa suggest Buddhist occupation around the first century BC. Three caskets were also found, two of which contained stone, silver and gold caskets with preserved relics inside. The caretaker will open the small museum. There is a stone-carvers' village at the base of Lalitgiri which traces its connections back to ancient times and produces excellent sculpture.
Puspagiri, situated atop Langudi hills of Odisha, was an ancient Buddhist Mahavihara established in 3rd century AD. It flourished in this region till 11th century AD. Langudi hills are spread across Cuttack and Jajpur districts of the state.
Exquisite sculptures and beautiful architecture of the Gupta dynasty adorn these structures. The campus stands in a picturesque landscape whose beauty is further augmented by Kelua River, a tributary of the Brahmani River which flows along north east of Langudi hills. Puphagiri was considered as one of the primary institutions of higher education in ancient India and was often ranked with Takshila, Vikramshila and Nalanda.
Exploring the most religious and paramount Buddhist sculptures, especially around the hills of Odisha gives you a true experience of peace of mind and soul that every Buddhist follower wishes to visit. Yes, the famous place is Ratnagiri of Jajpur , one of the famous destinations on the Buddhist Tour in Odisha. However, the history of Ratnagiri is also related to Gupta Dynasty. Talking more about Ratnagiri, it has been of historical and religious significance that makes it an ideal destination to explore. The small yet religious town in Jajpur District is known for a huge monastery that relates to Mahayana Sect along with famous kings like Ashoka and others from the Gupta Dynasty. Apart from its strong historical backgroung, Ratnagiri is also known for the flow of main rivers of Odisha known as Mahanadi, Brahmani, Kimiria and Birupa.
Along with enjoying the beauty of these major rivers of Odisha you can find wide range of different tourist attractions in and around Ratnagiri that keeps in account the places like Dhaulagiri, Lalitgiri, Udayagiri and many more. Ratnagiri tourism is also known for Buddhism of the Tantric cult that is popularly known as Vajrayana.
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 closeby, 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.
A large number of Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhist images and figurines found in Odisha suggest that this form of Buddhism found a fertile growing ground in Odisha.
Apart from the Buddha figures, the other important feature of Buddhist plastic art in Odisha is the representation of Boddhisattva Avalokiteswara in his different forms such as Padmapani, Lokeswara, Vajrapani etc. We also find sculptures of Tara, Manjusri, Amoghasiddhi etc. in this period. A Lokeswara image found at Bhubaneswar, Amoghasiddhi near Phulbani, Buddha in Bhumi-sparsa mudra from Khadipada, and Avalokiteswara Padmapani in standing pose from Khadipada are displayed at the Odisha State Museum in Bhubaneswar. Most of these Buddhist sculptures are very big in dimension. The museum at Lalitgiri preserves colossal Boddhisattva figures in it. Many more such figures are located at nearby Udayagiri and Ratnagiri.
We have a large number of Vajrayana sculptures at Ratnagiri. These are different forms of Avalokiteswara, Manjusri, Heruka, Jambhala, Kurukulla, Mahakala, Vajrasattva, Aparchana, Vajrapani, Tara, Aparajita, Marichi, Arya Saraswati, Vajra Tara, etc.
Other important sculptures are the Tara figures of Solampur, the three Vajrasattva figures along with a Buddha image from Haripur, Prajnaparamita from Banesvaranasi, Tara image at Banpur, a Maitreyi image at Natara near Kendupatna, Avalokiteswara, Padmapani and Yamantaka images at Kuruma, Marichi and Vajravarahi at Ayodhya, Buddha from Khiching and Buddha figures of Ganiapalli. It is interesting to note that the back slab of a Buddha image at Solampur contains the story of Buddha, from his birth to nirvana.
Udayagiri & Khandagiri Caves
One of the earliest groups of Jain rock-cut shelters, the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri command a unique position in the field of history, rock-cut architecture, art and religion. The two hills rise abruptly from the coastal plain, about six km west of Bhubaneswar, separated by a highway.
Called lena, in the inscriptions, the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagin are essentially dwelling retreats or cells of the Jain ascetics, opening directly into the verandah or the open space in front. Mostly excavated near the top of the ledge or boulder, they simply provided dry shelter for meditation and prayer, with very little amenities even for small comforts. The height being too low, does not allow a man to stand erect.
Each cell was tenanted by several monks. The cells are austerely plain, but their facades are encrusted with sculptures depicting auspicious objects worshipped by Jains, court scenes, royal processions, hunting expeditions and scenes of daily life. The austere later additions, when Jainism no longer enjoyed royal patronage in this part, show 24 Jain tirthankars. At present, all the important caves have been numbered for to avoid confusion in nomenclature.
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.