Chhattisgarh shows its way for the Buddhist faith with spectacular places to visit and experience amidst those sites where the enlightened Buddha can be felt.
These are the various places to experience the divine beauty of Buddha:
Sirpur, situated at a distance of 78 kilometers from Raipur in Chhattisgarh, is an important historical Buddhist site in India. An important centre of Buddhism during 6th to 10th century BC, the modern Sirpur, which contains the remains of the 100 Buddha Viharas, 4 Jain Vihara, 200 mounds and more than 100 Shiva temples is an ancient and medieval Buddhist site which houses some of the most treasured places for the Buddhists and historians alike. The beauty of this magical place has beckoned the presence of His Holiness Dalai Lama too in March 2013.
In the seventh century CE, famous Chinese traveller Huien Tsang visited Sirpur. He described the city in his accounts as a pillar of Buddhism in the central region. The excavations here have yielded extensive ruins of ancient structures scattered over a vast area which is four times bigger than that of Nalanda. Among the numerous temples and Buddhist monasteries (Viharas), the most notable are the Lakshman Temple, Gandheshwar Temple, Anandprabhu Kutir Vihara and Swastika Vihara.
A treasure trove of enthralling historic remains, the artistic Gandheshwar temple is situated on the banks of the Mahanadi River. An endless galore of interesting architectural remains from ancient temples and Viharas, the temple mesmerizes tourists with an impeccable collection of rare statues. The statue of Buddha touching the earth, Nat raj, Garud Narayan and Mahishasur mardini are very rare and equally enchanting. Tourists flock to visit the rare face of Ravan, a popular attraction of this temple. The many Shiva-Leela pictures at the top of the entrance are just a glimpse of the wonders that are waiting to be explored inside.
The rising popularity of Sirpur can be accredited to the various Buddhist excavations discovered here. Truly blessed with the scenic beauty, the Buddha Vihara exude warmth and portrays religious harmony. Brick constructions and underground rooms stand testimony to a mystical era. The Buddha Vihara flaunts wonderful inscriptions which reveal that the ardent Buddha follower bhikshu Anandprabhu created the shelter during the period of Mahashivgupt Balarjun. The world of the lord continued to reveal itself with the ‘Swastika Vihara’ that was also excavated to reveal a huge Buddha statue and metal idols relating to the Buddhist era.
Built by Mahashivgupt Balarjun, the monastery also consists of a Buddhist female monk, believed to be that of Haritika, who used to abduct and kill infants. It is said that the Buddha stole her child to make her feel the pain of other mothers. The incident changed her and she became a Buddhist monk. The statue of Haritika also reflects the popularity of the female cult in early India.
Malhar is a ancient town situated at a distance of 32 km from Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh. In Malhar, many ancient temples have been found, such as the Pataleshwar temple, the Devri temple & the Dindeshwari temple. Ancient deposits and Jain memorials were also found here. The Pataleshwar Kedar temple is one, where the Gomukhi Shivling is the main attraction. The Dindeshwari temple of the Kalchuri regime is also significant. Artistic idols are present in the Deor temple. There is also a museum in Malhar, being managed by the Government of India, having a good collection of old sculptures. Malhar is in the list of "Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains of National Importance" maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. .
Malhar's antique charm and mesmerising sculptures create an ambience that can never be forgotten by archaeologists, historians and passionate travellers. The excavations at Malhar show continuous inhabitation and antiquity from the 2nd century BCE to 12th century CE. Buddhist sculptures and idols are a reflection of the progress that was achieved in Malhar during the 7th-10th century. Idols of Buddha, Bodhisattva, Tara, Manjushree, Hevajra and many more Buddhist gods have been discovered here. This is truly a reflection of the Buddhist religion spreading fast in this region.
Pragyagiri at Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh is situated on a hilltop of 1000 feet. This is a Buddha Vihara with a big Buddha statue facing eastwards. The Statue of Lord Gautama Buddha at Pragyagiri makes it one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. Every day, the sun shines upon the Buddha Statue, enlightening it with rays of divinity. It needs 225 steps to reach the mountain and there on top of the hill is a garden with descriptions on the rock. The effort is well worth the experience.
Mainpat called as "Shimla of Surguja ", is a charming hill station situated in Sarguja District of Chhattisgarh at a height of 1099 m above sea level and is a popular tourist attraction. . It is a place where Buddhism blossoms in the most spectacular natural surroundings. Mainpat has a large population of migrant Tibetans, who were settled here after 1959 when his holiness the Dalai Lama and his followers moved to India. The followers of Dalai Lama have developed a beautiful atmosphere of humanity in Mainpat. The Buddha Temple in Sarguja District of Chhattisgarh was built by the Tibetans who settled in Mainpat and is a place to appreciate the art of the Buddha Vihars and the people of Tibet. It is also home to a number of Tibetan religious exiles who worship at the temple dedicated to Buddha and manufacture designer mats as well as woolen cloth.
Recently, the village has developed its infrastructure like roads and some guest houses with the help of the state and the central government
Another major tourist attractions includes the Tiger Point Waterfall. There are about two other waterfalls namely Fish point which is near The Tibetan Camp No. 6 and Tiger Point water fall. The above two waterfalls are worth seeing and Chattisgarh government has developed the Tiger point for tourists where there is a picnic area and a cooking place also.
Manipat is a perfect get away and if one wishes to get away from the bustling noise of city life then this is the place to visit with friends and family.