Buddhism in Orissa (ancient Kalinga) is as old as the religion itself. Pali texts refer to Buddha's association with Tapasu and Bhallika, two businessmen from Kalianga, who are said to be the first disciples of the Buddha. While Kapilvastu, Bodhgaya and Saranath are places associated with Lord Buddha's life, Orissa was more associated with his teachings. The Chinese Traveller Hieun T’sang records to have seen more than one hundred Buddist monasteries including excellent centers of learning :Pu-si-po-ki-li and Po-lo-mo-lo-ki-li during his visit to Kalinga in 7th century AD.
Lalitagiri - Singing the glory of the past heritage, Lalitgiri is one of the oldest Buddhist Centres of Orissa, dating back to 1st Century AD. Huge brick monasteries, the remains of a chaitya hall, a number of votive stupas and a renovated stone stupa step a small rugged sand stone hill dominate the rural greenery around. The Sculpture shed of the ASI displays a large number of Mahayana sculptures consisting of life-size figures, most of which interestingly contain short inscriptions on them. The standing Buddha figures with knee-length draperies over the shoulders reminds one of the influences of the Gandhara and Mathura schools of art. The Bodhisattva images are some of the most finely sculpted figures produced in India.The discovery of golden caskets in 1985 containing sacred bone relics, probably of the Tathagata himself, from the stone stupa atop the hills further enhances the sacredness of the stupa and the place for the devout Buddhists. It also brings to mind the description of Hiuen T’sang about the magnificent stupa on the top of a hill at Puspagiri Mahavihara which emitted brilliant light because of its sacredness.
Ratnagiri has a rich concentration of Buddhist antiquities. Extensive excavation has unearthed large monasteries, a big stupa, numerous Buddhist shrines, sculptures and a large number of votive stupas. The excavation revealed the establishment of this Buddhist centre at least from the time of the Gupta king Narasimha Gupta Baladitya (first half of the sixth century AD). Buddhism had developed at this place unhindered up to 12th century AD. Initially this was an important centre of Mahayana form of Buddhism. During 8th-9th century AD, this became a great centre of Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana art and philosophy. Pag Sam Jon Zang, a Tibetan source, indicates that the institution at Ratnagiri played a significant role in the emergence of Kalachakra tantra during 10th century AD. This is quite evident from numerous votive stupas with relieves of divinities from Vajrayana pantheon, independent images of these divinities and inscribed stone slabs and molded terracotta plaques with dharanis. There is also a smaller monastery at the place along with a stone temple and brick shrines. In the midst of the magnificent monuments, that gives Ratnagiri, a special identity, is the beautifully carved stone Door-Jamb at the entrance of the brick monastery.
All the above indicate the importance of Ratnagiri as one of the main Buddhist centres of Orissa from very early times. The Mahavihara at Ratnagiri, as revealed from Orissan inscriptions, was a great centre of learning in Buddhist Philosophy. The new Museum of the ASI houses the scattered images of the area in a decent way for the visitors.
Udayagiri - Located in the basin of the u-shaped hill, Udayagiri, is one of the largest Buddhist Complexes in Orissa. It has assumed further importance after the recent excavations which revealed the ancient name of the monastery as Madhavapura Mahavihara and brought to light a sprawling complex of Buddhist remains consisting of brick monasteries, a brick stupa, rock-cut sculptures and a stepped well with an inscription. Chronologically, the Udayagiri Buddhist Complex is later than Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri and the monasteries were probably flourishing between 7th and12th centuries AD.
The large number of well-built images of Dhyani Buddha, Bodhisattva, Avalokiteswara, Tara, Jambhala, Aparajita, Heruka, etc., a double storied monastery with a shrine chamber and circumambulation path, a water reservoir and such other features make Udayagiri unique in the Buddhist World.
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The nearest airport is Biju Patnaik International Airport at Bhubaneshwar, 93 kms from Lalitgiri, 93 kms from Udayagiri and 100 kms from Ratnagiri.
Nearest rail head is Cuttack, 63 kms from Lalitgiri, 63 kms from Udayagiri and 70 kms from Ratnagiri.
Is connected by road linking National High Way No.5 from Chandikhol.