Three Asokan stupas found in Orissa, add new chapter to Buddhist history

Express News Service, Aug 7, 2005

Kolkata, India -- Excavations by the Orissa Department of Culture have yielded amazing discoveries in ancient archaeology and Buddhist studies, which have the potential to add new chapters to Indian history.

Three Asokan stupas have been discovered at Tarapur, Kayama and Deuli in Dharmasala, Jajpur district, of Orissa.

Addressing a press conference today, Orissa Culture Minister Damodar Rout said: ??These rare discoveries may solve many archaeological problems of Indian and Buddhist history. These findings are of great interest and significance to the whole world. We are inviting scholars, monks and experts to visit these sites and participate in further research.??

The excavations were taken up by the Orissa Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies, which unearthed three square stupas made of laterite blocks, burnt bricks, railing pillars, and cross-bars besides other architectural traits of Asokan stupas.

The stupas are believed to have been constructed in the 5th or 6th Century BC ? the early phase of Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism. The excavation at Tarapur has solved the mystery of the Kesa Stupa - said to house eight handfuls of the Budddha?s hair according to the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya. The inscriptions - the ?Kesa Stupa? and the ?Bheku Tapusa Danam? were found on the railing pillars.

Experts have concluded that the stupa was constructed by Tapusa himself in the 5th or 6th century BC. It may well prove to be the first stupa of its kind in the Buddhist world.

??It must have been the centre of attraction during the lifetime of the Buddha himself. It is likely that the Buddha visited the place on being invited by Tapusa and Bhallika, his first diciples,?? said South Asian Studies project director and secretary D R Pradhan, the man credited with the find.

Major discoveries have also been made at Kayama. The rock-cut elephant at the site is a unique piece of Kalinga art and is thought to have been erected by Tisa, Asoka?s brother. The name ??Tisa??, inscribed on a rock-cut bench, indicates his close association with Kalinga.

A shell inscription - ??Sri Sri Buddha?? - suggests that the Buddha may have visited the site and his remains may have been kept at Kayama.