Hub of Buddhism dug up

Newindpress, November 22 2006

BHUBANESWAR, India -- “There were more than 10 Ashoka stupas at a place where Buddha had preached,” wrote the famous Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang during his visit to India in 629 BC.

Centuries later, archaeologists here have reasons to believe that they might have just succeeded in not only finding the place but also the area that once formed the Mahasangha of Orissa, a religious seat where different sects co-existed and flourished, be it Mahayana, Hinayana (still followed in Burma), Vajrayana or Kalachakrayana (practised by Dalai Lama).

The reason behind the conviction is not merely the unearthing of two images of King Ashoka, remains of a square stupa commissioned by the King himself and terracotta figurines of Buddha - thought to be found only in Nalanda and Sanchi - at Langudi in Jajpur district. The unearthing of 10 stupas around 10 kilometre radius of Radhanagar, a place that archaeologists like Dr D R Pradhan believe was the capital and export backbone of the Kalinga empire during the epic war due to the existence of the fort has strengthened the belief.

Adding weight to the theory are the discovery of Roman glazed potteries, several gold medallions and the Northern black polish utensils dating back to the Ashokan era in the area.

In fact, says a senior member of the excavation team of Orissa Institute of Maritime and South-East-Asian Studies (OIMSEAS), after thorough analysis of each of the physical findings and the writings, it can be said with better conviction that the entire stretch comprising Taraput, Deulipal, Kaima, Neulpur, Vajragiri, Langudi and Panturi in Jajpur district formed an integral part of the ‘religious hub’ of Buddhism, and to some extent Jainism too.

What remains to be discovered, however, is the place where Buddha preached, which is likely to be somewhere amidst the circle and of course the King who ruled at the time the epic war, he adds.

The OIMSEAS has been carrying the excavation work at 10 places in Northern Orissa for more than a decade now at the behest of the Culture Department to identify and develop a Buddhist circuit.

Plans are to develop a second ‘religious circuit’, with each site having its own Kala Gram - a centre for promoting ancient art forms - and a Museum that would display the finds of each site with proper explanation.