| The Langudi Hill in Orissa’s Jajpur. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee
Cuttack, Jan. 28: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has taken over Langudi Hill in Orissa’s Jajpur district, raising hopes for a fresh lease of life for the 2,000-year-old Buddhist site.
Though the place, located 42 km from here, was declared “protected” and the state government had come forward last year to hand over the area for “conservation”, the formal transfer of administrative control to the ASI took place over the past week.
“Conservation work will be taken up soon over 140 acres at Langudi Hill as the protected area has been formally handed over,” said D.K. Dimri, superintendent of the ASI’s Orissa circle. “Further studies on the site will be undertaken only after completion of conservation work on the exposed remains”.
“The site is significant as the cultural sequence of the findings covers a period between the 1st century AD and 9th century AD and are indicative of the existence of a flourishing Buddhist monastic establishment,” the ASI superintendent told The Telegraph.
ASI officials said the exposed remains include a number of Buddhist rock-cut sculptures on the southern spur of the hill. The northern part has 34 rock-cut stupas of various sizes.
The most outstanding stupa, according to experts, is the gigantic central rock-cut one. Besides, there is an unsculptured monolithic rectangular pillar basement built on a stone verandah and the courtyard of a brick-built quadrangular monastery buried within a quadrangular brick mound and debris comprising burnt bricks.
The site also features sculptures of Dhyani Buddhas in various postures. Vajrayana Buddhist divinities like Tara and Prajnaparamita are also among the monuments lying scattered around the Langudi Hill.
Harish Chandra Prusty, a lecturer at a local college, first stumbled upon the site in 1995. He later wrote a book, Langudi: A unique Rock-cut Buddhist Site in Orissa, on the same.
Subsequently, the Orissa Institute of Maritime and South East Asia Studies, along with the state archaeology department, took up exploration at the Langudi Hill in 1996.
Archaeologists believe that the heritage site holds the clue to the location of Pushpagiri, described in Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang’s account of Orissa as a centre of Buddhist monasticism and scholasticism.
Earlier in 1985, the ASI had started excavation at Lalitgiri in the Birupa-Chitrotpala valley in Cuttack district to locate Pushpagiri. Although the exploration at Lalitgiri led to priceless discoveries, the main aim of the mission was not fulfilled.