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Abode of nature & religion

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 25: Buddhism has always occupied a significant position in Odisha’s history.

Evidences of Buddha’s teachings can be found at many places along the lower Mahanadi valley. Apart from Maniabandha, places such as Kendupatna, Nuapatna, Sarsara, Ragadi and Mahamadpur are the major Buddhist sites, where weaving communities even today follow in the footsteps of their forefathers.

“Rock-cut caves and pre-historic rock art can be found at many places on the lower Mahanadi valley. A famous reservoir that supplies water to Bhubaneswar from the Mundali water treatment plan used to be a major Buddhist site. Rock-cut caves can also be found near Anantapur,” says Cuttack-based archaeologist Gopal Chandra Pradhan.

Other major Buddhist sites along the lower Mahanadi basin are Bania Sahi and Buxi Bazar in Cuttack, campus of municipality medical in Choudwar, Indrani hills near Charbatia, Brahmavana near Salepur, Asureswar road, Nageshpur and Tarapur on Cuttack-Paradip Road.

Tourist track

What: Lower Mahanadi valley and its Buddhist links

Where: Downstream after Athamallick up to Kujanga on Cuttack-Paradip Road

To see: Buddhist sites, sites relating to maritime trade and tradition of ancient Kalinga

Cruise: Cruise along the river Mahanadi can be taken up by tour operators and
the tourism department to trace Buddhist heritage sites

At many places in Brahmavana anchoring sites for ships can be found. Sasanka Sekhar Panda, a Bhubaneswar-based historian, attributed the presence of so many Buddhist shrines to the state’s ancient maritime trade.

Traders constructed these shrines during the 6th and 7th Century AD. They considered religious places to be the safest for resting while navigating along the river. Those days they used to carry saris, silk products and diamonds to the historical city of Sambalaka (present day Sambalpur), which was a major trade centre.

Findings of Roman coins and other artefacts along the lower Mahanadi basin also prove the areas links to international trade.

The Siddheswar temple in Naraj is another example of a Buddhist site.

Archaeologists of the state-run Odishan Institute of Maritime and South-East Asian Studies say that the entire lower Mahanadi basin is a treasure-trove of historical artefacts and there are several sites awaiting excavation.

“Once the excavations are taken up, we would be able to unravel more interesting facts on the development and progression of Buddhism in Odisha,” said a senior historian of the institute.