Bhubaneswar, April 21: Historians have stumbled upon several Buddhist statues, pottery and portions of a monastery in Panaspur village near Balichandrapur of Cuttack district dating back to AD 8th to 9th century.
The ruins found in the backyard of a temple also include a large tank and ancient wells built with khondalite stones.
The site where historians Harish Chandra Prusty and Nihar Ranjan Patnaik have found the remains of a Buddhist monastery is near Lalitgiri, which falls on the right of the expressway connecting Chandikhol with Paradip. A road near the Balichandrapur overbridge leads straight to the site. While Prusty is the principal of Derabisi College and a well-known scholar in Buddhist studies in Odisha, Patnaik is the chairman of the Council of Higher Secondary Education, Odisha.
“The road connecting Chandikhol with Paradip is a known region of Buddhist monuments and ruins. While many sites have been excavated by the state archaeology department and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), many others are yet to be traced and excavated properly. This discovery by our team near Panaspur was the result of an experimental dig. As historians, we suspect there is much more to be discovered underneath the site and there is an urgent need for proper excavation either by the state government or the ASI,” said Patnaik.
The ruins are from the Bhaumakara period. Several statues of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas in different postures have been discovered. Patnaik said that among the statues discovered, statues of Buddha in the Bhumisparsa mudra and Dhyana mudra were important.
Prusty also found a prominent headless statue of Buddha in the preaching posture. “The head of the Buddha statue is missing and is most likely lying somewhere in the debris,” the historian said.
The historians said they had also found a beautiful statue of Padmapani Bodhisattva carved out of khondalite stone. Another statue of Padmapani Bodhisattva was found cut off from the left shoulder. A pillar, also made of khondalite stone, was also found. The historians said the pillar was perhaps placed in the courtyard of the Buddhist monastery in the early medieval period.
The historians and their team members also collected earthen lamps, jars with spouts, sprinklers and earthen cookware of dull red, reddish brown and grey colour.
Secretary of the Orissan Institute of Maritime and South-East Asian Studies (OIMSEAS) Sunil Kumar Patnaik said that it was during the rule of Bhaumakara dynasty in Kalinga during AD 8th to 10th century that Buddhism reached its zenith. “According to inscriptions, one of the kings of the dynasty copied a Mahayana text, Gandavhyuha, and presented it to a Chinese emperor. Buddhism also continued to flourish here with all its forms and schools according to the accounts of Hiuen Tsang and Fa-Hien.”
More than 300 Buddhist sites are listed in Odisha, and some of the major ones form a large Buddhist circuit. Buddhist sites have been found at Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri, and the discovery of another important site near Langudi Hills provided a compact picture of the Buddhist influence over the region consisting of the basin between the Birupa and Brahmani rivers.
“As part of the state archaeology, the OIMSEAS is also keeping track of all developments related to Buddhist sites and documenting them. Our team has already reached Panaspur and started the survey work,” Patnaik said.