Orissa or Odisha, state of India. Located in the northeastern part of the country, it is bounded by the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal to the north and northeast, by the Bay of Bengal to the east, and by the states of Andhra Pradesh to the south and Chhattisgarh to the west. Before India became independent in 1947, Orissa’s capital was at Cuttack. The present capital was subsequently built at Bhubaneswar, in the vicinity of its historic Monastries/temples in the east-central coastal plains. In late 2011 the state’s name was officially changed to Odisha. Area 60,119 square miles (155,707 square km). Pop. (2011) 41,947

The best time to visit the state is in between the months of November to March. The major attractions that tourists look forward for in the state comprise both natural beauty and cultural heritage. There are quiet beaches, beautiful blue hill, winding rivers, cascading waterfalls, green woodlands, rock caves, exotic wildlife, along with picturesque mud villages, sculptured temples, colourful gay tribals and varied handicrafts.

Significance of Buddhism in Orissa/Odisha

In earlier times, Orissa was the mighty Kalinga Empire. At that point of time, it was important from both commercial and cultural point of view. Then, in a major change of events, Kalinga war raged out with the Mauryan Emperor, Asoka in the 3rd century BC. He was a pretty ambitious king but the bloodshed that he witnessed during the Kalinga war shook him completely and filled him with deep remorse. He embraced Buddhism and also did a lot in subsequent years to spread the philosophies of the religion that Prince Siddhartha (Gautam Buddha) preached. Asokan edicts that still exist are testimony to this conversion that took place in the powerful king and his attempts to spread peace and love amongst people of the world. With the death of Asoka, Buddhism in Orissa faced a setback because of the emergence of Jainism. Today, the Buddhist are a minority, yet the there are many people in the state who still continue to practice the religion, specially in the villages of Badamba-Narasimhapur, Nuapatna and Tigiria areas.

Udayagiri is a Buddhist complex in Odisha composed of major stupas and monasteries. Udaigiri is located around 100 km from Bhubaneswar and 20 km from Cuttack. It is an important Buddhist piligrimage destination in Orissa. Excavation have unearthed remains of Buddhist brick monastery that perhaps flourished between the period of 7th and 12th century AD. Recently, it has also come to light that the ancient name of the monastery was Madhavpura Mahavira
There is yet another brick monastery in the complex which still remains unexcavated. Apart from the two monastery, the remains also consist of a brick stupa, a beautiful stepped stone well with inscriptions on it and rock-cut sculptures at the top of the hill behind. Figures of Dhyani Buddha have been discoverd from the ruins as well. The entire complex lies at the base of a hill.

Major Attractions:

Udayagiri Monastery

Udayagiri bears a monastery with its ancient name as Madhavapura Mahavihara. The excavations also revealed another complex of brick monastery as well as numerous Buddhist sculptures. All this can be spotted at the foothills of a large hill. Udayagiri monasteries bloomed between the 7th and the 12th centuries A.D., chronologically after udayagiri    and     Lalitgiri udayagiri also consists of a brick stupa ,two brick monasteries, a beautiful stepped-stone decorated with inscriptions on it, and also rock-cut sculptures a top the hill behind. Accent to the hilltop you can reach a splendid panoramic site with its recently-excavated sprawling monastery complex via a long stairway. If you are an adventure lover, you can have a thrilling ascent experience to the hilltop. You will love to experience the hilly, serpentine and all-weather suitable road on the next side of Udayagiri.

 Lalitgiri, having another name as Naltigiri, is the Buddhist complex made in 1st century in the state of Orissa. Lalitgiri & Ratnagiri Orissa together with Udayagiri constitute Puspagiri University that is an abode to numerous marvelous sculptures like major stupas and monasteries (viharas) of that age. Millions of devotees of Buddhism, every year, make a visit to this well-known Buddhist pilgrimage – Lalitgiri that is an ancient lush village. The origin of Buddhism in Lalitgiri Orissa has been exposed by numerous excavations held by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which has been executing these excavations since 1985 to till date. Lalitgiri travel guide is really very well-off and that makes Lalitgiri tourism a worth to do thing. That is also the reason why the Lalitgiri Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour is loved by devotees of Buddhism.

Lalitagiri village is situated 90 km far from the Orissa state capital Bhubaneswar. The museum at Lalitgiri consists of the relic caskets believed to have been holding the bones of Gautama Buddha and other archaeological findings for a public display. The excavations have unearthed the remains of a vast stupa and a relic caskets comprising four containers made of khondalite, steatite, silver and gold, and other important structures. Numerous archaeological findings of that era can be observed in the hill ranges including the Chaitya hills. You can spot a huge stupa of Mahavira considered to be a luminous piece of Buddhist architecture atop the Pushpagiri hill. You can easily experience the culture of the golden age of Buddhism, being at this destination. You can spot Lalitagiri in the Jajpur district, situated 90 km far from the Orissa state capital Bhubaneswar…

 Ratnagiri : was once the site of a mahavihara, or major Buddhist monastery, in the Brahmani and Birupa river valley in Jajpur district of Odisha, India. It was part of the Puspagiri University, together with Lalitgiri and Udayagiri. Excavations at Ratnagiri in the Birupa river valley in Jajpur district have so far been the richest in terms of cultural treasures. The discoveries here include two large monasteries, a big stupa and numerous votive stupas that indicate towards the powerful impact that Buddhism had in the times of the Gupta king Narasimha Gupta Baladitya (first half of the sixth century A.D.). Buddhism progressed in this region leaps and bounds till the 12th century AD. Findings have also revealed that the region was an important centre of Tantric Buddhism and Vajrayana art and philosophy in the 8th and the 9th century.

Cuttack and Bhubaneswar are yet again the base for visiting Ratnagiri. Infact, Ratnagiri along with Udaigiri and Lalitagiri form the Diamond Triangle.

Dhauli : Down the Puri – Konark Highway (coming from Bhubaneswar) stands the significant Dhauli hill on the banks of Daya river. It was here that the bloody battle of Kalinga forever changed the course of life of the Mauryan Emperor Asoka. He renounced violence in favour of peace and carved out 13 edicts in the rocks with sculptued elephant at the top ( the universal symbol of Buddhism). There are two special edicts here that highlight Asoka’s desire and instruction to his administration, to rule with gentleness and fairness. The instruction in the edict reads
these are my instructions to you. You are in charge of many thousands of living beings. You should gain the affection of men. All men are my children, and as I desire for my children that they should obtain welfare and happiness both in this world and the next, the same do I desire for all men…’
A Peace pagoda or Shanti Stupa lies further up the hill. It was constructed by Japan Buddha Sangha and the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha jointly in the 1870’s. A monastery by the name of Saddharma Vihar was also constructed during the same time by them.

Other Buddhist Palaces

Padmapur is agriculture center and situated in the Rayagada district. However , in the earlier times it housed the monastery of the well known Buddhist Logician – Philosopher Dhamakiriti.An inscription dating back to 7th century testifies that the monastery was located at the Jgmanda Hills.

Balasore :-   Situated in the north Orissa and the place has few significant Buddhist sites. Old Buddhist temple and monastery have been unearthed and in Solampur while findings, images of Buddha have been discovered. Images of Buddha have also found here. The worth and ideal place to visit these places is undoubtedly the town of Balasore

Banpur : Findings in Banpur have sprung up a large number of bronze statue of Buddhist pantheon which connect the place to the Vajrayana cult of Buddhism. The ideal base to visit Banpur are Balugaon and Chilika.

Kuruma : A small village not far away from the Sun Temple of Konark (8 km), Kuruma is believed to be one of those sites where a Buddhist stupa mentioned by Hiuen Tsang existed. Excavations here have brought to notice ancient Buddhist antiquities like the image of Buddha seated in Bhumisparsa Mudra along with the image of Heruka. The ideal base to explore Kuruma is ofcourse Konark or Puri.

Biswanath Hill : This hill housed the ancient monastery of Dignag, the Buddhist Logician and Philosopher.

Jaugada : Jaugada is second place in the state of Orissa that houses the Asokan rock edict with inscription addressed to Kalinga. Around 2 km away, at Buddhakhol, images of Buddhist pantheon attract tourists in large number.

Sambalpur District : At Gandhamardan Hill, excavations have led to the discovery of the remains which is believed to be of a monastery called ‘Parimalagiri’. Mention about it is found in the accounts of Hiuen Tsang. Ganiapali is yet another site in the district which is significant for the Buddhist.

Naraj : Naraj is beautiful spot which was an important centre of Buddhist culture and learning in the erstwhile era.

Other Major Attractions in Orissa

Bhubaneswar : The capital of Orissa, Bhubaneswar is widely famous as the temple city. This is due to the presence of large number of temples in the town. Most of them are located around the immensely sacred Bindu Sarovar tank. Apart from temples, other attractions of Bhubaneswar include State Museum, handicrafts Museum and tribal Museum.

Puri : Puri is one of the most renowned Hindu pilgrimage centre with a temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath. It is one of the four holy dhams for the Hindus. An annual Path Yatra or Chariot Festival in the month of June July attracts the attention of entire country towards Puri. Tourists also love to walk on the beautiful Puri beach during their visit.

Konark : The erstwhile capital of Bhubaneswar, Cuttack’s attraction lies in its blue granite ruins of the Barabati Maratha Fort and a dome like building which houses the footprints of the Prophet Mohammed.

Sculptures
You can spot here numerous sculptures relating to the Buddhist pantheon. These sculptures contain Bodhisattva figures and Dhyani Buddha figures.

 Accent to the hilltop
You can reach a splendid panoramic site with its recently-excavated sprawling monastery complex via a long stairway. If you are an adventure lover, you can have a thrilling ascent experience to the hilltop. You will love to experience the hilly, serpentine and all-weather suitable road on the next side of Udayagiri.