Born into a family of noble standing in 563 B.C. in Lumbini, Gautama Buddha was predicted to be either a great ruler or an enlightened being by Brahmin soothsayers. When the infant was born, King Suddhodana, his father, named him Siddhartha, ‘Perfect Wealth’, in expectation that his son would some day inherit his throne. As a result, Prince Siddhartha was showered with all the pleasures reserved for royal families. King Suddhodana always hoped that the Prince never encountered the poverty and the human suffering that existed beyond the palace gates. Hence, he tried his utmost to ensure that Siddhartha never left Kapilavastu.
However, the inquisitive young Prince venture outside the palace all at the age of 29 and the four independent forays he made, changed his outlook towards life completely. On his first expedition, he encountered the first person of advanced age hee’d ever seen. On the second, he met with a diseased person and his third venture brought him face to face with a corpse which he had never seen or heard of before. The fourth trip outside the palace gates made the young prince come upon a wandering ascetic who had shunned the trappings of worldly life to search for truth.
By this time, Prince Siddhartha had made up his mind to follow the renunciate’s example. The next evening Siddhartha left behind his sleeping wife and his newly born son in order to search for truth. He wandered Northern India studying Brahmanic meditation with Hindu gurus and subjected himself to many austerities and acts of self mortification. Siddhartha thought that these practices could not bring him closer to the existential truths. He craved to know. As a result he seated himself at the base of a ficus tree and vowed not to budge from the spot until he knew such truths. He focused his meditation on the nature of mind were subject to decay, he abandoned all desires for what he now saw as unreliable and unsatisfying. Through the course of this act, the meditatinf Siddhartha attaines Bodhchita (awakened mind), a profound spiritual rebirth. He had finally found that ineffable state of perfect bliss and knowledge, the Buddha or ‘Awakened One’. For the remaining forty five years of his life, the Buddha spend his life as a humble monk, preaching others to realize what he himself had discovered, thus setting in motion the basic motion, the Buddhist philosophy.
According to early Vinaya texts two merchants of Utkal Tapassu and Bhallika became the first lay disciples of Lord Buddha. These two merchants offered Lord Buddha rice cake and honey in return Buddha gave them eight handful of his hairs to them who later on deposited it in a stupa (kesa Stupa) in their native place Asitanjana. The excavation of Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri by Archaeological Survey of India established the rich Buddhist Heritage in Orissa from the early part of the Christian era to 15th-16th century A.D.
Dhauli hill on the bank of the river Daya is a little away from the main road as one drives to Puri/Konark from Bhubaneswar. This stands as the mute witness to the great Kalinga war which was fought in the third century B.C. . The great transformation, unprecedented in whole of the world, took place here . Ashoka, the great seeing the horrors of war changed his mind in favour of spiritual conquests in preference to his war exploits. He donned orange robes and the world saw in Ashoka the making of a great patron of Buddhism. Dhauli is famous for the Asokan rock edicts which are inscribed on a rock, with the relief of an emerging elephant at the top. These contain eleven of the well known set of fourteen rock edicts found within the limits of the Asokan empire. Here Ashoka had got inscribed two separate rock edicts specially for the people of Kalinga.
The serenity of the place and the legacy of Buddhism motivated the Kalinga Nippon-Buddha Sangha, under the guidance of Guruji Fujii, Founder President of Nipponzan Myohoji or Japan to establish a Peace Pagoda or Shanti Stupa at Dhauli.
Lalitgiri : Lalitagiri, the earliest Buddhist complex of 1st century A.D. lies majestically in the ruins singing the glory of a past heritage. The huge brick monastery, the remains of a chaitya hall, a number of votive stupas and a renovated stone stupa at the apex of a small rugged sand stone hill dominates the rural greenery around. In addition, the Museum displays a large number of Mahayana sculptures consisting of colossal Buddha figures, huge Boddhisattva statues, Tara Jambhala etc. Interestingly, most of these sculptures contain short inscriptions on them. The standing Buddha figures with the knee-length draperies over the shoulders reminds one the influence of the Gandhara and Mathura school of art.
The discovery of caskets containing sacred relics, probably of the Tathagata himself, from the stone stupa at the top of the hill further enhances the sacredness of the stupa and the place for the Buddhists of the world.
Ratnagiri of the Birupa river valley in Cuttack district is a famous Buddhist centre. The small hill near the village of the same name has rich Buddhist antiquarian remains. A large scale excavation has unearthed two large monasteries, a big sutpa, Buddhist shrines, sculptures and a large number of votive stupas. The excavation revealed the establishment of this Buddhist centre at least from the time of the Gupta king Narasimha Gupta Baladitya (first half of the sixth century A.D.). Buddhism had developed at this place unhindered up to the 12th century A.D. . In the beginning this was an important centre of Mahayana from of Buddhism. During the 8th-9th century A.D. this became a great centre of Tantrick Buddhism or Vajrayana art and philosophy. Pag Sam Jon Zang, a Tibetan source, indicates that the institution at Ratnagiri played a significant role in the emergence of the Kalachakratantra during the 10th century A.D..
Udayagiri, the largest Buddhist complex in Orissa, has assumed further importance after the recent excavation work which revealed the ancient name of the monastery as Madhavapura Mahavihara and brought to ligt a sprawling complex of brick monastery with a humber of Buddhist sculptures.
The archaeological remains at Udayagiri consist of a brick stupa, two brick monasteries, a beautiful stone stepped well with inscriptions on it and rock cut sculptures. Chronologically the Udayagiri Buddhist complex is later than Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri and the monasteries where probably flourishing well between 7th to 12th centuries A.D.
The large number of exposed sculptures from excavation as well as those found half-buried and in situ belong, obviously, to the Buddhist pantheon and consists of Boddhisattva figures and Dhyani Buddha figures.