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Puspagiri University

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Puspagiri University was a prominent Buddhist seat of learning that flourished until the 11th century in India.[1][2] Today, its ruins lie atop the Langudi hills, low hills about 90 km from the Mahanadi delta, in the districts of Jajpur and Cuttack in Orissa.[3] The actual university campus, spread across three hilltops, contained several stupas, monasteries, temples, and sculptures in the architectural style of the Gupta period.[4] The Kelua river, a tributary of the Brahmani river of Orissa flows to the north east of Langudi hills, and must have provided a picturesque background for the university. The entire university is distributed across three campuses on top of the three adjoining hills, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri, and Udayagiri.

Puspagiri ranks along with Nalanda ,Vikramshila and Takshila universities as one of the primary institutions of higher learning in ancient India. The three universities were mentioned in the travelogues of the famous Chinese traveler Xuanzang (Huien Tsang), who visited it in 639 CE, as Puspagiri Mahavihara,[5] as well as in medieval Tibetan texts. However, unlike Takshila and Nalanda, the ruins of Puspagiri university were not discovered until 1995, when a lecturer from a local college first stumbled upon the site.[6][7] The task of excavating Puspagiri's ruins, stretching over 143 acres (0.58 km2) of land, was undertaken by the Orissa Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies between 1996 and 2006. It is now being carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).[8]

Tourism

ASI has launched a major conservation effort, and as of 2007, in the process of acquiring more land in the university's vicinity. Once fully unearthed, the site is expected to become a significant international tourist destination in India.[9] The state government has initiated an annual Buddha Mahotsava at the site.[10]

There are other Buddhist attractions around Langudi hills, the site of Puspagiri. Kaima hill in its immediate vicinity contains a unique rock-cut elephant surrounded by four monolithic khondalite pillars, and dates back to the Mauryan period in the 3rd century, B.C. Deuli, a hill situated in the confluence of the Brahmani and Kimiria rivers, has preserved five rock-cut Buddhist chambers inside caves. Some more Buddhist sites have also been discovered at Bajragiri, Sarapur and Paikrapur. The Langudi sites are perhaps the largest historic Buddhist complex in India.[11]

Langudi can be approached from Jaraka and Chandikhol on the National Highway 5, and are easily accessible from the urban centers of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. The best months to visit the place would be during October and February.[12]

History

As of 2007, the ruins of this university have not been fully excavated yet. Consequently, much of the university's history remains unknown. Of the three university campuses, Lalitgiri in the district of Cuttack is the oldest. Iconographic analysis indicates that Lalitgiri had already been established during the Sunga period of the 2nd century BC, making it one of the oldest Buddhist establishments in the world.

Architecture

Asokan statues

The recent discovery of a few images of the emperor Ashoka are a major find.[13] Based on this find, it has been suggested that the Puspagiri university may have been commissioned originally by Asoka himself.[14][15]

References

  1. "Orissa: Introduction". http://www.orissa.gov.in/intro.htm. 
  2. "The past comes alive in temples of Orissa". 03-Mar-2002. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20020303/spectrum/travel.htm. 
  3. "Langudi : A newly discovered Buddhist site in Orissa". http://www.indiasite.com/archaeology/langudi.html. 
  4. "Puspagiri". http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/india/ratna/ra01.html. 
  5. "Orissa's treasures". Feb-2005. http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2204/stories/20050225001308600.htm. 
  6. "Great Heritages of Orissa". Dec-2004. http://orissagov.nic.in/e-magazine/Orissareview/dec2004/englishPdf/greatheritageoforissa.pdf. 
  7. "ASI hope for hill heritage - Conservation set to start at Orissa site". 29-Jan-2007. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070129/asp/jamshedpur/story_7319473.asp. 
  8. "Archaeological Survey of India takes over Orissa Buddhist site". 17-Nov-2006. http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=4,3437,0,0,1,0. 
  9. "Discovery of Buddhist stupa may turn remote hamlet into tourist hotspot". http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=4,1193,0,0,1,0. 
  10. "Master plan mooted to develop Buddhist sites". 29-Nov-2005. http://www.archaeologynews.org/link.asp?ID=52561&Title=MASTER%20plan%20mooted%20to%20develop%20Buddhist%20sites. 
  11. "Langudi: A newly discovered Buddhist site in Orissa". http://www.india9.com/i9show/Langudi-Hill-50293.htm. 
  12. "Buddhist Tourism: Langudi, Orissa". http://www.buddhist-tourism.com/countries/india/temples-monuments/langudi-orissa.html. 
  13. "Emperor Ashoka’s images unearthed in Orissa". http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/01nov08/national.htm#2. 
  14. "Ashoka stupa found in Orissa". http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/may/27ashok.htm. 
  15. "Hub of Buddhism dug up". 22-Nov-2006. http://americanbuddhist.net/node/3422?PHPSESSID=5d32aa04c552b5ccacc98ec842b82789. 

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