A Visit to Lalitagiri

India is fast emerging as a perfect tourist destination. With its captivating ancient history accompanied by numerous ruins, beautiful yet endless beaches and scenic plantations that cover huge surfaces of land, India now boasts of several visitors from within and outside of Asia. It is one nation with a huge Buddhist following as well, with Lalitagiri being a well known tourist pilgrimage for Buddhists and curious visitors. Its famous 1st century Buddhist complex is pulling in visitors from all corners of the world. Found in Odisha, the complex comprises major stupas as well as monasteries. It is almost similar to Ratnagiri and Udayagiri which are part of Puspagiri University.

Lalitagiri has ruins that may not be as extensive as those found at Ratnagiri or Udayagiri, but all the same, are notable for being part of the Buddhist settlement found at Odisha. During the period between 1985 and 1992, major excavations carried out unearthed evidence of it having being occupied from 2nd century BC to 13th century AD. From the ruins, a stupa, four monasteries, an apsidal chaitaya hall also known as chaityagriha and many stone sculptures of Buddhist and Buddha divinities were found.

Of all the discoveries, perhaps the most exiting was the three caskets with two containing charred bones. The containers were made of steatite, silver, gold and khondalite. According to the Buddhist literature, after the death of Buddha, his remains were to be distributed among his disciples and placed within the stupas. The remains are therefore presumed to have belonged to Buddha or one of his adored disciples. The remains are some of the relics that will be displayed by the government at the museum when it is opened at Lalitigiri in future. The apsidal chaitya hall is believed to be the first of its kind in Orisa. Of course another; a Jain, had been found earlier at another location, making them two. Even though the rectangular prayer hall had been damaged, a few features like the semi-circular end of the hall and an inscription depicting the structure to have belonged to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD were still visible.

Most of the Buddhist sculptures found during the excavation have been housed in a sculpture shed found next to the monasteries. Sadly, some of these treasures have been lost so that the ones found make up less than 50% of the original treasures of the site. While the history of this great place is quite enchanting, its scenery is exciting as well. The ancient village has mild forests, sea breezes and greenery that exist almost all year round. The ancient caves make a good show too.

Located 90km from Bhubaneswar in the state of Orisa, Lalitigiri is geographically spread between 20degrees and 86degrees latitude. There are numerous sites to visit in Lalitagiri. These include the ruins of the Buddhist monastery. The ruins are widely spread across a hill which leads a person to a museum. To get to the ruins, Indians pay 5 rupees while visitors have to part with 100 rupees. Cameras are allowed at a small fee. Other notable sites are Mukteswar Temple, Jaganath Temple and Bhitarkanika Wildlife sanctuary.

To get to Lalitagiri, there are roads that are well connected to major highways. Taxis and personal cars can cruise on the good roads with ease. Bhubaneswar is the nearest airport, making it ideal to travel by air. Trains also come to Lalitagiri, making rail transport ideal for reaching the place. Visitors have plenty of hotels to check into. Both the high and low income earners have a hotel that suits the pocket. Shopping malls and markets are available for ardent shoppers. Take the time to visit Lalitagiri.

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