Lalit giri
LALITGIRI


Lalitgiri forms an important node of the Diamond Triangle ie Lalitgiri , Ratnagiri and Udayagiri. Well connected by excellent roads to Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, the ruins at Lalitagiri (in present Cuttack district), while not being as extensive as those at Ratnagiri and Udayagiri (in present Jajpur district), are notably for the earliest Buddhist Complex dating back to the 1st century AD.



Recent excavations here have brought to light significant archaeological material that upholds Lalitgiri as a great centre of Buddhist attraction. Major excavations carried out from 1985 to 1992 unearthed evidence of it being continuously occupied from the 2nd century BC to the 13th century AD. The majestic ruins of the huge brick monastery, the remains of the chaitya hall, a number of votive stupas and a renovated stone stupa at the apex of a small rugged sandstone hill dominate the rural greenery around. The excavations found a stupa, an apsidal chaitya hall or chaityagriha, four monasteries, and numerous stone sculptures of Buddha and Buddhist divinities.
Undoubtedly, the most exciting discovery was three relic caskets (two containing small pieces of charred bone) inside the stupa at Lalitgiri. Buddhist literature says that after the death of the Buddha, his corporal remains were distributed amongst his disciples to be placed within stupas. Hence, the remains are presumed to have belonged to the Buddha himself, or one of his prominent disciples. The Odisha government intends to display the relic caskets in a museum at Lalitagiri in the future.
The apsidal chaitya hall unearthed at Lalitagiri is also the first of its kind in the context of Buddhism in Orissa (a Jain one was discovered in another location earlier). This rectangular prayer hall has a semi-circular end and contains a stupa at the center, although it's quite damaged. An inscription attributes the structure to the 2nd-3rd centuries AD. Many of the Buddhist sculptures found during excavations are housed in a sculpture shed next to the monasteries. However, apparently, they make up less than 50% of the original treasures of the site. Some have sadly been lost, while others have been shifted to museums elsewhere.