Thursday, December 30, 2010

NEWLY DISCOVERED BUDDHIST ROCK-CUT CAVES AT LANGUDI AND SIX ADJACENT HILLS IN ORISSA,INDIA

(By Dr. D. R. Pradhan, Curator, Orissa State Archaelogy and Secretary, Orissan Institute of Maritime and South-East Asian Studies, Bhubaneswar and Project Director, Langudi Hill Excavation Project, Orissa, India)

Recent archaeological exploration, surveys and excavations conducted by the Orissan Institute of Maritime and SouthEast Asian Studies under the direction of the present writer during successive seasons from 1996 to 2002 at Langudi and seven adjacent hills in the district of Jajpur, Orissa have brought to light extensive archaeological treasures and rare antiquities of the early historical period. The site has already been included in the Buddhist map of India because of the discovery of Pushpagiri vihara, an Asokan stupa and two rare Asokan images.

This paper focuses on the discovery of forty rock-cut caves at Langudi, Vajragiri, Kayama, Deuli/Deulipal, Tarapur/Duburi, Neulpur and Kantigadia Hills under Dharmasala Police Station of Jajpur district in Orissa.
These caves are believed to be associated with Buddhism on the basis of the findings of other Buddhist remains such as stupas, railing pillars, cross-bars, bricks and brickbats and pottery.

Buddhist rock-cut art and architecture begins with the Emperor Asoka three centuries after the life of the Buddha. The Lomas Rsi and Sudama caves, in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills of the district of Gaya, Bihar are the best examples of this period. Simple caves bearing Asoka’s inscription were cut for the Ajivikas in the Nagarjuna and Gorathagiri hills of Magadha. The history of the Buddhist art of this area falls into two distinct phases-the earlier from the third century BCE to the second century CE and the later from the fifth to the ninth centuries CE.

In Orissa the oldest known sculpture of Asoka’s time is the rock-cut forepart of an elephant at Dhauli which may represent the Buddha theriomorphically. Dhauli also became a haven of repose for Buddhist sramanas for whose residence a large number of small caves were dug. M.Kittoe who visited Dhauli in 1837, also saw five small caves known as the Pancha Pandava Gumpha and some other caves, already broken at the time of his visit. The digging of a large number of small caves as residences for the sramanas during the reign of Asoka made Dhauli a chief centre of Hinayana Buddhism in Kalinga. Thus these caves are probably of the Asokan period.

The forty rock-cut caves recently discovered in and around the Langudi hill may be compared with the Dhauli caves on stylistical and architectural grounds. Xuanzang in his book Da Tang Xiyuji  recorded that ‘there were more than ten Asokan topes (stupas) at the places where the Buddha had preached in Wa-tu (Odra)’. We have already discovered one Asokan stupa and other artifacts of his period at Langudi Hill. So the remaining nine stupas to which Xuanzang refers should be sought within the boundaries of Wa-tu (Odra). We are trying to identify the present forty
rock-cut caves along with the stupas, railing pillars and other Buddhist remains as the legacy of Asokan period.

  1. Neulpur (20.43 deg. N 86.90 deg. E) Neulpur hill is adjacent to National Highway No. 5 near Chandikhol. Neulpur has already been included in the history of Orissa as a result of the discovery of a copper plate charter of Subhakaradev I, a king of the Bhaumakara dynasty. During our survey, we discovered nine rock-cut caves, all of which face south. The measurements of some of these caves are given in the table at the end of this paper. Near these caves about 200m to the east, are the remains of a stupa. Plain railing pillars, brickbats and pottery have also been founded. The date of these caves may be c. third century to c. second century BCE, in the Asokan period.

  1. Deuli/Deulipal hills (20.46 deg. N.,86.08 deg. E)The largest number of rock-cut caves is concentrated in these twin hills near the National Highway at Jaraka, on the right bank of the river Bramhani in the district of Jajpur. Some of the caves in these hills are double-storeyed. All of them, with one exception, face south. On the top of Deuli hill lie the remains of a huge stupa along with a large number of laterite blocks; other architectural members, bricks or brickbats and pottery have also been found. The ancient staircase leading to the stupa is still visible from the eastern side. The caves may be datable to the third to second century BCE.

  1. Kayama (20.45 deg. N, 86.13 deg. E) Kayama is situated on the right bank of the river Kelua, itself a tributary of the Bramhani.  Its local name is Goggula Pahad or ‘Essence/Flavoured Hill’. Dr Akira Sadakata of Tokai University, Japan, who visited the site, named it Kayama (Japanese Ka, fragrant and yama, hill). The hill contains the remains of five rock-cut caves, two stupas on the top, one rock-cut elephant and one conch-shell (sankha lipi) inscription. All five caves face south, and are plain in character, although post-holes are found in front of some of them. These caves may be datable to the third century BCE.

  1. Vajragiri( 20.43 deg. N, 86.13 deg. E). Vajragiri is situated about one kilometer east of Langudi hill and west of Udayagiri hill and has abundant Buddhist remains. We uncovered the traces of a huge Buddhist establishment along with several mounds, bricks and brickbats and stone and terracotta sculptures. On the other side of the hill towards the north, two rock-cut caves are hewn for Buddhist
bhiksus. The caves are known locally as Asura-bheda or ‘dwelling place of asuras’. In one of the caves there is a small hole, probably intended for ventilation. These two caves are probably datable to the early part of the second century CE.

5.      Kantigadia (20.42 deg. N, 86.13 deg. E) The hill is situated south of Langudi hill on the banks of the river Sagadia, near the expressway leading to the port of Paradip. On Kantigadia hill four caves have been excavated from the rock. All except one face south. One rock-cut image has been carved at the foot of the hill. The character of these caves is plain and therefore they may be datable to the second century CE.

6.      Tarapur (20.44 deg. N, 86.10 deg. E) Tarapur hill is situated near National Highway No.5 at Fakirpada near Jaraka. Tarapur hill exhibits the remains of a stupa, a number of plain railing pillars and cross-bars, bricks and brickbats, pottery and two rock-cut caves. The caves are double-storeyed. Additions and alterations were made to the lower storey by a local sadhu who lived there, and therefore measurements are given in the table only for an upper-storey cave. These caves may be dated to the Asokan period on the basis of the plain railing pillars and cross-bars.

7.       Langudi (20.12 deg. N, 86.43 deg. E) As stated earlier Langudi has already been included in the Buddhist map of India as a result of the identification of Pupagiri Vihara and the discovery of an Asokan stupa and two Asokan images. In addition to these archaeological remains, five rock-cut caves have also been found towards the east, near the village of Panimuhani. All these caves are half-hewn and unfinished. It is likely they were abandoned because of the inferior quality of the rock.


Conclusion

As discussed above, the forty rock-caves and other remains, both architectural and sculptural, furnish rich evidence for early Buddhist activity in India and will certainly add a new chapter to the art history of India in general and Orissa in particular.

Table giving locations, dates and dimensions of selected caves

Place
Date
Number
Length
Depth
Height
Neulpur
(9 caves)
c. 3rd -2nd centuries BCE
i.
2.5
1.5
1.2


ii.
3.0
1.5
1.5


iii.
2.5
1.0
1.0
Deuli/Deulipal (13 caves)
c. 3rd-2nd centuries BCE
i
1.1
0.8
1.0


ii.
1.2
1.8
1.8


iii.
1.0
0.8
1.0


iv.
1.0
0.9
1.5


v.
1.6
1.75
1.45
Kayama
(5 caves)
c. 3rd century BCE
i.
1.9
2.1
1.1


ii.
1.2
2.1
1.0


iii.
3.5
1.8
1.0


iv.
3.5
1.5
1.9


v.
2.0
1.1
0.9
Vajragiri
(2 caves)
c. 2nd century BCE
i.
1.2
1.0
1.5


ii.
1.5
1.1
1.0
Kantigadia
(4 caves)
c. 2nd century CE
i.
1.3
1.1
0.9


ii.
1.2
2.0
1.5


iii.
1.2
1.0
0.8
Tarapur
(2 caves)
c. 3rd-2nd centuries BCE
i.(upper storey)
1.5
0.8
0.9
Langudi
(5 caves)

All finished





Published in the Newsletter (Issue 18-December 2003),Circle of Inner Asian Art, Department of Art and Archaelogy, SOAS (University of London), United Kingdom,www.soas.ac.uk

1 comment:

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