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Sirpur - historical Buddhist site of world heritage

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Sirpur_budhaSirpur - Chattisgarh, is an important historical Buddhist site of India. An important centre of Buddhism during 6th to 10th century BCE, the place was also visited by the famous Chinese traveller Huien Tsang in the 7th century CE, who also described the city in his accounts as a pillar of Buddhsim in the central region. The modern Sirpur, which contains the remains of the ancient and medieval Buddhist era, is one of the most treasured places for the Buddhists and historians.

The Buddhsit monastery at Sirpur - Chhattisgarh, which dates back to the 8th century CE, is one of the largest and most important Buddhist monasteries in India, perhaps even more important than that of Nalanda. The site comprises the remains of 100 Buddha Viharas, 4 Jain Vihara, 200 mounds and more than 100 Shiva temples. Besides, a unique nine-room area was also excavated, which has eight ladders leading to the rooms. Built by Mahashivgupt Balarjun, the monastery also consists of a Buddhist female monk, believed to be that of Haritika, who used to abduct and kill infants. It is said that the Buddha stole her child to make her feel the pain of other mothers. The incidence changed her and she became a Buddhist monk. The statue of Haritika also reflects the popularity of female cult in early India.

Ancient Sirpur in Mahasamund district of Chhattisgarh State is located on the right bank of Mahanadi, 84 km from Raipur. Right from 5th cent. A.D. on wards up to 8th cent. A.D. it was the capital of Dakshin Kosala, first of Sarabhapriya rules and then of Somavamshis. As per archaeological evidences and copper plates inscription it was not only the political but also religious and cultural capital of the region. After it went into ruins due to floods of Mahanadi, centuries back, it came to live light in 1872, when Dr. Beglar and Sir John Marshall visited it Famous Lakshan temple was excavated during this time. Surang Teela situated in the centre of the village was partly excavated in 1872 A.D.

It was first excavated after independence by Dr. M.G. Dixit from 1953 to 1955 on behalf of M.P. Govt. and University of Sagar. He discovered the famous Anand Prabhu Kuti Vihar and Swastik Vihar and also Siva temples and Jaina viharas, later from 2000 A.D. On behalf of Bodhisatva Nagarjuna smarak sanstha va Anusandhan kendra Shri A.K. Sharma excavated nine sites which yielded Shiva temples, Buddha Viharas with most equisite sculptures and 2.0 m tall sitting monalithic Buddha images and a huge palace complex of 6th cent. A.D. right on the bank of Mahanadi. Since this season (2004-2005) excavation has been continued by Shri Sharma a behalf of Deptt. of Culture, Govt. of Chhattisgarh. This season ten sites have been excavated yielding three Shiva temples, four residential complexes, palace complex a huge Buddha Vihara and most important the Torana Dwar of Surang Teela and a unique pyramidical temple.

Laxman-temple-sirpurThe temple Torana Dwara is a unique in Chhattisgarh. The Pyramidical temple 17.0 x 17.0 m is built in five tiers has two garbha-grihas, the west one housing Siva linga and the eastern one housing a 1.10 m tall standing Vishnu image. In the centre of the two garbha-griha the unique Dhyana Tantra, a fine example of Tantrism is present. This type of temple is discovered for the first time in India where the sculptures of Saivism and Vairsnavism have been installed in one temple.

Excavation have yield apart from a number of most beautiful Sculptures, many stone inscriptions, pottery dating back to 2nd cent. B.C. revealing that Sirpur was flourishing right from 2nd cent. B.C. In one of the Siva temples images of 'Baiga' have been engraved showing that the Indigenous people were followers of Hindu religion.So far 184 mounds have been located in an area of 5.0 x 4.0 kms. The layout or the excavated buildings shows that the whole city was planned strictly following the norms of Vastu sastra, as none of the religious and residential buildings face south. To the south cheif house. Another noteworthy features is the presence of a 'Bhandara-griha i.e. a room on the south- western corner of the house which served as a grainary as it has no door and was approached from ceiling. This tradition still continues in Chhattisgarh villages. All the residential complexes are double storeyed.

A 1.8-metre Shivalinga in sirpur, believed to be the tallest in the state, has been found during the recent excavations. The Laxman temple in Sirpur is one of the finest brick temples in the country. Its construction style proves to be a turning point in the temple architecture in the 7th century.  Apart from the nine room unique area, one more Buddha vihar with underground rooms and a six foot Buddha statue was also discovered here.

While excavating a huge palace like complex was found in this area. With it a big layer of charcoal was found and so the archaeologists think that this place was burnt down or was an accident. Some of them think that Sirpur was invaded because the trade was affected. Sirpur had been an important port for the trade route. It was on the way from a big port of Allahabad to another big port in Chhattisgarh. Since the traders had to pay more tax due to the smaller ports like Sirpur on the way, they diverted their route and the trade collapsed in Sirpur.

Baleshwar_Mahadev_temple_SirpurOne surprising thing was found here and that is animal sex. This is not found even on the walls of Khajuraho. This is the rarest of carvings seen in Indian archaeology, according to the archaeologists. It was also believed that the society became sex centric which is evident from these carvings on the walls. Evidences have also came to the light that important buildings were fortified and had cow sheds in the west. Buddhist nunery was also fortified and has its own tank. Each building had covered underground drainage system indicating high degree of sanitation in Sirpur. The layout of the complex show that roads were wide. Palace had its kitchen on north-west corner and was approached by a ramp. As per description of Chinese

traveller Huen-Tsang who visited Sirpur in 643 A.D. the king was very generous and respected all the religions, ie. Hindusim, Buddhism and Jainism. It was a great centre of learning and pupil from South-East Asia visited Sirpur for advance education. The Vishnudutta during the time of famous king Maha Sivagupta Teevardev. The unique star-shaped garbha-griha Panchayatan temple was built by Mahasiva gupta Balarjun. As Sirpur has a unique location and the bank of Mahanadi with hundreds of mounds surrounded by thick reserve forest and of site of National importance it has all the potentialities to be developed and declare as world heritage site having eco-friendly atmosphere. It was the centre of unique Culture, history, architecture and iconography.

Sirpur is undoubtedly in area and population were than double the size of Nalanda. Huen-Tsang in his ‘Travellogue’ writes that at Sirpur at a time ready 10,000 students were studying Buddhism. This is attested by the presence of a large number of Buddha Viharas which are double storeyed. The uniqueness of Sirpur is that except for large temple, most of them were built by devotees. Govt. of Chhattisgarh is taking all steps to develop Sirpur as a prime heritage tourist site not only of Chhattisgarh but also of India where people can actually feel the presence of past and dream of future in a calm atmosphere.

Other Attractions
Lakshman Temple : Built by Vatasa, the mother of King Balarjuna, the Lakshman temple is dedicated to the Hindu lord Vishnu. The temple, rich in magnificent medieval Indian architecture, is still a place of worship for
the Hindus.

Hirapur Museum : The Hirapur museum, which is located at the back of the Lakshmana temple, contains a rare collection of statues representing the culture of various religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.

How to reach
Sirpur is situated at a distance of 84 kilometers from Raipur, the capital city of Chhatisgarh. To reach the place by air, one can take a domestic flight to Raipur, from where the distance to Sirpur can either be covered

by rail or road. The nearest rail head is at Mahasamund, 29 kilometers away. National Highway number 6 connects Raipur to Sirpur, and a good network of buses connect these two places while on way to Sambalpur.

 


 


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