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Further Excavations At Udayagiri-2, Odisha (2001-03)

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Item Code: NAW964
Author: P. K. Trivedi
Language: English
Edition: 2011
Pages: 352 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details 11.00 X 8.50 inch
Weight 1.73 kg
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Book Description

As per the account of Xiuen-Zang who visited Orissa in about 639 A.D., Buddhism was in a flourishing state in the country of Wu or (U)-T u (Odra) and Pu-sie p`o-k’i-li (Pushpagiri) monastery was an important establishment in Odra (Orissa). The scholars suggested its identification with the remains of Ratnagiri, Lalitagiri or Udayagiri. Therefore, these sites were taken up for excavation to archaeologically corroborate this evidence. Inscribed sealings found from the first two sites could not substantiate this. From Udayagiri were found sealings bearing legends Sri Simhaprastha Mahavihara and Sri Madhavapura Mahavihara. Hence, all three sites rule out the possibility of their identification with ancient Pushpagiri.

The excavations at Udayagiri were taken up by J.S. Nigam (1985-86) and subsequently by various officers viz., G.C. Chauley (1986-87), B.K. Sinha (1987-89) and Bimal Bandyopadhyay (1997-2000). The results of these works were published in the Gazetteer of Cuttack (1996) and in the form of research papers in different journals and books. The discoveries made in the field season 1997-2000 have been published in Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India (MASI) No 100 by Bimal Bandyopadhyay. The present report by P.K.Trivedi embodies the study of finds unearthed during the last two seasons (2001-03).

I take this opportunity to thank A.K. Sinha, Director (Publication), Arundhati Banerji, Superintending Archaeologist (Publication), Hoshiar Singh, Production Officer, Nayan Ananda Chakraborty, Piyush Bhatt and Vinay Kumar Gupta, Assistant Archaeologists who were associated with different stages in the publication of this report. M/s Chandu press deserves appreciation for bringing out the book.


In 2001, during my posting in the Excavation Branch -IV, Bhubaneswar, it was decided to continue the excavation at Udayagiri, district Jajpur in Orissa. In the field season 2001-02, the most imposing and perhaps the earliest edifice viz., an apsidal chaityagriha, some parts of a brick enclosure wall, Triple shrine as well as some masonry and brick stupa were exposed. In June 2002, the then Union Minister of Culture accompanied by Shri R.S.Bisht, Joint Director General paid a visit to the site and keenly studied the finds. He desired that the entire deposit at Udayagiri should be excavated so that scholars and tourists may visit the place besides two other famous Buddhist sites Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri in the neighbourhood. In 2002-03, it was established that chaityagriha and stupa group was surrounded by a brick-work; a stone paved pathway and some residential buildings were also unveiled. But, before I could complete this work, I was asked to join the excavation at Ayodhya (2003) and take up the work at Barabati fort, Cuttack (2003-4) at the instance of hon'ble High Court, followed by Tarkhanewala-Dera and Chak 86 in Bikaner Division of Rajasthan, under the 'Saraswati Heritage Project'. The detailed report and the contributions assigned to me were submitted timely, however, the present report took more time because of the extensive horizontal excavations. All structures have been documented and illustrated in the present report so that it may be helpful to the conservation staff.

During the present field work (2001-02, 2002-03), I was assisted by A.K. Patel, Dy. Superintending Archaeologist, J.K. Patnaik, P.K. Dikhit and G.L. Katade, Assistant Archaeologist, S.K. Dey, B.B. Badamali, Draftsman Gr.I, S.K. Khuntia, Surveyor Gr I, R.N. Sahoo, Photographer Gr II, B.K. Das, S.K. Bhoi, A.K. Sasmal, B.N. Halder and Harekrushna Behra, Driver-Mechanic. Since August 2007 to September 2008, I was entrusted with the additional responsibility of Bhubaneswar Circle. Therefore in spite of best efforts, the work could not get due momentum but other contributors continued to pursue their work. In this context, I express my gratitude to the then Director General Anshu Vaish who posted me back to Excavation Branch IV so that I could complete this report. I must also thank Subash Khamari, Dy. Superintending Archaeologist and Suvendu Kumar Khuntia for coordination. The script was carefully typed out by Sachikant Mishra, Stenographer. Satrughna, Tamang, Bibek, Laxmidhar assisted the team even beyond the office hours.

I am grateful to Arundhati Banerji, Superintending Archaeologist (Publication), Hoshiar Singh, Production Officer and Gautami Bhattacharya for bringing out the report.


The celebrated Buddhist settlement of Udayagiri (Lat. 20° 39' N.; Long 86° 16' E.) figures on the Topo Sheet No.73L/6 of the Survey of India, near the locality known as Chandia, in tehsil Badachana of district Jajpur in Orissa. The nearest railway station is Jajpur-Keonjhar Road on Howrah-Bhubaneswar main line of East Coast Railways and the Bus Station is Chandikhol. Situated near the bank of river Birupa, a branch of Mahanadi, it is 102 km away from Bhubaneswar via Chandikhol (NH 5 and NH 5A) on the way to Ratnagiri (10 km from Udayagiri), another key Buddhist excavated site, constituting a golden triangle with Lalitagiri, district Cuttack (fig.1). Udayagiri or "Sunrise Hill", the most easterly peak of the Assia range of the Eastern Ghat, has two arms, one extending to the north-east and the other to the south-east, forming a bay of sloping terrace below which were buried the ancient vestiges (pls. I-II). According to a local tradition, the foot of this hill was at one time washed by the sea. The ancient ruins were also seen over an elevated terrace sloping down to the plains similar to an amphitheatre surrounded by a semicircle of jagged rocks with an opening facing east. The river Birupa runs about 1 km away from the settlement in the recent times. Obviously, this is the only side through which it was accessible from the plain and protected at one time by an entrenchment cut in rocks from precipice to precipice. Beyond the ancient settlement, the soil is alluvial and fertile. The clay deposited by the rivers also proved useful for paving the bricks for the construction of stupas, chaityagriha, monasteries, drains, enclosure wall etc. The ancient site of Udayagiri was protected by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1937. The area is spread in 325.49 acres (including the colossal rock-cut Buddhist images atop the hill). These figures represent Avalokitesvara, standing Buddha, Tantric Buddhist goddess Kurukulla etc., assignable to circa ninth-tenth century A.D. They are locally worshipped as Solapuama' (the mother with sixteen sons). Before the excavations were taken up by the Archaeological Survey of India, the deposits indicated ancient structures, broken sculptures and many brick mounds. One of these mounds called Itabhati, representing a maha-stupa harbouring four cardinal niched-images has since been excavated besides other spacious monasteries. In the southern part of the terrace, stands a shrine of Mahakali which is worshipped by the local people. The shrine was surrounded by undulated deposits and a few large mounds shrouded in thick bushes. When excavated, they unveiled interesting monumental structures and other finds. Towards the southern extremity of Udayagiri hill and not far off from the present chowkidar quarters near the matha exists a square (7 x 7 m) rock-cut stepwell cut 8.53 m deep from the bed-rock to the water shaft, surrounded by a 28.77 m long and 11.86 m wide stone terrace. To reach the water table a flight of 31 steps has been provided. The well bears a single line inscription, reading `Om Ranaka sri Vajranagasya vapi: That this well is dedicated by Ranaka (chief) named Vajranaga. It is engraved in Nagari characters assignable to circa tenth-eleventh century'.

The khondalite stone used for fashioning architectural members and sculptures was available in Udayagiri itself, unlike Ratnagiri where it had to be transported from Lalitagiri, Udayagiri or elsewhere. This fact is further attested to by ancient stone quarries at Udayagiri on the slope of the cliff nearby rock-cut sculptures (fig. 2, pl. III).

The distance between Udayagiri-Ratnagiri and Udayagiri-Lalitagiri hills is 5.5 km and 3.5 km respectively. In all probability like Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri, Udayagiri was also well connected with the long cherished ancient city of Jajpur (ancient Jajatipura or Viraja kshetra), situated on the southern bank of river Baitarani. The site affording a lush green surrounding, fertile land, navigable river system and land route was chosen not only for its secluded location for practicing Buddha's tenets, study and composition of scriptures but also attracted devotees from nearby villages, pilgrims besides caravans and common folk.

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