Buddhist Trail:

Born in a royal family at Kapilvastu as Prince Siddhartha, the Gautama Buddha got enlightenment at Bodhgaya and delivered his first preaching at Sarnath. These places in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are famous Buddhist destinations. However, Orissa also became a renowned Buddhist site mainly due to the teachings of the Buddha. Orissa Buddhist trail and sites say the clear story of the rich culture and history of the region, in terms of Buddhism.

Utkal Tapassu and Bhallika, two merchants, became the first lay disciples of Lord Buddha, as is written in early Vinaya texts.  Buddha gave them eight handfuls of his hairs, and got rice cake and honey in return from them. The merchants, later on, deposited the heirs in a stupa (Kesa Stupa) in their native place Asitanjana. The rich Orissa Buddhist Heritage related to the early Christian era of 15th-16th century AD has been revealed by the excavations done in Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri by Archaeological Survey of India.

There are some popular legends among the people clueing the wealthy Buddhist tradition in the ancient region, like the tooth relic of the Buddha that is preserved in the Orissa Buddhist Heritage Site. The blossoming of this religion in the state is well indicated by the literacy references, myths and historical data of the era. In the consequence of the Kalinga war held in 261 BC, King Ashoka, who conquered Kalinga, realized the darkest side of a war, left the companionship of weapons and took the path of non-violence. He subsequently accepted Buddhism and propagated the religion in the Kalinga region of Orissa by building a number of stupa and other sculptures in the region, expressing his concerns about peace of the world.

Buddhism is believed to have been flourished during the period of Bhaumakara Dynasty in 8th to 10th century AD. This was the time when Buddhism touched its zenith. It is mentioned in inscriptions that during this period, a ruler of Bhaumakara dynasty replicated a Mahayana Buddhist text ‘Gandavyuha’ and gifted it to a Chinese ruler. Chinese travelers Hieun Tsang and Fa- Hian also mentioned in their texts that all the Buddhist schools like Mahayana and Hinayana bloomed in their fullest during this period. Buddhist scholars also believe that Orissa was the heart of several kinds of Tantric Buddhism like Vajrayana, Kalachakrayanaand Sahajayana, contributing significantly in the growth of Tantric Buddhism and having extensive interaction with Tibetan Tantric School.

Numerous Buddhist stupa and other sculptures have been unearthed in the Orissa Buddhist Heritage Site which comprises of Ratnagiri-Udayagiri-Lalitgiri and nearby areas like Langudi Hills.