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Tarapur, lying in East Indian state of Orissa, is known for three stupas (edicts) installed by King Asoka. The sculptures have recently been discovered at Tarapur. The identification of ‘Kesa Stupa’ and the donation of ‘Bhikhu Tapusa’ for building Tarapur Stupa have been solved with the excavation at the region.

The excavation at Tarapur has revealed many plain railing pillars and cross bars. You can find inscription on five of these sculptures – some in Bramhi and others in proto-Oriya and Oriya script. The Buddhist text – ‘Anguttara Nikaya’ says heading towards ‘Madhayadesa’, two merchants of Utkala with five houndered trading carts made a visit to the Buddha on the last day of week seven after he got Enlightenment (Bodhi) at Bodhgaya.

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.

After the identification of ‘Kesa Stupa’ at Tarapur Buddhist Site, it is presumed that Tapassu himself built the stupa in 6th or 5th century BC. The stupa is considered to be the earliest of its type in Buddhism.

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