BUDDHIST SITES OF BALASORE WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO AJODHYA

Balasore the northern coastal district originated from a Persian word "Bal-e-sar" meaning a "Sea- shore town" prior to the British occupation in 1803 Balasore was the cockpit of Orissa and continued to maintain its importance till today. It has the distinction of having been called the "Grainary of Orissa" with stretches of green paddy fields, a network of rivers, blue hills, exclusive meadows and extra-ordinary beach.

Balasore as a separate district was created in October 1828 while it was in the Bengal Presidency. On 1st April 1936 when Orissa was declared a separate state Balasore became an integral part of the state with the district status remaining intact. The district in addition to being ruled by the major dynasties of Orissa, the northern portion was occasionally ruled over by minor dynasties, the most notable being the Khijjingakotta Bhajans whose rule apparently extended as far north as Tamluk in West Bengal. Testimony to being under the hegemony of the Khijjingakotta Bhanjas is evident in the sculptural style of many 10th — 11th century images, as at village Ajodhya. Which is more akin to the style of Khiching than to the rest of Orissa. The sculptural style of Khadipada and Solampur is more closely related to that of Ratnagiri, may be because of its proximity to Jajpur. The earliest Buddhist remains at Jayrampur near the border with Midnapur dates back to 5th — 6th century. Other Buddhists sites within the district include Avana, Balasore town, Kasaba, Kaupur,Khadipada and Solompur Besides these places spay images have been found at Alinagar, Badagaon, Bdia, Bardhanpur, Dhobsila, Gandhibedha, 'Gohiratikira, Khaira, Kupari, Khanagar,_ - Mangalpurrerasahi, Spiro and Salanagarh.

As discussed earlier the district is richly endowed with Buddhist heritage at apparently more than twenty places in the District, without proper excavation and modern archaeological research. The writings on the Buddhist heritage of the district are mainly based on the research work of "N.N Basu's, Archaeological Survey of Mayurbhanj - 1911" *followed by Donaldson's "iconography 'of the Buddhist sculpture of Orissa." Other researchers and historians who contributed to the existing literature are Padmashree Paramananda Acharya - Dr. Nabin Kumar Sahoo, Dr. R.P. Mohapatra, Dr. P.K. Roy, Dr. K.S. Behera, Sri Biswanath Mallik, Dr. K.C. Panigrahi, Sri Banchhanidhi Das and Dr. H.C. Das etc.

Ajodhva-Nilgiri

An effort is made here to concentrate on the micro-level and pinpoint on the Buddhist heritage of Ajodhya / Nilgiri. The village Ajodhya is situated about 15 kms. from Nilgiri, 25 kms. from Balasore and 6 kms. from Fakir Mohan University. It was at one time the capital of Virata-Raja of Mahavarat fame. Surrounded by rivers — Gharghara in the East, Sona to the North and Sindhu to the South and a chain of irregular caves in the nearby hills suggests there was a large Buddhist establishment dating to 10th — 11th centuries It was a flourishing centre of Buddhism with "Marici" and "Tara" as the presiding deities. Ruins of more than 100 temples have been noted here with the temple top Amalaka Sila's scattered throughout. Stylistically most of the images date to 10th — 11th century and are closely related to examples of Khiching. They are carved out of chlorite and except where broken, are well preserved and evince superb craftsmanship in finely curved surface details.