Pradeep Pattanayak

Today, Buddhists all over the world are celebrating Buddha Purnima, also known as Vesak, with much pomp and fervour. 

The festival generally falls on the first full moon day (Purnima) of the Hindu month of Vaisakha. This auspicious day marks the birth, enlightenment (Nirvana) and death (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

Dhauli or Dhauligiri is one of the five famous Buddhist sites in Odisha, where Buddhists flock in large numbers all year round, and more on Buddha Purnima. It is located around 8 kilometre south of Bhubaneswar

It happens to be the place where the Kalinga War was fought on the bank of the Daya River between the Maurya Empire led by Emperor Ashoka and the state of Kalinga, led by Raja Ananda Padmanabha. The bloodiest battle was won by Emperor Ashoka. 

But the long-cherished victory left him devastated. The scenes of Dhauli, the battlefield being scattered with bodies, the Daya river turning red in the blood of the slain soldiers and the sufferings of soldiers' families left him broken. Dropping his weapon, there he solemnly promised he would never pick up one. There, a massive transformation was witnessed in Samrat Ashoka. Chanda Ashoka (the Violent Ashoka) transformed into Dharma Ashoka (the Peaceful Ashoka). 

Thereafter, Emperor Ashoka accepted Buddhism and started spreading it. The Great Warrior spread the teachings of Buddhism first in Odisha which consequently started spreading across the world. He had also sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism.

As a mark of the famous Kalinga war, Shanti Stupa or internationally known as Peace Pagoda was constructed atop the Dhauli hill. It was constructed in a joint collaboration between Kalinga Nippon Sangha and the Odisha Government. In two years’ time, the construction of the dazzling white dome-shaped historical monument was completed. On November 8, 1972, it was inaugurated. 

There are four massive idols of Lord Buddha in different postures along with a relaxing posture on four sides of the monument. Apart from that, there are several stone panels on the walls depicting the scenes of the Kalinga War and the transformation of Emperor Ashoka. 

Another attraction of the Dhauligiri is the rock edicts, written in Brahmi script. The messages have now been decoded. The king instructs his administrators on how to rule their subjects. The inscriptions are still clearly visible even written 2000 years ago. 

Here, a pillar structurally similar to the Lion Capital of Ashoka in Sarnath is also a centre of attraction. 

People from different parts of the nation as well as from abroad keep visiting this place all year round. Buddhists revere the place as a sacred one as this was the place where Emperor Ashoka underwent a change of heart. And, for nature lovers, it’s like heaven on earth. The tranquillity of the place in the lap of nature attracts them.