Who is responsible for destroying magnificent Buddhist places of learning in Odisha

– Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Modern day Odisha is known to be the ‘epicenter’ of brahmanism as the socio-cultural-economic dominance of the brahmanical castes in Odisha is complete. One wonders as what happened to it and why Odisha, once the hub of Buddhist activities and culture completely lost to it. I am sure a fair analysis of history need to be done in the greater interest of our secular values and retaining our original heritage.

The heart of brahmanical Odisha is Puri and its famous Jaggannath temple where the temple openly propagate division among communities. Non Hindus are not allowed which is fine as it is their fundamental right to deny people who dont have the faith, yet there are thousands who proclaim as Hindus but not allowed inside the temple. Dalits too are not allowed the entry inside the temple and we heard the story of President Kovind being unwelcome in the temple complex when he visited there.

The temple has enormous wealth. It has huge land space and devotees throng from all over the world. One local shop keeper told me that it is the ‘most powerful god’, I told him every ‘god’ is powerful because of ‘power’ and ‘politics’ of the dominant behind them. Can we say, Tirupathi god is lesser important. Can we say, Kashi Vishwnath is not important or the huge Laxmi Narayan Temple in Trivendram does not matter. Every temple matter in this country because common person expect ‘miracles’ here but the powerful get money and power from them. They have become shelter places for all kind of politicians who influence politics and are not keen on people’s welfare.

Some how, the politicians and power chums never ever interested in people’s welfare so traditionally you are ‘good’ if you do donate to a temple or build a temple but we know all these religious places are not merely religious, they are economy as well as politics for the powerful. So Odisha’s power flow from Lord Jaggannath.

Now, i see big banners and advertisement of Odisha government about its Buddhist heritage. You can find it at the airport but I feel there are not many visitors. I had earlier visited Dhaulagiri where Ashoka defeated his rival army in the battle of Kalinga in the year 261BC. It is assumed that over one lakh people were killed in this war which forced Ashoka to ponder over and reject violence as he embraced Buddhism and massively propagated Buddhism world over. As I visited two beautiful Buddhist heritage sites of Ratnagiri and Udayagiri hills, in Jaajpur district of Odisha, many things came in my mind.

Udayagiri hills are absolutely fascinating and the architecture there look like that it was a University. The sad part is that amidst the beatiful heritage site we have a ‘Mahakal temple’ which look planted and deliberate. I dont know how the archelogocal survey of India allow these things. The first thing should be to investigate as who planted this and whether this is really Mahakal or Buddhist statues ? The Udayagiri site is surrounded by beautiful lush green hills and must be developed fully. Nearly 30 kilometer from Udayagiri hills is Ratnagiri as you cross river Birupa. The Ratnagiri site showed the stunning artifacts of Buddhist era as well as diverse nature of worshipping pattern among the Buddhists. Once you go to see the marvelous structure which start from 2nd BC to 6th to 9th century BC, then you realise how India would have been a country of great minds, both in term of spiritualism as well as architecture. Buddhist era in India was dedicated to education and learning but then we must now explore who destroyed these places learning.

I was pained to see many of these artifacts which were targeted. The excavated artifacts and idols reveals that they must have been attacked by those who were not keen on Buddhism. If it had happened in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, ‘historians’ blamed to Islam and Mughals for the assault on them but what about Odisha. Who were responsible for killing Buddhism and Buddhist places of learning in India. It is important to know because these are the same people who blame Muslims for every attack on India, including breaking the idols of the Hindu Gods and goddesses.

I was wondering as where has the Buddhist population disappeared. Isn’t it the duty of the anthropologists to look for, most of them have been too charitable and polite to the Hinduism and no questions are asked about the Hindu Rajas and their brutality towards Buddhism. A friend informed me that many people call Lord Jaggannath, an avatar of Buddha or Buddha an avtar of Jaggannath. If Jaggannath and Buddha are the same, then I have my doubts about Jaggannath temple which many people suggest was a Buddhist one and conquered by the brahmanical forces and converted into a highly orthdox Hindu temple.

It is good that Odisha government is developing these Buddhist sites which are extraordinary but historians owns a duty towards all to give us a unbiased picture as who were responsible for destruction of Buddhist places and Buddhists in India. The historians have their own biases as they never bothered to speak about Buddhist past of Ayodhya as well as how the brahmanical forces still control Baudh Gaya as a Shiva temple still exist inside the holiest shrine of Buddhist world over. Historical wrongs can not be corrected but it is important to give people the real picture. Historians in India discussed Buddhism in terms of an event and not give detailed picture of how great places of education and learning during Buddhist period were destroyed by the Brahmanical rulers. Perhaps, if this country has such a huge number illiterate and poor people, it is because the democratisation process during Buddhist period became the biggest challenge to brahmanism and its exclusive privileges for particular communities that they were not ready to share them with others and unleashed their caste superstructure with ‘divine sanction’ on the masses. India was never the same again and consequences of the brahmanical assault on Buddhism are being felt now when society is highly polarised and racist caste system being justified and encouraged all over in then name of traditions. It is time to embrace India of Buddhist period and bring equality and enlightenment in the lives of all Indians so that we do not suffocate in the dirty ritual and horrible traditions and survive as a better civilisation which can make all of us proud.