Located on top of Dhauli Hill a short distance south of Bhubaneswar, Shanti Stupa (also known as the International Peace Pagoda) was built in 1972 in a collaborative project between the Odisha Government and Kalinga Nippon Sangha (a nearby Buddhist monastery).
The stupa’s location is of course of great significance to the history of India. Below this hill somewhere near the Daya River the famous Kalinga War took place in circa 261 B.C. The bloodshed that occurred (possibly up to 200,000 people were killed) resulted in the victorious Ashoka renouncing violence and converting from Chanda Ashoka (fierce warrior) to Dharma Ashoka (peace lover). Ashoka turned to Buddhism, and started promoting the religion throughout his empire.
Shanti Stupa houses four massive statues of Lord Buddha in various poses, along with a series of stone panels carved with episodes from his life. Further scenes depict the aftermath of the battle that took place on the plains below, and the process of Ashoka turning away from his violent ways.
The weather was not very pleasant when I visited the stupa. Amazingly, despite this being quite an attraction for tourists and locals alike, I had the entire monument to myself.
I confess I wasn’t particularly drawn to the building which disappointed me. It’s not in the best of condition and there was plenty of rubbish left strewn in the grounds that further eroded any enthusiasm I had.
A short distance from the stupa is a replica Ashokan Pillar, which was equally disappointing. It doesn’t even come near to mirroring the real thing, the best example I’ve seen is at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. It just goes to show how the level of craftsmanship 2,300 years ago cannot be matched today, or perhaps those who created this pillar didn’t want to invest as much effort into the project.
Thankfully there are other locations to see in Dhauli that are well worth seeking out, most notably an Ashokan Rock Edict, but also the less visited Bhairangeswara Temple. All of these sites can be combined together to provide you with a short excursion away from Bhubaneswar city.
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