Dhauli – The Shanti Stupa

Dhauli hills are located on the banks of the river Daya, 8 km south of Bhubaneswar in Odisha (India). It is a hill with vast open space adjoining it, and has major Edicts of Ashoka engraved on a mass of rock, by the side of the road leading to the summit of the hill. Dhauli hill is presumed to be the area where the Kalinga War was fought.

The Rock Edicts found here include Nos. I-X, XIV and two separate Kalinga Edicts. In Kalinga Edict VI, he expresses his concern for the “welfare of the whole world”. The rock-cut elephant above the Edicts is the earliest Buddhist sculpture of Odisha. The stone elephant shows the animal’s foreparts only, though it has a fine sense of form and movement.

Ashoka had a special weakness for Dhauli, where the battle was fought. The Daya river is said to have turned red with the blood of the many deceased after the battle, and enabled Ashoka to realize the magnitude of horror associated with war. He saw to it that Dhauli became an important centre of Buddhist activities. He built several chaityas, stupas and pillars there. He got abodes excavated for the recluse, instructions inscribed for officials, expounded the main principles of dandaniti for the public, provided special status to his new kingdom including the stupas at Dhauli.

Dhauligiri, a hillside with another name as Dhauli located on the River Daya banks, is 8 km far from the south of Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Orissa. You can find splendid Edicts of Ashoka embossed on a mass of rock in Dhauli, beside the way to the hill summit. It is believed that Dhauli hill was the battlefield of the Kalinga War. The marvelous Shanti Stupa or Peace Pagoda is also located here.

The grand Peace Pagoda or Shanti Stupa can be spotted on the hilltop, constructed in 1972 by the Japan Buddha Sangha and the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha.

Carvings of the head and forelegs of an elephant emerging from the rock mark the spot where the change of heart and transformation of Ashoka occurred. It is said to be the oldest rock cut sculpture in India (3rd century B.C.). This image is symbolic and it symbolizes the birth of Buddha (the enlightened) and the emergence of Buddhism.
The rock edicts at the bottom hill (and the other at Jau Gada), dating from 260 B.C., suggest that the conquered area may have had two administrative headquarters. On these rock edicts, instructions to his administrators how to rule his subjects are carved on stones which are as follows—“You are in charge of many (thousand living beings). You should gain the affection of men. All men are my children, and as I desire for my children that they obtain welfare and happiness both in this world and the other world, the same do I desire for all men…”
These edicts shed much light on the miraculous transformation of a Great King from a ruthlessly ambitious warrior to a benevolent and highly evolved soul dedicating his later life to Buddhist way of life. These inscriptions on these rocks are remarkably clear even after 2000 years.

The overall structure of the stupa is in the shape of a dome. One can spot the Buddha footprints as well as the Bodhi tree over the stone panels. Over the panels, one also spots the image of Ashoka who keeps his sword of war in front of Lord Buddha suggesting that he had given up the idea of war completely. In the vicinity of this stupa, there lays a monastery named as the Saddharma Vihar Monastery, which is much visited by the Buddhist devotees. And at a short distance from the Shanti Stupa, you find the temple of Dhavaleshwar that was renovated in the year 1972 and is much frequented by Hindu as well as Buddhist devotees. Therefore, do make it a point to visit Dhauligiri and explore various Buddhist attractions that add to the sacred significance of Dhauligiri in Orissa.

The nearby region also houses Ashokan edicts and possibly a Stupa at Bhaskareshwar temple at Tankapani road as arglars. The Dhauligiri hills also has an ancient Shiva temple which is the place for mass gathering during Shiva Ratri Celebrations.

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