• Ekamra Walks

Dreams Of Dhauli

Updated: Apr 5, 2018

Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat.

The name itself has been synonymous with his devilish, prudish and merciless nature throughout history. The emperor who killed his brothers to secure the ancestral throne; the General who was feared by all his subordinates; the king who possessed a torture chamber in the name of ‘Ashoka’s Hell’. Chandashoka has many such monstrous manoeuvre to his credit.

The vast military strength, wealth and power of an early kingdom in the central East India couldn’t be resisted by Ashoka, the Great. Hence, eight years after his coronation, in 261 BC, his army fought the war at Kalinga annexing the territory into Magadhan empire.The horrendous war at Kalinga might have rendered the Mauryans victorious, but the historical significance of the war dwells in the fact that it led to the transformation of Chandashoka to Dharmashoka. Adiraja Dharmashoka adopted Buddhism and vowed to devote the rest of his life to nonviolence (ahimsa) and conquer the hearts of his subjects through dharma.

A sort of paternalistic attitude has been articulated in one of his Edicts, which

roughly translates to:

“All the men are my children and just as I desire the welfare and happiness of

my children both in his world as well as the next, the same I do desire for all.”

Advocating the principles of Buddhism, Ashoka pledged to put an end to man’s desire of war, across the globe. He sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to Ceylon; the two monks Uttara and Sona, to Suvarnabhumi (Bhutan, today) to promulgate the philosophies of Buddhism and ingrain among them the ‘Four Noble Truths’ of life.

Far off from the mundane musings, on a secluded serene surrounding, is located the Dhauli Hills of utmost historical notability which has been the centre of attraction to Buddhist pilgrims, philosophers and propagators for centuries altogether.

On the way to Dhauli, one comes across the Edicts erected by Ashoka still standing upright since circa 260 BC, on the left side. The rock edict of Ashoka justly illustrates the conqueror’s tolerance and benevolent nature. The efforts of structuring a peace-loving country is worth appraisal. The remarkable transformation of the Chandashoka is minutely evident in the edicts from R.E-I to R.E-XIV. In place of the R.E-XI, XII, and XIII, two Separate Rock Edicts S.R.E-I and S.R.E-II have been embodied.

The inscription has been shielded by a glass covering as a protection to the epigraph. Just above the rock engraved, is another rock cut elephant which is one of the oldest sculptures from ancient India that has survived the ravages of time. The symbolic significance of the monument takes us back in time to the birth of Gautam Buddha when Queen Maya dreamt of a white elephant entering into her womb. Hence, in Buddhism, the elephant is considered sacred and symbolises royalty.

At a certain distance from the edicts erected, is the dazzling white pagoda called Shanti Stupa of Dhauli. Ashoka had an unusual weakness attached to Dhauli; maybe in view of the fact that the area adjoining the Dhauli Hills and the Daya river are believed to be the battleground of Kalinga War.

Under the chairmanship of the then Bihar governor Shri Nitya Nanda Kanungo, the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangh constructed the Stupa which was inaugurated in the year 1972. The Fujii Guru chose the Stupa as a symbol of peace as it was here by the side of the blood flowing Daya river that emperor Ashoka laid down the weapons of violence and undertook a life of Shanti and Ahimsa.

On the four directions of the stupa are eight lion sculptures symbolic of the bodhisattvas (sons of the Buddha) or Buddha’s lions. In Buddhist iconography, lions play the role of dharma protectors safeguarding the throne of Buddha.

In the usual hemispherical structure, the Dhauli stupa is no different from the customary constructions. On the four sides of the stupa are four Buddhist postures; the one at the entrance being Dharma Chakra Pravartana, the one in the left side being the Bhumisparsa, the back side consisting the Mahaparinirvana and the right side one being Varada. The remaining portion of the walls are encrusted with the illustrations taken from the life of Buddha.

Near the Shanti Stupa, is a Shiva temple that happens to be a crowd-pleaser to lakhs of devotees from around the city during Mahashivratri. The Shiva temple was built as a symbol of the Protector and Destroyer being placed nearby, according to Hindu mythology, considering Buddha as the ninth avatar of Vishnu.

With this story of acculturation, Dhauli stands not only as a cairn of historical significance but also as an epithet to secularism and universal brotherhood. The enchantment of exploring the temple architecture should never come to an end within the city, as the real treasure of delight lies 8kms from Bhubaneswar, the cultural conurbation of India. It is Dhauli, the dream destination.

Stay tuned for a breathtaking journey with Ekamra Walks into the Dhauli hills this summer !

  • Article By Samprikta Sahu

  • Photography By - Krishna Jenamoni | Gyaslten Wangdi

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