During the summer of 2007, Prof. James Freeman of San Jose State University and I spent two months collecting data for a documentary, The Myth of Buddha’s birthplace. Now we have completed the documentary that is going to various film festivals in the USA. We are very happy that it has also been selected for screening at India International Film Festival 2012.
While Prof. James Freeman and I were researching the legend of Buddha’s birth in Odisha, we came across the extensive practice of Buddhism in the state. In the process we were introduced to major sites associated with Buddhism – Lalitagiri in Cuttack district and Udayagiri and Ratnagiri in Jajpur district on the banks of river
Birupa, the most spectacular Buddhist sites known as the golden triangle. Buddhist accounts mention this triangle as a major center of learning, very much like Nalanda and Takshyashila. Hieuen-Tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrim of the seventh century A.D. who visited Orissa, mentions the University of Puspagiri under the Buddhist complex at Ratnagiri-Udayagiri-Lalitgiri. According to him, there were numerous Buddhist monasteries in the region full of students.
When we visited these sites, I was awe struck to see the monumental display of the remnants of huge brick monasteries, grand halls, a number of votive stupas, the life-size Buddha statues and different figures from the Buddhist era (3rd century A.D to 8th century A.D). Our preliminary survey indicates that even though Pushpagiri and Ratnagiri did not acquire the stature of Nalanda, it was a major center of Buddhist learning in the Eastern part of India.
Prof. Chitta Baral of Arizona State University has become very much involved in promoting these Buddhist centers of learning in Odisha since the Government of India along with Chinese, Japanese and other Buddhist countries from Asia have revived Nalanda University in Bihar.
I agree with Prof. Baral that it is high time that scholars of your stature should be consulted regarding an international effort to revive these centers of learning in Odisha. The state government of Odisha will be very much interested in joining us in an exploratory project and we are planning to have a one-day workshop on this at the 43rd OSA convention in Seattle on 4th of July 2012.
We would like to invite you to join a committee of scholars for a brainstorming session. After hearing from you, we will send you
We are looking forward to hearing from you soon.