In the quaint dusty backyard of Sirpur lies, sacred ruins of the bygones, disposed in the sands of time. Beautiful broken colorful bangles, clay toys, and stupefying cenotaphs of a civilization that would talk no more but for the epigraphs, the epitaphs, polished, chiseled stones and inscriptions for description. Mounds and monuments and mounts of wisdom lay scattered, echoing the lives and times of about 2000 years of rich history, tradition, trade and folklore.
About 80 kms from Chhattisgarh`s capital Raipur, on the bank of river Mahanadi, Sirpur is the jewel of the other 57 protected and catered archeological places in Chhattisgarh.
The findings in the Sirpur have revealed a civilization and culture much more illustrious than that of the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro!
22 Shiva temples, 4 Vishnu temples, 10 Buddha vihars, 3 Jain Vihars, remains of ancient market, underground granary market, 6th century Ayurveda snana-kund (Ayurveda spa), Ayurvedic treatment center, 10 bedded hospital with ancient surgical instruments….to name a few! The stone engravings are unparalleled even in comparison to those of Ellora and would make Khajuraho envious.
Spread over in an area of about 30 Sq km the ancient capital of Dakshin Koshal (south kosal- mentioned in the epic Ramayana), about 200 archeological mounds have been discovered and excavated so far.
Dalai Lama and an envoy of South Korea and Sri Lanka visited the site recently and were enamored especially by the Boudh Vihar. Magnificent and the biggest temple complex of 6th and 7th centuries to be discovered so far. The stone inscriptions and the engravings depicts features of southeast Asian ethnicity, attesting to the fact that more than 6000 buddhist students visited and attained wisdom in the once not so nondescript shreepur; as Sirpur was probably known in the ancient times. The medieval traveler and scholar Hiuen Tsang too mentioned Sirpur in his travelogue implying the rich buddhist tradition of the place.
The multitude of the Buddhist places of worship, shrines and other artefacts contributed to the inclusion of Sirpur in Circuit 3, titled Buddhist heritage trails.
The sprawling city was once a major tradecenter in the international market of the ancients, from 6th BCE towards the end of 18th century!! The first traders might probably were Jains as implied by the presence of huge statue of Lord Parshvanath Tirthankar. The market were segmented for metals, daily consumable articles etc.
The presence of Ayurveda spa, treatment center, and a 10 bedded hospital complex is too incredible a discovery in central Indian state which is mostly considered a land of the impoverished, stuck in Stone Age and what not. The common remark of the people is “achha vahan to haathi may ghumte hai na? / well..there (in cg) you travel in elephants aint so?”.
Well….much has changed in the state and a weary traveler would feel at home with the cozy comfortable arrangement the state tourism has done in the past decade, with world case accommodation, lodging and tour packages. Come and relish the rich culture and history of Chhattisgarh.
Don’t forget to bring a diary. You might want to pen down a travelogue.