Sirpur is located in lush-green vicinity of the Bar Nawapara sanctuary on the beautiful banks of the river Mahanadi, about 50 kms from capital Raipur.
Sirpur or Shripur, also called the city of wealth dates back to Fifth and the Eighth century A.D. It was an important centre of Buddhist from the 6th the 10th century A.D. and was visited by Hieun Tsang, the 7th Century Chinese Pilgrimist and Scholar.
Archeological Discoveries at Sirpur
Excavations in Sirpur have yielded scores of temple sites, stone pillars, sculptures such as the Shiva Temple of Panchayatan style and the beautiful sculpture of Mahishasuramardini. Two Buddhist monasteries have also been found.
Till Today, 12 Buddh Viharas, 1 Jain Viharas, monolithic statues of Lord Buddha and Mahavir Jain, 22 Shiv temples, 5 Vishnu temples, stone and copper inscriptions and hundreds of statuesque -- each narrating its own inimitable story of what Sirpur once was, easily collage into the consciousness of even a chance visitor.
It is believed that a devastating earthquake buried the ancient town under mud and debris in the 12th century
The recent finding of a huge market complex is yet another bright feather in the crown of Sirpur. As per Mr. Sharma Sirpur as an economic centre precedes its becoming either a political capital or a religious hub.
After being a famous trading centre for many years, Sirpur was ruled by many dynasties including the Satbahanas, Sarvapurias, the Somavansies, the Panduvansies, Kalchuries. Sirpur was at peak during Somavansi king Mahasivagupt Ballarjun between 595 to 653 AD. The most exquisite Laxman temple was built during this period. It was during this time, Sirpur was world famous learning centre for Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. The noted Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang has testified to this in his travelogue after visiting Sirpur in 639 AD.
Sirpur became epicentre of Buddhism, Today there are famous archeological sites, Buddhist Stupa co-sanguineous with the famous Sanchi Stupa built by King Ashok, the sprawling trading complex dating back to the 6th century BC, the King's palace, the large Buddh Vihara, the Surang Tila temple built on a 4.65 meter high pedestal.
Lakshmana Temple - World Famous
Visit India’s finest brick temples ever created, the magnificent Laxman temple. A remarkable product of unique Symmetry, precise construction and exquisite carvings.
The Lakshmana Temple found here is a brick temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was discovered in 1872 by Lord Cunningham, the then Director General of Archeological Survey. The temple is the only brick temple of its size still standing in this State. The door frame is of stone and a figure of the reclining Vishnu on the Sheshnag may be found on the Lintel.
This temple was built by Vasata, the widow queen of Harsh Gupta of the Somvansh. the Laxman temple is a portrayal of ageless art and devotion. Explore Indian mythology as the beautiful Sheshnaag serving as an umbrella to Lord Vishnu catches your attention at the entrance. The ‘Panchrath’ type of a temple boasts of a Mandapa (shelter), Antral (passage) and the Garbha Griha (the main house). Exquisite carving work on pillars depicting religious segments like Vatayan, Chitya Gawaksha, Bharwahakgna, Aja, Kirtimukha and Kama Amalak breathe life into the exterior walls of the temple. The many incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Krishna leela ornamental symbols and erogenous pictures give the temple a uniquely sacrosanct appeal. It feels as if the walls, pillars, arches are telling stories of the Gods that hailed the rich land. Inside the main house, sits a beautifully crafted statue of Naagraj. Believed to be constructed by the mother of Mahashivgupt Balarjun Vasta, the Laxman temple was built in the memory of her husband Harshgupta in 650 A.D.
Like two brothers residing in the beloved company of each other, the Ram temple is situated close to the Laxman temple. The Ram temple charms visitors with a unique star-like projection at the top. Crafted with brilliance, this star-like structure gives the temple, its own artistic appeal. Interestingly, the records say that the two temples have a gap of several decades in their construction.
Metal idols at Sirpur
Sirpur was known for the mastery of creating metal idols in the 7th-8th A.D. Metal idols were discovered in Sirpur as early as in 1939. Metal idols found here are showcased in Raipur, Nagpur, New Delhi museums and Mumbai’s Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. Sirpur has always been in international limelight for its amazing excavations including the metal idols. These idols have also been sported in Germany, England and America. Sirpur’s metal idols include Buddha, Avlokiteshwar, Padmapani, Vajrapani, Manjushri, Tara and intricately crafted Vishnu and Rishabhnath idols. These statues are sculpted with such excellence that the tranqility on their faces, the peacefully closed dove eyes and intricately carved out palms and fingers depict unmatched artistry and faith!
Baleshwar Mahadev temple
The name of this excavated temple complex is probably put to commemorate the great king Mahashivgupt Balarjun whose inscriptions are found all over Sirpur. He is also attributed to have built most of the monuments at this site. There are about 3-4 temples in the complex, at each corner. All the temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and are built upon Jagati, high rise platform, similar to Laxman temple. Beautiful stories are carved on the pillars and inscriptions allure you with an incessant mystery.
Another temple is the GANDHESHESHWARA TEMPLE (formerly Gandharveshvara) and is interesting because of the Epigraphic records and Genealogy of the Kings of the Somvansh. Some extremely good Vaishnav sculptures are to be found in the Mandapa and several Jain, Buddhist and Hindu Sculptures have been collected in the precincts of the temple .
Sirpur - Buddhist Attractions
The rising popularity of Sirpur can be accredited to the various Buddhist excavations discovered here. Truly blessed with the scenic beauty, the Buddha Vihara exudes warmth and portrays religious harmony. Brick constructions and underground rooms stand testimony to a mystical era. The tone blend reminds of the Gupta dynasty’s temples and residential buildings. Witness unmatched designs and architectural brilliance as you come across the six feet tall statue of Buddha touching the earth and let mystery enchant you as many residential, meditation and study rooms give you a glimpse of Lord’s long lived glory. The Buddha Vihara is also the meeting point of Avalokiteshwar and Makarwahini Gange. The Buddha Vihara flaunts wonderful inscriptions which reveal that the ardent Buddha follower bhikshu Anandprabhu created the shelter during the period of Mahashivgupt Balarjun. 14 marvellous rooms have been built in the Vihara having welcome gates with dwarpals on either side carved in the stone pillars. Named after the creator, this shelter is called as ‘Anandprabhu Kutir Vihara’. The world of the lord continued to reveal itself with the ‘Swastika Vihara’ that was also excavated to reveal a huge Buddha statue and metal idols relating to the Buddhist era.
Buddha Vihara (Teevar dev Maha Vihara):
Today popular as the biggest monastery in Dakshin Kosala, this Vihara is located at about 1 km away from the Laxman temple. Complete in every sense, this monastery reflects the entire Buddhist culture and emanates a sense of pride for the entire nation. It is beautifully crafted in every sense and has stood the test of time with its amazing brick construction.
H. H. Dalai Lama’s visits to Sirpur - Dalai Lama's Endorsement to Visit Sirpur
The beauty of Sirpur has beckoned the presence of His Holiness Dalai Lama too in March 2013. The spiritual guru and Nobel prize winner has quoted that he felt eternal peace in Sirpur and would love to meditate here for an hour. In January 2014, the Dalai Lama meditated for 20 minutes at the ‘Chanda Dai caves’ near Sirpur on the hills of Singhadhurva in Mahasamund district. These hills are located around 17 km from the town of Sirpur and house more than 15 caves. According to the Archaeological experts, Nagarjuna, who is considered the most prominent Buddhist philosophers after Lord Buddha, had meditated in these caves somewhere between first and second century.
This was the second visit of Dalai Lama in Sirpur within 10 months. In 2013, the Dalai Lama was enchanted by the Vaishnav, Jain and Shaiva cultures and had expressed his desire to visit Sirpur again in 2014. The Tibetan spiritual leader travelled to Sirpur by road amid tight security. The troopers were deployed at every few hundred metres between Tumgaon and Sirpur.
Uniqueness of Sirpur Archeological Sites
The most interesting feature of the Sirpur site is that archeological pieces connected with the Shaiv,Vaishnav, Jain and Buddhist religions (of approximately the same age) have been found side by side. The ruins are seen on the banks of numerous tanks existing within a radius of about 6 kilometers around Sirpur.
How to reach Sirpur
Sirpur is 78 Kms. away from Raipur on National Highway No. 6 on way to Sambalpur. From the 61st Kilometre on Raipur- Sambalpur Road.
Other attractions Around Sirpur
Barnawapara: 15 km away from Sirpur, Barsur opens up an invigorating land of lush greens! The Barnawapara Wildlife sanctuary derives its name from the two forest villages- Bar and Nawapara, which form the heart of the sanctuary. A visit to the
Barnawapara wildlife sanctuary is an adventure ride through undulating terrains and dense forests. The Indian bison (Gaur), cheetal, sambhar, neelgai, wild boar are common sightings in this sanctuary. Home to over 150 species of birds, this site promises unlimited thrill and adventure for tourists.
Narayanpur: Narayanpur is situated on the way from Sirpur to Kasdol. 7–8 km away from Thakuriya village, Narayanpur provides shelters and good accommodation to tourists. Located on the shores of Mahanadi, Narayanpur also has a beautiful ancient Shiva temple worth a visit.
Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival
Popular for its internationally acclaimed archaeological excavations, Sirpur has always been the grounds for celebrations. It has also retained its importance as pilgrimage site for the followers of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism as well as for art lovers. Intricate carvings, elegant statues and highly innovative discoveries have made this land the perfect abode for art. All this makes it the most preferred venue for the wonderful Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival. It brings together artists from various platforms in a cultural extravaganza. Along with the dance and music festival, three important workshops based on folk dances, handicrafts and musical instruments of Chhattisgarh are organised. Painting competitions for school children are also conducted during the festival. This festival is supposedly country’s biggest national platform of this kind. It has also established its own unique identity and created a sense of international and national cultural amity. The Sirpur Mahotsav is becoming popular and it will soon become as renowned as Khajuraho and Konark dance festivals, drawing more people to Chhattisgarh.