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A river once bloodied now adds a sense of peace at Dhauligiri Hills, Odisha

Ashoka’s story is perhaps one of the most striking in history; how a bloody battle turned an expansionist emperor into a Buddhist pacifist. Dhauli Hills, located on the banks of the river Daya—which is said to have turned red with the blood of those killed in battle—8 km south of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, is presumed to be the location of the battle of Kalinga.

The hills, set in a vast open space, has the major edicts of Ashoka engraved on a mass of rock by the side of the road leading to the summit of the hill. Under Ashoka’s rule, Dhauli became an important centre of Buddhist activities and he built several chaityas, stupas and pillars here. He inscribed instructions for officials and expounded the main principles of dandaniti for the public. The rock-cut elephant above the edicts is the earliest Buddhist sculpture found in Odisha. The sculpture demonstrates a fine sense of form and movement.

On the top of the hill, a dazzling white peace pagoda has been built by the Japan Buddha Sangha and the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha in the 1970s. It has five umbrellas that symbolize the five essential parts of Buddhism. The Dhauligiri hills also has an ancient Shiva temple, which is a popular spot for Shivaratri celebrations.