Buddhism in Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu

Ancient Buddha Statue, Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu
Ancient Buddha Statue, Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu

The Smiling Buddha of Ulagiyanallur

Hearing about an ancient Buddha statue in Ulagiyanallur, a remote village in the Kallakurichi dist of Tamil Nadu, we visited that place at the beginning of 2020. Reaching there, we found that it was not easy to locate the statue in the vast paddy fields around. We asked many people around, and they hadn’t heard about such a statue there. Fortunately, a farmer lady who was passing by knew about the statue, and she kindly volunteered to help us. Meandering through the paddy fields, she took us to a thick mound of shrubs and creepers, right in the middle of the fields. She parted the creepers to the sides, and a beautiful smiling Buddha around 4 feet in height came into sight. 

Buddhism in Kallakurichi - Ancient Buddha Statue at Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu
Near the ancient Buddha Statue at Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu
Buddhism in Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu - Ancient Buddha Statue, Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu
Near the ancient Buddha Statue at Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu

She told us that the villagers have intentionally camouflaged the statue and kept it there for safekeeping until a secure temple structure is made. Earlier, the locals didn’t know what it was. For some, it was just a big piece of granite. They even used it to tether cattle. But once the awareness was spread that it was a Buddha statue, their attitude changed, and they started venerating it and protecting it. 

The statue is still partly buried in the ground. It can be stylistically dated to be from the 9th-10th Century period or before.

Dilapidated Vihara (monastery) in Ulagiyanallur

Buddhism in Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu. Dilapidated Vihara / Buddhist Temple near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.
Dilapidated structure near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi. This could be the Vihara where the Buddha statue was originally enshrined.

We did some exploration in the surrounding area. There, we came across a temple-like structure, dilapidated and half covered in undergrowth. It has a dome and lotus medallions on the pillars. The base structure and the hall is made up of granite walls and pillars, whereas the dome is a terracotta brick structure. Those bricks looked ancient and resembled the ones used in the viharas of the first millennium. This structure is most likely the vestige of the Buddha Vihara in which the statue was originally enshrined.

Buddhism in Kallakurichi -  The dome of the dilapidated Temple near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.
The dome of the dilapidated Vihara / Shrine near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi. The bricks used for construction are of the style prevalent in the viharas of the first millennium.
Dilapidated Temple near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.
Dilapidated Vihara / Temple near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.

Buddhism in Kallakurichi -  Interior of the dilapidated Temple near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.
Interior of the dilapidated Vihara hall and shrine room near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.
Lotus medallions in a Pillar of the dilapidated Temple near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.
Lotus medallions in a Pillar of the dilapidated Vihara / Temple hall near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.
The dome of the dilapidated Temple near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi.
The dome of the dilapidated Vihara / Temple near the ancient Buddha statue of Ulagiyanallur, Kallakurichi. The statue would have been originally enshrined here.

2 thoughts on “Buddhism in Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu

  • May 18, 2021 at 7:34 am
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    Buddhist heritage spread up every where in india.but it is need to find out and and excavation must be done.U done Well.South India also no longer back for Buddhist heritage 🙏

    Reply

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