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Sirpur

The small town of Sirpur or Sripura, as it was known in ancient days is located 85 km east from capital Raipur along the bank of Mahanadi river, amidst the forested enclaves of Barnawapara sanctuary in the Mahasamund district of Chhattisgarh.

Sirpur was the capital of the DakshinKosala between CE 5th and 6th centuries and flourished to its peak in the reign of MahasivaguptaBalarjuna (c. 595-650 AD). During this reign, the foundations of numerous Shiva temples and BuddhistsVihars were laid.

The Archaeological Survey of India have revealed the presence of a splendid intermix of cultures dating from 5th to 10th century AD relating to Buddhist, Shaiva, Vaishnava and Jain architecture. The syncretic tradition showcased in the architectural remains here, reminds one of the magnificent Ellora caves where Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves temples and monasteries, datingfrom same time period, were excavated.

Long famed 7thcentury Laxman Temple (dedicated to lord Vishnu), first discovered in 1872 by Lord Cunningham, the then Director General of Archeological Survey. The templeis considered as one of the finest brick temples of India with a stone doorframe.

The most amazing find at Sirpur is an ancient Buddhist Sangharama or monastery, said to be bigger than the great Nalandauniversity itself. The BuddhistVihar, found during excavations, is magnificent and it's the biggest temple complex of 6th and 7th centuries to be covered so far. For the first time, stone carvings depicting sexual activity among animals have been found-a rarest form of carvings in Indian Archaeology. The region was an important centre for Buddhism from 6th to 10 century and was visited by Hieun Tsang, the 7th Century Chinese Pilgrim and Scholar.

Present day excavation continue to prove that the Sirpur was prosperous as early as 3rd century BCE to nearly CE 17th century with  beautifully panned and administered riverside enclave. According to Archaeologist Sirpur was much more developed than the ancient township of Harrapa and Mohenjo-daro.

Places to see at Sirpur are Laxman temple, SurangTilla, TivaradevaMahavihar, Anandprabha Kutir Vihar and various temple complexes.

Sirpur visit can be combined with Barnawapara wildlife sanctuary which one of the few forest tracts in central India where leopard and gaur (India Bison) density is very high. Sirpur can also be visited separately considering it close proximity from state capita Raipur.