Tarapur, located in eastern Indian state of Orissa, is famous for three stupas (edicts) built by King Asoka. The recent Tarapur excavation has exposed these sculptures. With the excavation, the identification of 'Kesa Stupa' and the donation of 'Bhikhu Tapusa' for constructing Tarapur Stupa have been solved.
Several plain railing pillars and cross bars have also been discovered by the Tarapur excavation. Visitors can spot inscriptions on five of these sculptures – some in Bramhi and others in proto-Oriya and Oriya script.
As per the the Buddhist text – 'Anguttara Nikaya', moving towards 'Madhayadesa', two merchants of Utkala with five hundred trading carts visited the Buddha on the last day of week seven after he got Enlightenment (Bodhi) at Bodhgaya.
Two merchants of Utkal Tapassu and Bhallika became the first lay disciples of Lord Buddha, as per early Vinaya texts. Eight handfuls of his hairs were what Buddha gave them, getting rice cake and honey in return from them. Later on, the merchants deposited the heirs in a stupa (kesa Stupa) in their native place Asitanjana.
The excavations done in Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri by Archaeological Survey of India revealed the wealthy Orissa Buddhist Heritage related to the early Christian era of 15th-16th century AD. The 'Kesa Stupa' at Tarapur Buddhist Site is believed to be the first of its type in Buddhism. With the identification of this stupa, it is presumed that Tapassu himself constructed the stupa in 6th or 5th century BC.