Odisha was the place for growth of Pashupat- Shaivism. Savants of Matta Mayura group, Lakulisha community flourished in Odisha as different branches of Shaivism. Innumerable sculptural representations speak the glory of their philosophical greatness and penance of unthinkable degree.
From Ashoka’s time that is 3rd century BC Odisha was a region where Buddhism was at its heyday. There are two opinions out of which one informs that the two disciples of Buddha were traders from Odisha. The other theory informs that Odisha was the real birth place Buddhadeva. By the end of 6th century AD esoteric practices entered into Buddhism and Bajrayana emerged which gradually spread throughout India by Buddhist monks such as Nagarjuna, Dharmakirtti, Rahula Bhadra and Indrabhuti etc. Indrabhuti and his sister Laxminkara were disciples of Rahula Bhadra, a Bodhisattwa from among 84 siddhacharyas whose writings we find as Boudha Charyapada. It also penetrated into many South East Asian countries such as China etc. Next to Buddhism the important religion which was popularly accepted by the people of Odisha was Jainism. Today a particular weaver community in Odisha practice rituals of Jainism though they do not claim to be followers of Jainism. This may be due to the Sanskritization or Hinduization that resulted in bringing assimilation of these religions. Apart from all the three important religious tenets as mentioned above Odisha was the place for growth of Pashupat- Shaivism and savants of Matta Mayura group, Lakulisha community flourished in Odisha as different branches of Shaivism. Innumerable sculptural representations speak the glory of their philosophical greatness and penance of unthinkable degree. Philosophy seldom dies. Philosophies exist long and at times when the situation becomes conducive reappear again. Esoteric practices of Buddhists remained alive and surfaced in 15th and 16th century. We came across some important practitioners of this group who are popularly called five companions, Panchasakha.
The religious assimilation that India saw is attributed to Adi Shankaracharya who by his spiritual power came to know that Jagannath, the lord of the land has been kept underground during the period when the idolaters were ruling over India. Adi Shankaracharya recovered and consecrated the image in Puri, on the tenth day of the bright fort night of Vaishakha. Thus in commemoration of this unique event, almost two thousand five hundred years back the sovereign religious preceptor of the Hindus established a monastery named Gobardhan Pitha and his first disciple Padmapada was coroneted as the first pontiff of this monastery. Thereby Odisha became a privileged State to have the first religious seat of Hinduism following Rig-Veda in the East and Padmapada the favoured disciple of Adi Shankar became the pontiff and Puri is one of the highest sacred seats of Vedic tradition. Adi Shankar could have established this seat in any other place but he did not do that. He preferred Odisha that tells its spiritual magnanimity.
Wooden images of Adi Shankar and Padmapada were placed on the venerated platform along with the images of Jagannatha etc. It was in 1783 some unscrupulous servitors of Jagannatha displaced and destroyed those two images secretly.It was due to the Hindu rulers of the region especially from 9th century on ward Odisha became the stronghold of Hinduism. Hinduism penetrated into this region from Gupta rule in general and Samudra Gupta in particular as is known from his Allahabad Pillar Inscription. Therefore we have Siva temples, temples for Mother Goddesses and Vishnu temples to worship these deities as paramount deities of the region.
From one 10th century epigraph in the Sarada Temple in Maihar (Satana District of Madhya Pradesh) it is proved that Purushottama Vishnu as depicted in the SaradaTilaka text written by a Kashmiri scholar (9th century) named Laxmana Deshika was under worship in Odisha at Puri on Sea. Chola Ganga, a powerful King as he was started building a gargantuan temple for Purushottama in 1112 A.D. and it was completed in 1135 A.D.