Buddhist Circuit

For more than a millennium, Buddhism exercised profound influence on the lives of the people of the ancient Andhra desa. The language and literature, art and architecture, social norms and religious practices of that time were shaped by the enlightening stimulus of this great religion. The magnificent remains of many Buddhist Viharas and stupas in Andhra Pradesh give us a glorious glimpse of the ancient times when Buddhism flourished in the State. there are about 144 sites spread all over the state, which have withstood the ravages of time. It is from here that Buddhism spread to the far east including China, Japan and Shrilanka. Find peace and tranquility as you make the circuit of the Buddhist sites...

Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh, Vijayawada, the busy business hub, and Visakhapatnam the thriving port city, form the focal points from where the Buddhist sites can be visited in comfort. Travel and be blessed ... the Buddhist trail beckons....

Nagarjunasagar

In the mid-1950s a major hydro-electric project was planned on the River Krishna at Vijayapuri. It was then found that an ancient Buddhist site would be submerged by the water of the reservoir and hence a special project was taken up to excavate the site and transplant the structures to the hill called Nagarjunakonda.

Nagarjunakonda

Nagarjunakonda was one of the largest and most important Buddhist centres in South India from the second century BC until the third century AD. It was named after Acharya Nagarjuna, a renowed Buddhist scholar and philosopher, who had migrated here from Amarvati to propagate and spread the Buddha's message of universal peace and brotherhood. The founder of Mahayana Buddhism, this revered monk governed the sangha for almost 60 years and the Madhyamika school be established attracted students from far and wide including Sri Lanka and China.

As the site, excavations have unearthed a university, monastries, aswamedha altar, royal baths, advanced drainage system, viharas, chaityas, mandapams the life and times of the Buddha. Of special significance is the finding of nine stupa- like structures arranged in a wheel shaped formation which includes the Mahachaitya, the most sacred of them all. The Brahmi characters inscribed on it reveal that the remains of Lord Buddha are preserved within it.

With the construction of the Nagarjunasagar dam and the subsequent flooding of this site by the rising water, all the priceless finds have been shifted to an island in the middle of the lake. The ruins were transported and reconstructed at the unique island museum, in the form of an ancient Buddhist Vihara. So that visitors can get a glimpse of a great chapter in Indian history and see for themselves a rich culture that has successfully survived through the centuries. Along with these, the museum also houses invaluable relics such as stone tools and weapons from the Paleolthic and Neolithic ages, which were found at the same site.

The mammoth task undertaken to shift the archeological treasures and preserve them at another location is reminiscent of the famous Abu Simbel operation carried out in Egypt.

Anupa

A short distance away at Anupa, the Bhuddist University and Stadium, which were excavated at Nagarjunasagar, have been reconstructed. The stadium boasts of the most amazing acoustics that are truly remarkable considering the time and age when it was built. a place that qualifies as a 'must-see' for everybody interested in history, culture and architecture

Amaravati

This is considered to be one of the oldest Buddhist site with the largest 'stupa' in the country. Amaravati is situated on the banks of the Krishna River in the present-day Guntur district. The place was originally called 'Dhanyakataka'.

There is a museum too, which displays relics. Panels from the original 'stupa' have found their way into the Chennai Museum and the British Museum, London. Amaravati is 35 km from the district headquarters city of Guntur and 60 km from the other major city of Vijayawada.

Thotlakonda

The Buddhist Complex on the hill-top of Mangamaripeta, locally known as Thotlakonda lies about 16Kms from Visakhapatnam on Vizag Bheemili beach road. It is picturesquely located on the hilltop at about 128mts. high above the MSL. The existence of Buddhist site at Thotlakonda came to light during an aerial survey undertaken by the Indian Navy. After its discovery, the Government of A.P has declared the site measuring an area of 120 acres on the summit as protected monument during 1978.

The excavations that lasted from 1988 to 1992 have exposed structural remains. These remains are classified as A) Religious, B) Secular and C) Civil. These structures include the Stupa, Chaityagrihas, pillared congregation halls, bhandagaras, refectory (bhojanasala), drainage and stone pathways etc. The complex comprises of several structural components such as a Mahastupa, 16 votive stupas, a stone pillared congregation hall, 11 rock-cut cisterns, well paved stone path ways, an apsidal chaitya-griha, 3 circular chaitgya-grihas , two votive platforms, 10 viharas consisted of 72 cells, a kitchen complex with three halls and a refectory (dinning hall) etc. Associated with the above structures were unearthed several inscribed chatra pieces with early Brahmi letters, nine Satavahana and five roman silver coins, terracotta tiles, stucco decorative pieces, sculptured panels, miniature stupa models in stone, Buddha padas depicted with asthamangal symbols, early historic pottery etc.

Bavikonda

Bavikonda, an important Buddhist heritage site located on a hill about 15kms., northeast from Visakhapatnam city. Here the Buddhist habitation is noticed on a 40 acres flat terraced area. Bavikonda in Telugu means a hill of wells. A Hinayana school of Buddhism was practiced here. Bavikonda Monastery flourished between 3rd Century B.C., and 3rd Century A.D., The discovery of relic caskets in Mahachaitya is significant. Bavikonda has remains of an entire Buddhist complex, comprising 26 structures belonging to three phases. A piece of bone stored in an urn recovered here is believed to belong to the mortal remains of the Buddha. It also contains large quantity of ash, charcoal, and earthenware. Three abandoned water tanks were also have been found on this hillock.

Sankaram

A Britisher Alexander Rea unearthed Sankaram, a 2000-year-old Buddhist Heritage site in 1907. Located 40 km from South of Vizag, locally it is known as Bojjannakonda. The three phases of Buddhism viz. Hinayana, Mahayana & Vajrayana flourished here. This complex is famous for its numerous Monolithic Votive Stupas, Rock cut caves, and brick build structural edifices. Excavations yielded several historic potteries, Satavahana coins dating back to the 1st century A.D. several clay tablets bearing figures of Buddha etc.

Bojjannakonda, the Eastern one bears richer architecture of the two hills. It presents a picturesque appearance with its Main Stupa on the hilltop and dominating myriads of stupas, mostly rock-cut and rarely brick-built, one above the other. Almost every outcrop and protuberance has been converted boldly into a stupa. Similarly at Lingalakonda, there are innumerable rock-cut monolithic stupas in rows spread all over the hill. Other Attractions are a Maha stupa nearby which yielded a relic casket, 3 chaitya halls, votive platforms, stupas and vajrayana sculptures. A gold coin of Samudragupta dating to 4th century AD was also found at this place. The Vihara was active for about 1000 years, spanning the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana phases of Buddhism. This place offers a glimpse into the rich Buddhist heritage and culture is a must see for any tourist.

Jagayyapeta

This town is located 40 km from the famous Amaravati but on the opposite bank of the Krishna River.
A stupa on a hill here can be dated to the second century BC. It is about 45 km from Vijayawada.

Bhattiprolu

A crystal casket with a Buddhist relic was found in the ruins of the Mahachaitya here. It now is enshrined at the Mahabodhi Society at Kolkata. The pre-Mauryan settlement here was called Pratipalapura and the Mahachaitya here was 40 metres in diameter. Bhattiprolu is about 40 km from Guntur and a railway station.

Chandavaram

The stupa here is unique in that it is double-storeyed and located atop a hill. Located in Prakasam district, it is 150 km from the city of Vijayawada.

Ghantasala

A cubic block made of bricks displays the 12 signs of the zodiac in a rare find at this village 60 km from the major city of Vijayawada. The dome of the stupa was adorned by 47 slabs depicting the Buddha.

Guntupalli

Said to be one of the most beautiful Buddhist sites, it is near Kamavarapukota in West Godavari district. Guntupalli is 85 km from Vijayawada city and the Buddhist site is located atop a hill. The beauty of the spot is enhanced by caves cut into the rocky portion of the hill, a circular Chaityagriha and several images of the Buddha.

Pavuralakonda

Pavuralakonda or 'the hill of the pigeons' is a hillock lying to the west of Bhimli, at about 24 km from Vizag. The Buddhist setllement found here is estimated to have witnessed human habitation between 1st century BC to 2nd century AD. Sixteen rock cut cisterns for impounding rain water are found on the hillock, which offer a panoramic view of the coastline

Gopalapatnam

Gopalapatnam, situated on the left bank of River Tandava, is a village surrounded by brick built stupas, viharas and other Buddhist remains. Ancient pottery was also excavated from these sites

Ramatirtham

This is a village in Vizianagaram district of North Coastal Andhra, where remains of a Buddhist settlement dating to the first century AD were found.

Salihundam

Located on the banks of the River Vamsadhara in Srikakulam district, this site has a Vihara, Mahastupa and Ayakas. Srikakulam town is about 90 km north of Visakhapatnam

Dantapuram

On the bank of the Vamsadhara River in Srikakulam district is a place that has been identified as Dantapuram, where a stupa was constructed to consecrate a tooth relic of the Buddha. The relic was said to have been transported to Srilanka several centuries ago.

Dhulikatta

This village on the bank of a stream could have been one of the fortified towns mentioned by Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador in the court of Chandragupta Maurya in the third century BC. Roman and Stavahana coins and seals were found among the remains of a Mahastupa. The village is in Karimnagar district.

Ananda Buddha Vihara

Located in Mahendra Hills, Secunderabad, Ananda Buddha Vihara is a non-profit public charitable Trust engaged in reviving, preserving and propagating Buddhist tradition and culture. Its cultural complex includes a Chaitya built in the ancient cave temple architecture, a museum and a library complex devoted to Buddhist literature. A Stupa and a Sangharama will be raised on the premises.

The Vihara Trust publishes and makes available Buddhist literature both in Telugu and English. It also runs a Dhamma quaterly by name ‘Suhrullekha’. The Vihara is a comprehensive facility for those interested in Buddhist traditions and culture. Phone Nos.:040-27732421; Fax:040-27733160

Most of the Buddhist sites in Andhra Pradesh are located in close proximity to rivers and sources of drinking water or along trade routes stretching to various parts of the country. The Eastern Coast was used for maritime trade and it was through sea routes that Buddhism spread to other parts of the world

Andhra Pradesh Tourism has identified about 25 of the over two score sites for preservation and work is apace to keep the age-old structures in good shape. The river of knowledge flows through Andhra Pradesh, in abundance.

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