Amaravati isn’t named a historian’s treasure for a namesake reason. It’s global resonance and prominence was wide-felt from the times of the 2nd century AD’s, where its architectural grandeur, unique sculptural finesse had floored many and still continues to woo aplenty of them. Here’s where we take a nostalgic dive into what our past was and the present is all about!
Here we go!
1. The Meaning of Dhanyakataka Explained
Dhanyakataka, which flourished as a capital of the Satavahana dynasty was also known as Dharani Kota and Deepaladinne, the latter meaning a mound of lamps. A globally prominent Buddhist site, it’s significance was basically recognised through medieval inscriptions, of which a pillar epitaph dating 1182 A.D. went on to describe the sculptural finesse of Mahachaitya as ‘Chaityamatyunnatam yatra nana chitra-Suchitram’ meaning the tour to Chaitya is bound to be atyunnatam (extra-ordinary) with several pictures equivalent to marvels (nana chitra-Suchitram).
2. Mahastupa – Several Attempts With Renovation
It was to the credit of Acharya Nagarjuna that the renovation of the railing around the Mahastupa here was possible during the 2nd century A.D, as Taranatha, a Tibetian scholar in the 16th century A.D suggested. The renovation of this site at Amaravati to a two-storeyed image house was interestingly carried out by a Srilanka-based sthavira, Dharmakirthi in about 1344 A.D, if we were to go by inscriptions on display at Gadaladeniya, Kandy (Srilanka).
If it was Colonol Colin Mackenzie who first visited the site at the end of the 17th century, the excavations in the latter 18th century were carried out by the likes of Sir Walter Elliot(1845), Robert Sewell (1877), James Burgess (1881) and Alexander Rea (1888).
3. The Discovery of Mahachaitya
The discovery of Mahachaitya as one of the most ancient Buddhist edifices was through the help of the Asokan pillar edict and the Northern Black Polished ware. The site possesses a one-of-a-kind brick-built circular vedika with five octogonal ayaka pillars.
The indications of Mahayana Buddhism giving way to Tantricism in Dhanyakata was evident with the presence of bronze coins and select stone images of Maitreyi, Manjusuri, Lokeswara, Vajrapani and Heruka of the Vajrayana sect.
4. Best Phases of Dhanyakataka
The best of phases when Dhanyakataka flourished as a Buddhist centre was between the 4th-3rd century B.C and the 14th century A.D. Most of the relics and reliquaries found near the Mahastupa are preserved in the Site Musuem at Amaravati, a history-fanatic’s treasure-house maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.
5. Kalachakra Museum – Attempts with Tourist Activities
The Kalachakra museum, spread over 1.2 acres accomodates the rarest of Buddhist sculptures and tokens of history, including replicas of the Amaravati panels present at British Museum, London and Government Musuem, Chennai. A sapling of the Bodhi Tree (Bodhgaya), planted by Dalai Lama during the Maha Sammelan held in 2006 can also be glimpsed here.
The Dhyana Buddha project comprising an underground museum in addition to a Buddha statue in the Dhyana Mudra posture is a visual delight. The sculptural panels around the base of the statue throw light on Buddhist symbols, Jataka tales and significant events of Buddha’s life.
How to Reach Amaravati
Proximity from Guntur: 35 kms
Proximity from Vijayawada: 40 kms
Nearest Railway Station: Guntur
Economical means of transport: Bus (ply consistently)
Other landmark: Situated on the right bank of the Krishna river