Friday, January 14, 2011

Amaravati

Date: 11-1-11
Amaravati is a pilgrimage and historic place about 40 km from Vijayawada City. This is one of the most important Buddhist sites in Southern India.
It was the capital of Satavahanas, the first great dynasty of Andhra Kings, ruled between 2nd Century B.C to 3rd Century A.D.
I visited this place twice before, along with my friend Ramana Babu initially, another time on a cycling trip and now with my family. Both the places Amaravati and Vijayawada are on the banks of River Krishna. Vijayawada is on left bank and Amaravati is on right bank. There are two routes to reach this place. One is conventional bus route and another one is an ancient narrow river side road on western levee. On all occasions I chose the latter because it goes through some of the scenic places. These two routes join at Harischandra Puram. On two motor driven bikes we started our journey in the early morning to the place which has 2200 years of history.
We crossed River Krishna on Prakasam Barrage and at the end of it took right to cross Krishna western canal head sluice and joined the road that laid on levee. Journey on this road was a bliss. Since the road was elevated, we had a vivid view of surrounding fields. Land was very fertile here. We traveled through Jasmine, Chrysanthemum, Banana, Turmeric and Indian Corn plantations. Since the road was laid long back it was having a lot of chuckholes. Seemed comfortable for two wheelers ride only, forced four wheeler traffic to a halt, thus making an idyllic ride.
Surroundings between Harischandra Puram and its neighbouring village Vaikuntha Puram were marvelous. Though a smaller one, Venkatesh (My eldest son) enjoyed ride a lot on this stretch. Lord Venkateswara Temple is there on a hill in Vaikuntha Puram. People park their vehicles at another temple at the foot of the hill and begin trekking to reach the temple. River Krishna flows beside the hill. Devotees enjoy a good panorama here. From this place Amaravati is visible at far of a distance. I visited this temple during my cycling trip.Reached Amaravati and headed straight to the Temple.
Temple is on the right bank of River Krishna. Some of the devotees were bathing there. Took darshan tickets and entered into massive temple complex. The Temple was on an elevated platform with high raised walls. That might be built to safeguard the Temple from River Krishna flood waters during monsoon season. Cleared steps to enter on to circumambulatory round the main Temple. On each corner there was a peripheral sub-shrine. Lord Amareswara is the presiding deity here, an abode of Lord Shiva. Entered into the Temple from East entrance gallery. Columns of the gallery were consisting old Telugu inscriptions. At the left side of the entrance there was a large Lord Ganesha's statue. Lord Amareswara blessed us his darshan. We moved on to reach Archaeological Survey Of India museum.
Museum:
This little Museum stores some of history's most treasured Buddhist relics collected from nearby Maha Stupa. This area was an exponent of Amaravati School Of Art. This School finds adequate mention in the chronicles of The Satavahana era. The exhibits here range between 3rd Century B.C to 12th Century A.D.The Lotus and Purnakumbha Motifs, the sculpting and the art forms that once upon a time adorned the ancient Buddhist Mahachaityas are displayed in the Principal gallery. Drum slabs, Swastikas and relics of Jataka Stories occupy first gallery. The second gallery is dedicated to life size image of Gautama Buddha.The other Buddhist sculptures that were excavated from here now adorn the Chennai Museum and at Room No.33a of The British Museum, London.
The Museum remains open all through the week from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Entry fees is Rs.2/- per visitor above the threshold of 15 years.
Maha Stupa:
The road beside The Museum took us to this place. Colonel Colin Mackenzie discovered this remains of The Stupa in 1797. There after so many Archaeologists worked on it.
Only remains of the Stupa are existing. It was defaced at large by the locals before this was taken over by the Authorities. Locals say so many large bricks used in the construction were lifted from here to construct their houses, thus history became history. The British and Indian Rulers also did their best to make this priceless monument convert into tiny objects of exhibition in the galleries of Museums across Europe and India. The artefact's still remained were kept in the local Museum. Replica of this Maha Stupa is in the local Museum.
Kalchakra 2006 was performed here. Interestingly Lord Buddha taught the first Kalachakra root tantra here in Amaravati to King Suchandra up on his request that would allow him to practice the Dharma without renouncing his worldly enjoyments and responsibilities.
On the eve of Kalachakra 2006, authorities reconstructed Stupa and took up Dhyana Buddha Project scheduled to be opened at the time of Kalachakra which can be seen from this site, a kilometer away, still to be completed. We visited that and continued our journey back this time on Bus route to visit Undavalli Caves.
Undavalli Caves: The Caves are just 8 km from Vijayawada. The caves were sculpted in 2nd and 3rd century A.D. Caves are four storied and built in a cluster. In one of the caves we visited Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy, an abode of Lord Vishnu, a 5 meter long reclining statue carved out of single granite block.


Other Buddhist sites that can be covered from Vijayawada are Ghantasala and Jaggaiahpeta

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