Ancient Buddhist site found in Amaravati

by P. Sujatha Varma, The Hindu, May 18, 2016

Amaravati, India -- A clue given by residents of Vaikunthapuram, located in the Amaravati region, led veteran archaeologist E. Siva Nagi Reddy to the remains of a 1st Century B.C. Buddhist site atop a hill in the village.

Assisted by residents Bhogineni Nageswara Rao, Subhakar Medasani and Chaitanya Ravela, Dr. Reddy, who is also CEO of the Cultural Centre of Vijayawada, conducted a search which yielded three mounds studded with brickbats and pottery in red colour. The mounds were formed on huge boulders on which a brick-built stupa was raised.

“The bricks, used in the construction of stupas and viharas measuring 60x30x8 cm and 58x28x7 cm, invariably belonged to the Satavahana era (1st Century B.C.). Huge fragments of terracotta and brick tiles used to cover chaityas and viharas were also found,” Dr. Reddy said.

Further excavations revealed that the Buddhist monks relied for drinking water mainly on two tanks spread in an extent of half-an-acre and two rock-cut cisterns.

Relic casket found

Villagers said a few years ago, treasure-hunters dug up at the centre of the stupa and found a relic casket with a gold leaf, which was later handed over to the then Collector of Guntur.

“The Buddhist remains like stupas, chaityas and viharas yielded on Vaikunthapuram hill show that Buddhism existed from 1st Century B.C. to the 5th Century AD, but later the region came under the influence of Saivism in the Vishnukundin era, and under Vaishnavites between the 13th and 17th centuries AD,” said Dr. Reddy.