Major Buddhist site comes to light

Newindpress, July 10 2007

VIJAYAWADA, India -- A chance digging by mulberry farmers in agricultural lands have uncovered major Buddhist architectural finds in Kanthamanenivarigudem of West Godavari district.

Two ancient sites are not only seen as prototypes of the present-day temples, but they have also provided the first-ever proof of the existence of another major Buddhist sect apart from the hitherto known Mahayana, Hinayana and Vajrayana sects.

Interestingly, the new finds are just 2 km away from the famous Second Century rock-cut Buddhist caves of Guntupalli or Jilakarragudem in West Godavari, known as the Ajantha of Andhra.

The Hyderabad Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted extensive explorations in the areas under the leadership of ASI superintending archaeologist D Jitendra Das. Assistant superintending archaeologist D Kannababu, assistant archaeologists WVS Narasimham, Ch Babji Rao, conservation assistant K Veeranjaneyulu and caretaker KVVS Murthy were also part of the exploration team.

The ASI explorations revealed a brickbuilt structure, well-decorated pillars, seated Dhyana Buddha images and basements of two apsidal style Chaitya Gruhas built with solid burnt bricks and lime mortar.

One of the two Chaitya Gruhas is a 10.70 x 5 m Buddha Chaitya, which once housed a Buddha image on a pedestal and a 10.40 x 5.57 m Stupa Chaitya with a miniature of stupa housed in it.

“Apsidal temples have their origins in West Coast and are usually seen in Bhaja, Karle, Ajantha and Pithalkhora. Andhra Buddhist architects had borrowed the construction style and Salihundam, Ramatirtham, Guntupalli, Bavikonda, Amaravathi and Nagarjunakonda are examples of this style. The Kanthamanenivarigudem structures are rare as they are exclusively brick-built,” said Jitendra Das.

According to Amaravathi-based assistant superintending archaeologist D Kannababu, the Brahmi inscriptions found at Kanthamanenivarigudem date back to the 2nd Century BC and proved that the village had patronised Dhakiniyana sect of Buddhism.

He said further researches could open new vistas to our understanding of Buddhist history.