Amaravati, an ancient Buddhist centre, located on the banks of river Krishna, about 50 km from Vijayawada and 35 km from Guntur city, is hogging all the limelight of late with the State government’s decision to locate the capital city for the truncated Andhra Pradesh in Vijayawada region.
Though the exact location for setting up Assembly, secretariat and other vital administrative offices is yet to be decided by the government, cultural enthusiasts and historians are suggesting that the proposed capital city be named after Amaravati or Dhanyakataka, and it must be made the ‘cultural capital’ for the residuary Andhra Pradesh that is aspiring for global recognition.
Many of them are of the opinion that by naming the capital after Amaravati, which is an acclaimed international Buddhist centre for its glorious past which dates back to Mauryan period and Satavahanas, will certainly entice tourists across the globe.
Vavila Subba Rao, a historian, suggests Dhanyakataka name for the capital. “The town has got the name of Amaravati only during the period of Raja Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu, who shifted his capital from Chintapalli in present-day Krishna district to Dharanikota across the Krishna river in Guntur district and named the town after Amaravathi after Amareswara Swamy. In view of this, I feel the capital city should be named after Dhanyakataka which is more ancient. Assembly or secretariat may be named after Amaravti and thus help the town to regain its past glory,” he proposes.
Amarati is regarded as the famous Hindu pilgrim centre with Amareswara temple, which is considered as the leading Siva temple in the ‘Pancharamas’. “On Sundays and Mondays the Amareswara temple is visited by 1,000 to 1,500 devotees. The number of the devotees is around 200 to 300 on other days. During the Karitha Masam, which is the favourite month for Lord Shiva amongst all 12 months, the temple is visited by nearly 2 lakh devotees,” says incharge Executive Officer of Amaravati temple N Srinivasa Reddy. Amaravati, also known as Dhanyakataka/Dharanikota was the site of a great Buddhist Stupa built in pre-Mauryan times. It was also the capital of Satavahanas, the first great Andhra kings who ruled from the 2nd century BCE to the 3rd century CE, after the downfall of Mauryan empire.
“It was only during the reign of Asoka that the Buddhist establishment at Dhanyakataka (Dharanikota) attained great recognition. The Satavahana expansion over coastal Andhra and the shift of the capital to Dhanyakataka was a notable change in the first century CE. As a result, the Andhra coastline became the hub of trade with the Romans. These changes fostered prosperity, and Buddhist establishments came up here. Setting up capital near here or near to this town that has rich history and scenic beauty with the river Krishna will definitely help the town to grow, “ says V Jayapradha, retired Assistant Director of Archaeology, and Archaeological Assistant Kalachakra Museum.
“In order to make the city a cultural capital, a fine arts academy can be set up here. The Centre of Mahayana Buddhist Studies, which is now part of Acharya Nagarjuna University, can be shifted here to help the students to study Buddhism,” adds Vavila Subba Rao.
‘Dhyana Buddha’ in Deep Slumber
Due to the lackadaisical attitude of the government, the 125-foot Dhyana Buddha statue, work on which began in 2003, is yet to be completed at Amaravati town. Though the authorities of the APTDC have reportedly tried to complete the much-delayed Dhyana Buddha project and unveil the 125-foot tall Buddha statute during the world tourism day celebrations, they could not make it as several works including development of the lawn are yet to be finished. The Dhyana Buddha project was conceived and executed by Social Welfare joint director Regulla Mallikarjuna Rao in 2003 with the funding of Guntur district collector. But, the tourism department took it over in 2007. More than Rs 4 crore has already been spent on the project so far, according to the officials. The Buddha statue has been designed by incorporating features from all the 50 types of Buddhist sculptures seen at 145 major heritage sites across India. The essence of the Buddhist teachings found in 24 chapters and 424 stanzas have also been carved on 200 panels in the main hall of the Dhyana Mandiram. The Dalai Lama, who visited the Amaravati during Kalachakra in 2006, donated Rs 30 lakh and promised to provide 300 volumes of Buddhist literature to develop the place as an international Buddhist study centre. Speaking to Express, APTDC, Vijayawada, divisional manager, T Baboji said that it would take some more time to finish the works at the Dhyana Buddha project.