Andhra Pradesh: Bavikonda ancient Buddhist site in state of neglect

With two non-functional interpretation centres and lacking basic facilities, Bavikonda, like many other Buddhist sites around Visakhapatnam, requires efforts to protect them.
A view of Bavikonda in Visakhapatnam.
A view of Bavikonda in Visakhapatnam.Photo | G Satyanarayana, EPS

VISAKHAPATNAM : The Bavikonda ancient Buddhist site, dating from the 3rd century BC and thriving between 300 BC and 300 AD, which was excavated by the State Department of Archaeology and Museums, is in need of attention.

With two non-functional interpretation centres and lacking basic facilities, Bavikonda, like many other Buddhist sites around Visakhapatnam, requires efforts to protect them.

Discovered by a shepherd in 1977, Bavikonda was excavated between the mid-1980s and early 1990s. These excavations revealed the remains of a well-established Theravada (Hinayana Buddhism) complex, including a Mahastupa, Acharya Vihara, Circular Chaitya Griha, Congregation Hall, store room, store keepers’ room, Apsidal Chaitya Griha, Buddha Pada platforms, and votive stupas. Artefacts such as ash, charcoal, pottery shards, Roman silver coins, and Satavahana lead coins were unearthed, indicating historical maritime trade with Rome.

The signage at the site is severely damaged, with information no longer legible.

Buddhalla Ramesh, the sole guide at the site since 2008, has taken it upon himself to maintain the site, narrate its history, and protect it from misuse. “Due to budget constraints in recent years, we have been unable to conduct maintenance and repairs at the site,” explained Phalgun Rao, Assistant Director at the Department of AP State Archaeology in Visakhapatnam.

Faded signboards at Bavikonda in Visakhapatnam.
Faded signboards at Bavikonda in Visakhapatnam.Photo| G Satyanarayana

“Each signboard now costs Rs 600, and we have submitted an estimate to higher officials for approval and funding. Once granted, we will proceed with the necessary repair works,” he said. Despite substantial funding of Rs 1.8 crore in 2016 and Rs 2.5 crore in 2019 for the construction of two interpretation centres, both facilities remain vacant and unused.

“We fail to see the purpose of having two interpretation centres if neither is utilised. The tourism department should have allocated the funds meant for the second centre towards making the first one functional. Now, it is crucial that both centres are revitalised and effectively utilised,” commented heritage speaker Jayshree Hatangadi. During a recent heritage walk, Jayshree guided us through the site, expressing dismay at its current State.

“Existing facilities like the interpretation centres should be activated, and basic amenities such as drinking water and information boards should be provided,” she said. Jayshree proposed leveraging technology by digitalising the site’s excavations and implementing QR codes at the interpretation centres.

It may be recalled that Union Tourism Minister Kishan Reddy, during his visit in November 2021 with the then State Tourism Minister Muttamsetti Srinivas, inspected Bavikonda as part of the Shalihundam-Thotlakonda-Bavikonda-Bojjanakonda-Amravati-Anupu Buddhist circuit. He announced Rs 26.17 crore of funding under the SWADESH 2.0 tourism project. However, the site continues to require urgent attention from the department.

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