Sankaram and Kotturu

Buddhism came to the Andhra region after the Mauryan Emperor conquered Kalinga in 262 BC. Kalinga covered the modern day southern Odisha and northern Andhra.  It spread rapidly and over 140 Buddhist sites have beeen found dating back to this era. Vizag was a major centre of learning and for the dissemination of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and beyond. The Buddhist phase lasted for nearly a thousand years till the rise of Shaivism in the 7th century CE obliterated Buddhism from this region. In this series, I am retracing the footsteps of those distant ancestors of mine.

Thirty kilometres west of Vizag, not far from the steel plant, is the sleepy village of Sankaram. It was just another village till, in 1906, a British archaeologist called Alexander Rim uncovered the ruins of a magnificent Buddhist centre atop two hillocks in its vicinity.

A view of the two hills; Bojjannakonda is on the background, on the left. The rock cut stupas of Lingalakonda are in the foreground,

Sankaram is a corruption of Sangharama (संघारामा), which is what Buddhist monasteries were called.   The hillocks are called Bojjannakonda (बोज्जन्ना कोंडा), a corruption of Buddhunikonda (Buddha’s hill) and Lingalakonda (लिंगाला कोंडा), the hill of lingams. The lingams here are actually rock-cut stupas which the locals mistook for shivalingams.

Entrance to Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda

An approach road was built a few years ago but it is in a bad state right now. At the entrance, a small sign on the gate informs that there is no entrance fee. It is obvious that the ASI has put in an effort to develop the site. The area has been fenced off and neatly landscaped. The stairways have been provided with railings and some effort at conservation is obvious. However, few people, even in Vizag city itself are aware of these places. Unless the ASI staff went to the schools and invited them to visit these places, they will remain little known. People come here from places as far away as Sri Lanka and Cambodia, but there is hardly any domestic tourism.

A telephoto shot of Bojjannakonda from below

After a short climb, we reach the first level where there is a double decked cave shrine. Above the entrance of the lower cave is a sculpture of a meditating Buddha inside an arched niche. My uneducated guess is that the arch is a representation of a stupa and the image of the Buddha is symbolic of his relics within the stupa. Under this niche is the entrance to a large rectangular cave in the centre of which is a rock cut stupa on a rectangular platform. Rim, the archaeologist found a lot of artifacts including  coinage from the Satavahana, Gupta and Chalukyan periods.

Another beautiful Buddha statue in an arched niche above the entrance to the lower shrine

Above the entrance to the upper deck, there must have been three carved niches (from the point of view of symmetry) but one of the niches must have fallen off. The central niche houses a beautiful idol of the Buddha in meditation, surrounded by various demigods. Two millennia of exposure to a saline atmosphere has taken its toll yet, the Buddha is radiantly serene and looks unaffected by the elements.

A carved idol of a meditating Buddha

There are several images of the Buddha, all of them showing him sitting in padmasana, his hands crossed with palms upwards in the dhyana mudra. I wonder whether the profusion of these images is to underline the omnipresence of divinity or to remind the monks that they are all potential Buddhas.

The entrance to the rock cut cave temple. The niche on the right appears to have fallen off

The entrance opening is flanked by two niches, one of which is empty and the other contains yet another yet another statue of the Buddha. Entering the cave, I find myself in a large rectangular hall, the roof of which is supported by several richly carved pillars. In the centre of this hall is a rock stupa. On the walls are several bas relief images of the Buddha.

A rock cut stupa inside the cave temple. Note the exquisite carving still visible on the right pillar. The flowers were placed by Sri Lankan visitors who were there a short while before us.

While leaving the cave, the guide told me that he was going to show me an image of a dinosaur. I was sceptical; dinosaurs went extinct some 65 million years ago while the humans arrived about half a million years ago. Scientific study of dinosaur fossils started only in the 19th century. So how did our ancestors sculpt the likeness of a tyrannosaurus rex more than 20 centuries ago? The similarities are incredible; the disproportionately large head, the chunky tapering tail, powerful lower limbs and weak, arm-like upper limbs. I wonder why archaeologists didn’t give this find the kind of publicity it deserves.

An image of Tyrannosaurus Rex at the entrance to the upper cave. Were our ancestors aware of dinosaurs and did they have the skill to reconstruct from fossils?

A massive pillar on Bojjannakonda. I requested my better half to stand in front of it so that the height of the pillar is emphasised. The inscriptions have been lost to erosion over the millennia.

While proceeding up the hill, I came across a tall rock pillar,  the kind of pillar on which edicts are inscribed. There are no inscriptions on this pillar as the outer layer has peeled off and all the ancient inscriptions have been irretrievably lost. Sad. Scattered around at random are several stone votive stupas.  One also comes across caverns which served as water cisterns and shallow caves where monks probably meditated.

A stupa inside a cave on the way to the top of Bojjannakonda

I also came across an artificial cave cut into the rock face in which there is a stone stupa. The absence of signboards is a major hurdle in knowing about the importance of this stupa. How can we know more about our heritage if the archaeologists prefer to keep their knowledge with themselves instead of sharing it with the lay public? Can’t they publish booklets and sell it for the benefit of visitors? Even the information the ASI makes available on their website is sketchy at best.

The Mahastupa on top of Bojjannakonda

Once we reach the top of the hillock, we are greeted with the view of the mahastupa. It stands on a rectangular stone plinth and the stupa has a rocky core which was encased by bricks. It is not difficult to visualise this building dominating the landscape around it. Beside the stupa is a vihara consisting of many cells in a single row. However, the vihara is almost completely covered by grass and weeds. It speaks of a lack of proper supervision of the ASI staff.

The giant monolithic stupas on the top of Lingalakonda

From here, there is a stairway leading to Lingalakonda. It is not a steep climb but one should be really fit physically otherwise one has to huff and puff their way up like I did. What I came across first were massive monolithic cylinders topped by hemispheres. I am told that these stupas were encased in brick and contained relics. What I could not comprehend was the profusion of stupas. This place was a Buddhist monastery for nearly a thousand years and was a centre of all three forms of Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. It is probable that with he change in ideology, old structures were abandoned and new structures came up.

A view of the array of rock cut stupas atop Lingalakonda

After climbing up a bit more, one comes across a spectacular scene that is totally unexpected. Literally hundreds of rock-cut votive stupas, some of them in a neat array and the rest in a disorderly manner, probably springing wherever there was some place. There is hardly any place to place a foot in between them. No wonder the locals mistook them for shivlingam and called the hill Lingalakonda.

A sculpture of Hariti, a Buddhist Goddess, to whom women prayed for a safe delivery and well-being of  children

Under a tree in one of the manicured lawns is an idol of Hariti. According to mythology, she was an ogress who kidnapped children and then ate them. Buddha kidnapped her son and Hariti was extremely upset. Then Buddha asked her to think of all the parents of those children devoured by her and asked her to repent and reform. A contrite Hariti agrees to give up her wicked ways. Buddha restores her son to her and makes her a Goddess and gives her the responsibility for welfare of women and children.

A few years ago, there was an outbreak of plague and many children died. The local villagers started stoning the idol of Hariti, accusing her for the deaths. The ASI had to lock up the statue in one of their stores for a number of years and then put it back on display. As is visible, the sculpture is in a bad shape after that assault.

15 km southeast of Bojjannakonda, on the banks of the river Sharada, is the village of Kotturu. Adjacent to this village is another ancient Buddhist site under the protection of the ASI. Other then putting up a fence, they have hardly done anything. When we went there, we saw a few cows grazing by the ruins of a  stupa.

Cows grazing beside the ruins of an ancient stupa at Kotturu

The maha stupa, shaped like a giant wheel, consists of two circular walls, the outer one being shorter than the inner. The annular space is divided into cells by radial walls. Within the central hub, several antiquities were discovered including coins, pearls and gems. The mounds here were known locally as dhana dibbalu or mounds of wealth. The site has been vandalised for looting its wealth and its ancient bricks were carried away as construction material. Excavations are still going on. In spite of it, construction of buildings is taking place nearby almost encroaching on the ASI land. I wonder who has given permission for such activities.

This stupa comprises a central circular hub connected by outwardly radiating spokes to a larger but shorted circular wall.

After a short climb, we come across a cave known as Pandava Guhalu (caves of the Pandavas). These caves were probably used for meditation by Buddhist monks and there is no apparent connection with the Pandavas. The cave probably was named after the Pandavas because there are 5 small cells within the cave.

The Pandavula Guhalu or the Pandavas’ caves

The most important discovery at Kotturu is a rock inscription dating back to the 2nd century BCE. On this rock are inscriptions written in Telugu using the Brahmi script. They say that a nobleman called Tambayya donated some gold and gems to Buddhist monks. This discovery has pushed back the age of Telugu by 8 centuries as prior to this, the oldest inscription is from the 7th century CE. While it was known that Telugu was spoken for a very long time in this region, this is the first archaeological evidence to corroborate this fact.

The Vizag region was a bastion of Buddhism for at least a thousand years. It was a centre of learning and Buddhism spread out to Sri Lanka and South East Asia through its ports. The stupas and monasteries provided the architectural models for the more famous Buddhist shrines in the rest of the world like the famous Borobodur in Indonesia. It is sad that while these places attract visitors from all over the Buddhist world, there is practically no domestic tourism. Most Indians are not aware of the existence of these places. India is losing a great opportunity by not properly marketing these heritage sites in the Buddhist world. Tourism will ensure a steady flow of funds required to finance the conservation of these ancient monuments.

35 Comments

  • SilentSoul says:

    The post is quite informative with beautiful and clear fotos. Tks to my GK, I did not even know Andhra too has ancient Buddhist places.

    tks for sharing DL

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks, SSji. Glad that you found my blog informative. Vizag was a part of the Kalinga empire and the area went Buddhist after it was conquered by Ashoka the great in the 3rd century BCE. Andhra played a major role in the spread of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, South East Asia and beyond. There are over 140 sites where Buddhist remains have been discovered. I am just covering the sites in an around Vizag in this series. Later on, I plant to cover other sites.

  • Vipin says:

    Thank you very much DL Ji for enlightening us about these little known treasures from the past…I had heard about Amaravati as a famous buddhist destination in Andhra, but seems the roots of buddhism are much wider in this land…while reading the post, it feels as if we are passing through the phases of history…it’s strange to learn that such a wonderful site is less frequented by the natives/locals…it sounds like people treat it as ‘घर की मुर्गी दाल बराबर’, but you as a true ambassador of your hometown, are really doing a great job…all the photos with the backdrop of verdant greenery looks awesome…waiting for some more hidden buddhist trails…

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Vipin bhai, thanks for liking this post. Amaravati is undoubtedly one of the greatest jewels of the Buddhist era and I’m planning on visiting it during my next trip to India. Acharya Nagarjuna, one of the greatest teachers after Gautama Buddha, was the main propounder of the Mahayana school and he resided at Amaravati. Many antiquities from here have been shipped to England and can be seen in the British museum in London. Ghar ki murgi dal barabar is applicable for all Indians; India is indeed a magnificent storehouse of untold architectural and cultural wealth. If only we learnt to value it and care for it for the future generations.

  • Praveen Wadhwa says:

    D. L. Ji. Thanks for this very informative and interesting story. I am simple flabbergasted to know all this in Viraz area. I always thought this area a shipping and industry hub and nothing else.

    I always wonder about how this great religion simply vanished from India but got established in many other parts of the world. After Buddhism, the Hinduism also transformed and then mukti became the highest goal of it.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Yes, Pravin jee, Buddhism transformed Hinduism since it started out as a reformatory movement. Hinduism is syncretic by nature and it absorbs the good points of other philosophies with ease. In fact, for Hindus, Buddha is the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu. It vanished from India mainly due to lack of royal patronage and the rejuvenation of Hinduism due to the efforts Adi Shankaracharya.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    DL,
    We all know Kalinga but first time I have come to know Andhra was part of it, Dinosaur was also found in Alberta Canada, and Alberta always advertise for it, But in India first time I get knowledge through your post. Lack of Marketing. Thanks a lot for giving so important information to us and photos, writing also so good.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks, Surinder for reading the post and appreciating it. The Kalingas ruled over what is present day southern Odisha and northern Andhra, from the Mahanadi to the Godavari but boundaries were flexible in those days and they kept changing all the time. I plan to write soon about a place called Srimukhalingam which was the capital of the Kalinga kingdom and has some fabulous but badly neglected temples.

  • JATDEVTA says:

    डी एल जी लगता है कि मेरा आंध्र का दुबारा चक्कर लगवाकर ही मानोगे। चलो जी पहले तो जा रहा हूँ, अरकू वहाँ की गुफ़ा देखने।

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      संदीप भाई, अगर आप मुझे आपका मेज़बान बन ने का मौका देंगे तो मैं अपने आपको बड़ा खुशनसीब समझूंगा। सचमुच आन्ध्र में बहुत सारे जगह हैं जो देखने लायक हैं। यहाँ आने से पहले कृपया मुझ से संपर्क करें।

      • JATDEVTA says:

        बिल्कुल नारायण जी, एक मौका आपके साथ मिलने का भी जल्द ही आयेगा, आपसे फ़ोन पर सम्पर्क करके ही आऊँगा। आपसे पहले सुरेन्द्र जी से जनवरी में मिल रहा हूँ।

  • Nandan Jha says:

    DL – This one is indeed a very informative post and challenges our ill-informed prejudices (I also though that Vizag is more like a port, a big one and probably a clean industrial city like Jamshedpur) on what we have learnt so far.

    The information about Dinasaur’s relief is probably not known to many. Can it be a case that certain reliefs were done later ? I searched on ” Tyrannosaurus Rex at sankaram” and the top hit is this story and rest of it are not relevant to my search. It would be very unlikely that no-one else not written on this. Well, anything is possible. I am not a dino enthusiast but guess Speilberg can do the next Jurassic at Sankaram :-)

    I have not visited Orrisaa and AP at all (of course numerous trips to Hyd/Secundarabad doesn’t count) and your posts are indeed bringing these places to fore, for most of of us. Thank you DL.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Nandan, Vizag is a many faceted city and I plan to show its different facets, one by one. It is like a palimpsest. I have started with its Buddhist face and I shall unveil some more, hopefully in the near future.

      Regarding the dinosaur, inititally I was sceptical too but prima facie, it is quite remarkable. The possibility of it being a recent one is there but looks highly improbable. The rock is highly fragile and if anyone tried to etch in it, the outer layer would have fallen off like dandruff from a diseased scalp. It is indeed perplexing why nothing is written about it. I searched for references to it but in vain. However, I lack even rudimentary archaeological knowledge so I cannot do anything but speculate about it.

      Orissa, like Andhra, is an area of darkness for most Indians. Oriya culture is amazing and there are many beautiful places. both natural and man-made waiting to be discovered. I hope to cover those little known places soon, or at least when my employers allow me to retire.

  • Hi DL Ji,

    ah beautiful photographs.
    My knowledge about Buddhism got increased and surprised to know about Dinosaur.

    This place looks quite attractive and adventurous.
    Caves, ruins, history and greenery, all what a person like me want in a trip.
    This place will be in my wish list.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks Gerry, you will really love these places. I had recently spent a night in the middle of a forest in the eastern ghats and plan to write about it when time permits me to do so.

  • Asish K Das says:

    It is shame that despite my visiting Vizag at least on three occasions, I had not even heard of these hidden treasures. No words is enough to appreciate the efforts of DL for bringing these untold, unsung episodes of our ancient history to the notice of Ghumakkars. Hats off to you, DL! Eagerly waiting for the remaining chapters. Thanks.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thank you, Asishda, for reading my post and your kind words. Most people prefer to go beaches and parks and care little about visiting these comparatively remote locations. Not only do we need to know more about them but we should also pressurise on the powers-that-be to take proper care of our priceless heritage. If India can properly harness even a tenth of its touristic potential, it would completely eradicate poverty and unemployment in our country.

  • Hi D.L. This is one interesting post. You are right when you say that our knowledge of these sites is limited. I have been to Vizag more than once but not once anybody mentioned them. I did visited some ruins close to Rushikonda but they were very basic not like these treasure troves.
    The dino is one amazing find…. looking forward to more.

    Thanks.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks, DT. My guess is that you have been to Thotlakonda, which I have covered in the first installment of this series.

      India has several ancient places waiting to be discovered. It is sad to note that after the British left India, we have unearthed very few archaeological remains; those that have been discovered are being neglected and in a very bad shape. I had recently been to a place which is supposed to be under the care of ASI; even the signboard has rusted and there is no approach road. All that the ASI does is to put up a board, provide some rudimentary fencing and think that their job is over. I shall write about soon in this series.

  • DL only one liner ,

    A set of diamonds and star studded gems ( pictures ) embedded on the antique unseen shining golden necklace
    (description) .

    Thanks for sharing

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    Hello D.L.
    Thank you very much to introduce with Buddhism related nice place Sankaram and Kotturu in southern India. Wonderful & well written post along with crystal clear pictures. I am also surprise to see the picture of sculpt of a tyrannosaurus rex.
    Thanks for the post
    Ritesh

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thank you, Ritesh for reading and liking my post.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Hi DL,

    Amazing stuff! I think looking at the lush green photos, rains are the best time to go monument hunting in India.

    I loved the warning about prohibiting food and plastic bags. Why don’t we have similar warnings at other monuments and which are strictly enforced?

    The site seems to be fairly well maintained. Now only if they would change the colour on the railings!

    India has few dinosaur finds but certainly not T Rex! Maybe the sculptors came from neighbouring countries which might have seen a fossil.

    I spent couple of days in Vizag recently but could not dig out these sites. Thanks for introducing them.

    I was thinking what we can do to shake ASI out of their stupor. For one, I am going to file an RTI asking about the rules of bringing of food articles, plastic bags and bottles inside protected monuments and how are they enforced. Can we Ghumakkars send a memorandum/petition demanding care and maintenance of historical sites?

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks for liking the post, Nirdesh. Yes, this site is being looked after fairly well by the ASI when compares it with ASI sites less frequented and in remote areas. I agree that the blue railings did look quite out of place yet, I am glad that at least there are railings in the first place. This shows that either the ASI officials have no aesthetic sense or do not really care. I still remember your kolaveri (murderous rage) at the guy who painted the Chand Minar orange. Blue is slightly better, lol. I think that the ASI needs a shake up and ghumakkars should take a lead in this regard. I hope that Nandan is listening.

    Regarding the T.Rex, what is amazing about it is the ability to flesh out its shape from a few fossils. This was done for the first time in the 18th century. So how come it was etched over 20 centuries ago? Or was it a later day addition by some unknown vandal? Wish that someone would unravel this mystery.

    Next time you visit Vizag, kindly let me know. It will be my pleasure to take you around.

    • Nandan Jha says:

      Yes, we must. I think we complement ASI by making the ‘preservation’/’curation’ relevant by telling about these places to all. I do not have any concrete plans to share but yes, we must work for it.

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Superb. Posts like this help me to read more, observe the places in detail wherever I go now, which was not there much earlier. This can also be termed as a knowledge base for many.

    Vizag is definitely in our list, as in her dream my wife saw herself walking in the beach alongwith our son in Vizag before he came to us and narrated the story in the morning. Whenever we will be there, we will definitely visit the place. I will again come back to this post as i didn’t remember all even after going through this few times.

    Tx DL for this series.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks Amitava. Winter is the best time to visit Vizag. In summer, it is hot and humid, especially from March onwards till October. In the British days, it never exceeded 30 degrees Celsius, due to its unique geographic location between the hills and the sea, which made it much cooler than the surrounding areas. Urbanisation has made the climate less salubrious than before. You will find a lot of Bengalis in Vizag. Do inform me before visting the place and if I happen to be in India, it will be my pleasure to show you around.

  • Dear DL,

    I don’t know why names in all languages of South India are made so difficult to pronounce / spell ? Those who can remember such names and can even correctly spell them have to be far more intelligent people than the rest of the world including we – poor souls of North India. अपुन लोग तो सीधे – सादे नाम रखते हैं – दिल्ली, गोवा, रुड़की, हरिद्वार, शामली, खतौली वगैरा वगैरा ! You start with Thiruvananthapuram which can be nightmarish for students in English Spelling classes !!! :D

    Jokes apart, I have never been to Southern part of India mainly because I won’t be able to remember the names of places where I should buy ticket for. But knowing these many great things about the places from your pen I have yet to visit, makes me yearn for them.

    There is one basic difference between Hinduism and any other -ism of the world. A Hindu is told that he / she has got two sets of duties – one towards self and another towards society. धृति, क्षमा, दमोअस्तेयं, शौचं इन्द्रियनिग्रह ! धीर्विद्या, सत्यम्‌ अक्रोधो, दशकं धर्मलक्षणम्‌ ! ” This is the ten-point program each of us has to follow for fulfilling our duties towards self. These characteristics are more or less common in every religion with more or less emphasis on any one or more of them. However, what makes a Hindu truly religious is his adherence to his duties towards the society. My duties towards the society are many. I am a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a teacher, a banker, a neighbour, a citizen of my nation. So, I have some duties towards my family, my neighbourhood, my city, my state, my nation, the world and the entire universe and I have to fulfil all those duties. It is as if there are several circles of ever-increasing radius with me at the nucleus. If at some point of time, there is a conflict between my duties towards myself and my duties towards my society, which duty would I give preference to?

    A Hindu is told that if there is conflict between my duty towards myself and my duty towards society, the latter must take precedence. Larger circle is always more important than the smaller one. “Ahimsa” is my duty towards myself but I may have to resort to “Himsa” to save my family, my neighbourhood or my country. As far as my knowledge goes, religions other than Hinduism do not have this kind of double set of duties. They only talk of personal dharma – how to seek moksha, emancipation. If we neglect our duties towards the larger circles around us and worry about our own moksha or emancipation, we are rendered guilty of selfishness and irreligious as per Hindu scriptures.

    Incidentally, the entire Mahabharata is written to remind us of our duties towards our society. It seems the people tend to be religious in their personal life but ignore their duties towards society. Still, we consider them religious-minded people which is totally wrong as per Hindu philosophy.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Sushantji, all words which have their roots in Sanskrit are lengthy because they are a composite of several root words. For example, my hometown’s name is a composite of Vishakha, the God of valour and Patnam or an urban settlement. If you break up Thiruvananthapuram, it become Thiru (Shri) Ananta Puram. The va is the sandhi between Thiru and Ananta

      In the north, too, all city names were pretty long. I shall give only a couple of examples. Lucknow, your state capital was orginally Lakshmanavati, which became Lakhnauti during the Islamic period and then, Lucknow, after the British occupation. This verbal corruption is known in Sanskrit as “apabhramsa.” Patna, the capital of Bihar was originally Pataliputra. Kanyakubja became Kannauj, Purushapura became Peshawar, Mulasthana became Multan, Takshasila became Taxila, Gomantaka became Goa. As for the NCR, the outskirts of Indraprastha city were known as Dehali, meaning threshold and over a period of time, the long Indraprastha was dropped in favour of Dehali-Dehli-Delhi.

      The reason why the north shed polysyllabic names is thanks to the Islamic rulers who were incapable of comprehending the beauty of Sanskrit names and changed them to meaningless easily pronounceable names. The halanta disappeared and dharma became dharm and karma became karm. There are halants in Sanskrit in words such as Om, Bhagavat, Srimad, Sat and Chit, to give a few examples. Without the halant, the short a must be pronounced (Bharata not Bharat). In Sanskrit, especially during its verbal phase when it did not have a written script, accuracy of pronunciation was vital to avoid the essence being lost.

      In the south, our cities and our languages (barring Tamil which is not much influenced by Sanskrit) have retained the ancient sounds and spellings thanks to being spared, to a great extent, of Islamic rule. Where they ruled, however, they have changed. Bhuvanagiri, a famous temple town near Hyderabad lost its beautiful name and is today known by the horrible sounding word, Bhongir. For the purest form of Sanskrit names, however, one should go further south to Sri Lanka, the land of the Jayawardhanas, Samaraweeras and Tilakaratnas, names straight out of Panchatantra.

      Sorry for this rather voluminous explanation. We can have a discussion about Hindu dharma on some other occasion soon, hopefully.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi DL,

    Both the posts are so very enlightening. Congrats.

    In keeping with others, I also accept that All I knew about Vizag (Visakhapatnam, and not to forget Waltair, as our travel savvy elders used to call it) was that it is a great port city, hot real-estate destination (fastest growing city in Asia proclaimed by some magazine in the past), education centre (many central govt employees ask for a transfer to Vizag when their children are in 9/10th std), its great Daspalla thali (still there?) and Araaku and Gangavaram outings…. and this all because I was a frequent visitor to that city about a decade ago. And of course, I thought that I knew almost everything about Vizag tourism.

    Now, your account on Budhdhism / Budhhist relics in Vizag is … sobering as much as fascinating.

    Thanks for bringing to the fore this link of Buddhism to Vizag. Info on Thotlakonda as well as Sankaram/kottu is revealing, of course magnificently value-added by your own research on the subject. It appears that Vizag was a major centre of Budhdism (with those monasteries, viharas, carved caves and Budhdha statues). Is it that Budhdhism travelled to Sri Lanka (and beyond thereafter) from ports of Vizag (not port of Kalinga/ Orissa, as people think)?

    This appears to be a valuable Budhdhist trail, which ( notwithstanding my scepticism) Govt should develop for tourism, integrating into Sarnath/Sanchi/ Bodh Gaya circuit.

    Heartening (and ironical) to note that of the very few people you came across, there were foreigners from Cam/SL.

    @ Sushant, DL……………… enjoyed and gained from the exchanges on Camera (which were thankfully not in-camera :-). Keep such discussions going for benefit of us photography plebeians. Perhaps Ghumakkar.com could think of opening a channel wherein various specialised queries on photography could be directed/answered by such knowledgeable persons amongst us.

    Thanks ,

    Auro.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks Auro, for liking the posts and your beautiful comments. Yes, the delicious Daspalla thali is still going strong and I often go there with my family on weekends.

    Regarding Buddhist tourism, yes, a huge opportunity is being lost by not providing the infrastructure and the services required to facilitate such an endeavour. Kalinga once covered the entire area from the Mahanadi to the Godavari and back then, Pali was spoken. Buddhist evangelism needed huge numbers of monks and nuns and the missionaries were sourced from the lands of the east coast, from Tamralipta (modern day Tamluk in Bengal) to Amaravati, on the banks of Krishna river, not far from Vijayawada, and even further south.

    Nearly 150 sites have been discovered in Andhra alone. The ruins at Amaravati are simply magnficent in spite of the fact that most of the antiquities are lying in the British Museum in London. I hope to cover them on ghumakkar soon. I did not think that Buddhist ruins would attract such interest amongst ghumakkars. Thanks, Auro and other fellow ghumakkars for your encouragement and support.

  • Abhee K says:

    What an informative and beautiful post. Feeling sad about my knowledge and happy that I had joined Ghumakkar. Infact Comments made for these post are also informative.

    Thanks for taking us to this place.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks Abhee for the lovely comments. Don’t be sad, there is so much you offer to your fellow ghumakkars. Just yesterday, I learnt from you that Munnar means the confluence of three rivers. The beauty of ghumakkar is that we all learn so much from each other which makes it such a mutually enriching experience.

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