Andhra Pradesh is the most visited state of India. Every year millions of tourists arrive not just to experience the metropolitan charm of the state, but also to experience the rich Buddhist legacy of the region in the form of Nagarjunakonda and Amaravathi.
Located on the banks of the Krishna, Amaravathi features fine carvings surrounding the remains of a great Buddhist stupa. The location as per the excavations reveals that the Buddhist settlement flourished around this immortal city under the reign of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. Under his rule, the settlement of monks established the Great Stupa. The construction was completed in 200 CE. The base of this stupa in South India is decorated with carved panels that narrate the story of Buddha's life. Even ideas and inspirations of Jataka Tales have been presented on the carved panels here.
The free standing Buddha figures and limestone reliefs are now in ruins, but they have the power to take back the tourists to the ancient Buddhist spiritual art. Even during excavations, the sculptures, bas relief medallions and paneled friezes that once adorned the stupa have been discovered. Also during excavations, the remains of the Ashokan Pillar have been found, which surely make the site unique, as this is first of a kind example of Mauryan art in South India.
Other important site, Nagarjunakonda is reminiscent of the arrival of the spiritual master, Nagarjuna, an Indian Buddhist philosopher who articulated the doctrine of emptiness in South India. Located on a island near Nagarjuna Sagar, this is a historical hill famous for serving Buddhists during their initiation and learning. One of India’s richest Buddhist sites, Nagarjunakonda in its heydays hosted many Buddhist universities and monasteries. Here, they learnt the principles and practiced philosophy of Buddhism. Students from the countries like China, Gandhara, Sri Lanka and Bengal used to come here for study as well. Presently, the ruins dot the island with the heritage of Buddhism that flourished under Nagarjuna.
Presently Nagarjunakonda constitutes of a restored Buddhist site on an island which symbolizes a lost civilization that flourished thousand years ago. The excavations here have yielded 30 Buddhist monasteries that illustrate the presence and strong foothold of Buddhism in the city. Other remained excavations here feature a Maha Chaitya, Viharas, Buddha statues, relics, stone images, Jataka tales encrypted panels and other items of Buddhist origin.
Apart from Buddhist pilgrimage sites, Andhra Pradesh is also known for another renowned pilgrimage experience in the form of Tirupati shrine. Located within the seven hills, denoting the seven heads of Adisesha, the sacred temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara or Balaji and is also one of the richest pilgrimages in the world visited by millions of devotees every year.
More of the Buddhist heritage of Andhra Pradesh can be seen and experienced during a visit to the Andhra Pradesh Buddhist tour.