For a lesson in history and to throw light on ‘stone pelting’ rituals, a heritage visit is being organised on 16 January to Bojjannakonda in Sankaram, 41-km away from Visakhapatnam.
Bojjannakonda in Sankaram, Andhra Pradesh is home to rich Buddhist heritage and houses rock-cut caves from centuries ago with religious significance. The site, located at a distance of 3.5 km from Anakapalle, witnessed an age-old tradition of stone pelting at a belly-shaped object, here in Bojjannakonda till a couple of years ago, when it was curtailed. The yearly ritual practised on Kanuma day of Sankranthi witnessed hundreds of worshipers gathering at the site to pelt stones at the object. The origins of the ritual remain unknown, with limited information suggesting that it may have begun around a hundred years ago, in the 1920s or 1930s. The excavation notes of Alexander Rea from 1906 also do not mention the existence of the ritual, as per history enthusiasts.
Bojjannakonda and nearby Lingalametta are twin Buddhist monasteries with the history that goes back to the 3rd century BC. It is believed that these monasteries saw three types of Buddhism being practised centuries ago. The ‘stone-throwing’ ritual, however, began to damage the old caves and the natural design of the site. With efforts from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the practice has been discontinued since 2017. Mr. Naveen, a leader from the Buddhist Groups, Vizag said efforts were made from the last 30 years to stop the archaic practice that was damaging the natural make up of the heritage site.
The three and a half-hour long heritage visit that starts at 10 AM is an attempt at re-introducing the site’s beauty to enthusiasts. Those interested can contact Jayashree Hatangadi, Visakhapatnam Heritage Narrator, on 9441225338 for further details.