The imprint of the Buddhist legacy in Vizag is strong and evident with the findings of heritage sites by archeologists on the hilltops of the city. One such place in Vizag is Thotlakonda, an ancient Buddhist Heritage Site near Bheemili, which flourished two thousand years ago.
Thotlakonda came to light in 1976 during an aerial survey by the Indian Navy. The subsequent excavations established the existence of a Hinayana Buddhist complex. The complex has a number of stupas including a Maha Stupa, Chaityas, Viharas, a congregation hall, and a refectory.
As per the information provided by Sohan Hatangadi, a city-based environmentalist, and an ardent heritage enthusiast, in the late 1970s, the then Revenue Divisional Officer of Visakhapatnam, and Tahsildar of Bheemunipatnam, had reportedly notified that as per the field measurement sketch of Kapuluppada village, the total extent of the heritage site was 3,143 acres under Survey No. 314. Through a gazette notification, No. 27, Thotlakonda had later been declared a protected monument under the AP Ancient and Historical Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960.
Recently, on 12 February 2021, the Andhra Pradesh State Government, issued a Government Order (GO) Rt No. 21, declaring the extent of the Thotlakonda Buddhist site as 120 acres, instead of 3,143 acres. The GO further mentioned that an error was made in the This latest development has raised concerns among citizens and heritage enthusiasts.
Shedding light on the sorry state of affairs, a city-based environmentalist, and ardent heritage enthusiast, Sohan Hatangadi, shared that ever since its discovery, the place has languished without any development. “Things seemed to change during 2015-16, when the Andhra Pradesh Archeology Department, in coordination with the District Archeological Department, had taken up further conservation works, renewed signage, and walking pathways of the Buddhist sites Thotlakonda and Bavikonda. In addition to the conservation, the endeavour also included setting up interpretation centres at both sites. However, the interpretation centres too haven’t been completed,” he lamented.
Adding further, he said, “The Maha Stupa area has security. Apart from the demarcated 120 acres, the rest of the hill is prone to be littered with plastic plates and empty bottles. While the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department has made arrangements for people to be seated, they have not taken solid waste management into consideration.” Reiterating the need to conserve heritage sites like these, Mr Hatangadi noted that it’s the responsibility of the citizens of Vizag to raise their voices and do their bit to safeguard Thotlakonda.