Thotlakonda and its Degraded State

Vizag, winter

When one pictures historical places, one does it with a measure of respect and awe for everything the place stands for. It is a site that is revered by one and all, and visiting it is expected to be a learning experience in spiritualism, love or whatever else the site is known for. One of the well-known heritage sites in Visakhapatnam happens to be the Thotlakonda Buddhist Complex. The scenario at Thotlakonda isn’t anything like the above, it stands testament to negligence.

Situated on a hill on the way to Bheemunipatnam, this scenic hill stands at 128 meters (420 ft) above sea level and overlooks the Bay of Bengal. The name, derived from the presence of a number of rock-cut cisterns hewn into the bedrock of the hill. During the Kalinga Empire, Thotlakonda was an important source of dissemination of Buddhism to Sri Lanka and various parts of Southeast Asia.

Excavated in 1988-1993 when the Indian Navy was doing aerial surveys to set up base in Visakhapatnam, it was found out that Thotlakonda was at its peak in 2nd century BC. It was discovered and brought into existence along with other sites like Bavikonda and Pavuralakonda. Although it has been open to public since its excavation, it only caught people’s attention since the early 2000s. VUDA spent a lot of money along with the Archaeological Department to ensure it remains one of the best Buddhist destinations in India.

Unfortunately, Thotlakonda doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Despite being a spiritual/religious place, depending on how one looks at it, families come here on picnics or to just spend the day. Sounds peaceful and fabulous, doesn’t it? It isn’t. These same people leave behind their trash while leaving, instead of disposing it off properly. Not to mention, it has gained itself the reputation of being a lovers spot thanks to couples making out freely in this location.

historical places

(People having potluck parties & leaving trash)

It was heartbreaking to see a place that is supposed to be spiritual, beautiful and most importantly kept clean, be littered with plastic bottles and more. Heaps of waste could be seen lying around in every corner of the complex, blocking the ancient carvings that should be catching everyone’s eye. The lack of proper maintenance and security could be blamed for this transgression but when potluck parties are such a common sight here (with people leaving behind their paper plates every single time) whom do we really blame?

historical places

(People throwing trash around the dustbin instead of in it)

The sight that really tips us over the edge is how people use the complex buildings as their own personal toilet and feel free to urinate or more on these heritage structures. Yet again, while it is easier to blame lack of maintenance and toilets for this, it is not too much to expect people to treat the place with some respect. The same people who would burn red hot with anger at even the mention or thought of their respective religious places being defiled in a similar manner feel free to do the same here.

historical places

(People disrespecting the structures by climbing onto them and taking selfies)

Instead of holding these heritage sites dear, we are treating them in an offhanded manner and worsening the situation day by day. People have actually used Thotlakonda as a party ground, complete with mikes and speakers – without permission we might add. What else can such acts be if not a tight slap on the face?

It’s really simple people, it certainly is not rocket science. Unless you are aware of the historical importance of the place or have respect enough for the place to know and learn it, you can feel free to have your potluck parties, makeout sessions, and singing parties with your speakers elsewhere. While Thotlakonda is definitely in need of strict security measures and proper upkeep, it really isn’t hard for the so-called educated to keep their wits about and stop defiling such places.

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