A large number of people gathered to partake in the annual Bojjannakonda Sambaralu, which was held in Vizag on Friday. The gala event is celebrated by the locals of Anakapalli, on Kanuma, which falls a day after Sankranti, every year.
Speaking to Yo!, city-based Heritage Narrator, Jayshree Hatangadi shares interesting facts about Bojjannakonda and the cultural significance attached to the site. Located at a distance of 3.5 km from Anakapalli, Bojjannakonda in Sankaram, Vizag, is home to centuries-old Buddhist rock-cut caves. According to Jayshree Hatangadi, Bojjanakonda is one of the oldest Buddhist excavations that showcase the three stages of Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.
The Buddhist site at Bojjannakonda witnessed an age-old tradition of stone pelting at the statue of Hariti, until five years ago. Shedding light on the legend behind the ritual, she says, “As per the Buddhist texts, Hariti would steal children. Once Buddha stole her youngest child. This incident drove Hariti to repent her misdeeds. From then, she vowed to protect children instead of consuming them. Bojjannakonda has a statue of Hariti as well.”
While the origins of the ritual remain unknown, the available information suggests that it may have begun in the 1920s or 1930s. Speaking further, the city-based Heritage Narrator notes, “The excavation notes of Alexander Rea from 1906 do not mention the existence of any such ritual. My father once mentioned that he had thrown stones at Bojjannakonda when he was around 12-years-old. I believe that this tradition might have been picked up back in the 1920s or 1930s.”
The ‘stone-throwing’ ritual, however, began to damage the old caves and the natural design of the site. Committed to conserving the rest of the monuments at Bojjannakonda, the Buddhist Groups brought down the statue of Hariti down the hill. This archaic practice of throwing stones continued until five years ago.
However, the narrative has completely changed this year around. Addressing the gatherings, the Buddhist groups distributed pamphlets and created awareness among the locals about the importance of the site. They further invited the people to witness the sambaralu, held at Bojjannakonda in Vizag. Ms Hatangadi delightfully announces that the stone-throwing ritual was neither mentioned nor spoken by anyone present at the event yesterday. She adds, “There were massive crowds by yesterday afternoon. During the event, I interacted with Sai Kumar, a 14-year-old from Sabbavaram. Despite marking his third consecutive visit to the sambaralu, he had never heard of the stone-pelting ritual. The people visited the site only to celebrate the Bojjanakonda Sambaralu, which is a welcoming change indeed.”