The partially-damaged Mahastupa (Dome) at the Buddhist heritage site Thotlakonda has been restored completely by the Archaeology Department. On Tuesday, Tourism Minister Muttamsetti Srinivasa Rao visited the 2,000-year-old heritage site in Vizag and inaugurated the restored dome. The restoration works were done at a cost of Rs. 43 lakh.
The Thotlakonda Mahastupa or dome was proposed to be restored by the State Archaeology Department in 2016. Then, it collapsed in October 2019 due to the lashing rainfall in Vizag. Studies had said that the Mahastupa might have collapsed due to the weight of the harmika atop the dome which had been further weakened by the rains. The site is a prominent tourist spot housing a 2,000-year-old monastic complex with remnants of stupas, chaitya grihas, and viharas atop Thotlakonda Hill.
The Tourism Minister also launched new amenities at Thotlakonda center, including washrooms for men and women, which were developed at a cost of Rs 20 lakh. Speaking on the occasion, he said, “The pandemic situation has dropped the revenues of the Tourism Department drastically. We must make efforts to develop all the tourist spots so as to attract tourists.”
During the inauguration of the newly restored dome at Thotlakonda, the Minister announced various other attractions. A meditation centre will soon be established at Thotlakonda. Also, buses will be operated to the hilltop. He said that the heritage sites including Thotlakonda, Bavikonda, Pavuralakonda, and Erramatti Dibbalu near Vizag would be developed jointly by the Tourism and the Archaeology Departments. Plans are on to set up five-star hotels with international standards by Dasara. The tourism department has also planned to come up with a mobile app to provide every information related to hotels, food, recreation places, and tourist spots in Andhra Pradesh.
Thotlakonda came to light in 1976 during an aerial survey by the Indian Navy, and excavations established the existence of a Hinayana Buddhist complex, which flourished two thousand years ago. The Mahastupa constructed on the square platform shows Takshashila’s influence. On this hill, probably called Senagiri, there were found Brahmi label inscriptions of 2nd century AD ‘Drona’, meaning the Telugu word ‘thotla’ or tank, giving this hill its name.