Visakhapatnam bears a strong imprint of Buddhist legacy. Reflected by the antique sites of Bavikonda, Thotlakonda, Bojjanakonda and Pavuralakonda, the city’s rich history holds evidence of Buddhist settlements and complexes dating back centuries. However, the sad state of affairs at these heritage sites in the city has been bothering many. Exacerbating the worries, the Mahastupa at Thotlakonda collapsed on Wednesday, distressing the heritage enthusiasts in Visakhapatnam.
The Mahastupa, a totem of Takshashila influence, is known to have crumbled around 11 am on Wednesday, perhaps due to the constant rains that have been lashing Visakhapatnam over the past few days. While there have been concerns expressed over the degrading state of these sites, little has been done for their conservation.
Speaking with Yo! Vizag, Visakhapatnam Heritage Narrator Jayshree Hatangadi informed, “In 2015, the Andhra Pradesh Archeology Department, in coordination with the District Archeological Department, had taken up the conservation works of the Buddhist sites Thotlakonda and Bavikonda. In addition to the conservation, the endeavour also included setting up interpretation centres at both the sites. The focus was laid on resurrecting the Mahastupa, in an attempt to emulate its original form. After spending about Rs 3.4 crore, the endeavour was concluded in 2016. However, several works were left midway through. The interpretation centres too haven’t been completed and their inauguration doesn’t seem to be happening in the near future.”
“While the Mahastupa at Thotlakonda has been developing cracks over the past few years, the efforts to patch them haven’t paid dividends. It recently developed a major crack and collapsed entirely, probably due to the heavy rains in the city,” she further added.
Lamenting the sorry state of affairs at Thotlakonda and other Buddhist sites in Visakhapatnam, Mrs Hatangadi cites that the visitors are not even facilitated with basic amenities.
A brief history of Thotlakonda
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 Main stupa constructed on the square platform shows Takshashila 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. The excavations reveal Satavahana lead and Roman silver coins indicating foreign trade; Terracotta tiles stucco decorative pieces, rock trough, Deepa stamba, Muchulinda naga, a sculpture of Nalagiridamana, Buddha padas etc. The Thotlakonda complex has a number of stupas, Chaityas, Viharas, a congregation hall, and a refectory.