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 treat is Pavuralakonda, a 3rd Century BCE Ancient Buddhist Heritage Site near Bheemili in Vizag. Despite its immense historical value, the site has been subjected to exploitation by the general public for their petty pleasures, including biker groups exercising their skills, being oblivious to the culture and heritage associated with the area. To shed light on the history of Pavuralakonda and conservatory measures to safeguard the site, we got in touch with Ms Jayshree Hatangadi, an ardent heritage enthusiast in Vizag.
‘Pavuralakonda’, in English, is translatable to the ‘Hill of Pigeons’. According to Ms Hatangadi, on the top of the hill are the remains of an ancient Buddhist monastic complex, which is said to be active from 3 Century BCE to 2nd Century CE. It is one among the ruins discovered in the 1980s in the North Coastal Andhra Pradesh, along with Thotlakonda and Bavikonda. Furthermore, there is evidence that Hinayana Buddhism flourished here for several centuries.
Excavations at this site by the State Archaeology Department of the Andhra Pradesh state government in 1996-97 had yielded many relics such as polished ware and terracotta beads, Roman and Satavahana coins, Brahmi label inscriptions, and foundations of secular and religious brick structures. One of the most interesting features of the site is the presence of the rock-cut cisterns. In the olden days, these cisterns carved out of the rocky hill were used for the collection and storage of rain and spring water by the monks inhabiting the monastery.
Pavuralakonda, which once flourished as the Buddhist monastic complex, was grossly neglected for several years. The ancient Buddhist site has no security, leaving it open to miscreants who litter the place with plastic and empty alcohol bottles.
In January 2020, concerned about further deterioration of the site, the heritage enthusiasts of Vizag urged the Archaeology and Museums department of Andhra Pradesh to take the necessary action of erecting a gate at the entrance of the site to limit the access to motor vehicles. However, due to certain limitations, the archaeology department couldn’t meet with the proposal. With the pandemic following soon after, the process of safekeeping the site had slowed down.
In January 2021, a group of bikers, not knowing the implication of their action, rode all over the area. Shocked by the turn of events, heritage enthusiasts, Ms Hatangadi and Mr Sohan Hatangadi decided to take up crowdfunding to erect the gate. Subsequently, the Commissioner of The Archaeology and Museums Department, Vani Mohan Gali, granted permission to install a gate and required signboards at the entrance of Pavuralakonda, provided the funds are arranged by the public.
Speaking to Yo!, Ms Hatangadi was delighted to share that the group had successfully raised the requisite fund of one lakh rupees for the project. Shedding light on the conservatory measures, she said, “It is heartening to see many people taking interest in conserving heritage sites of Vizag. With no manpower, water, and electricity, it was quite a task for our team to install the gate. Despite the shortcomings, I’m happy to share that our team has finished the project. We are all set to hand over the gate to the Archaeology Department on 6 March.”
While putting up the gate, Ms Hatangadi and her team found the entire area near the foothills was strewn with plastics and bottles. To tidy up the accumulated litter, they will be organising a cleanup drive at Pavuralakonda in Vizag, in collaboration with Indian Youth for Society (IYFS) on 6 March from 1 PM. She further requested the public to volunteer and do their bit to safeguard Pavuralakonda.