Buddhism in Andhra Pradesh
Buddhism spread to Andhra Pradesh as early as the third and second centuries BC. Various stupas and other Andhra Buddhist sites came into existence at this period. Mahayana Buddhism was first founded by Acharya Nagarjuna, who set up a Buddhist learning centre near Vijayapuri, the capital of the Ikshvaku kings. In the royal stream, males tolerated Buddhism without practicing it, while women preached Buddhism in Andhra Pradesh, strictly.
The Buddhist centre was located in Vijayapuri or 'Sriparvata', and from Amravati, downstream of Krishna River. Buddhism spread to Srilanka and far East including China and Japan. Andhra Pradesh houses at least 50 Buddhist sites out of which half have been identified for renovation.
The largest monolithic statue is a 17-metre high Buddha that stands majestic in the middle of Hussainsagar Lake at the centre of Hyderabad. The Andhra Pradesh Government and also the Archaeological Survey of India have been working in coordination to excavate and preserve such Buddhist places in Andhra Pradesh. Major Andhra Pradesh Buddhist sites include:
Nagarjunakonda : Nagarjunakonda is one of greatest centers of learning Buddhism displaying ancient Buddhist art and architecture. It is a remake of the original Buddhist site that was shifted with the danger of being submerged under the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam. The valley signifies a civilization depicting Buddhism India that flourished centuries ago.
Amravati : Situated on the banks of Krishna River in Guntur district, it is one of the oldest Buddhist sites in India with the largest stupa.
Anupa : Excavated architectural items namely the Buddhist University and Stadium have been reconstructed, here. These also include sacred stupas, viharas, monasteries and an altar. The stadium has amazing acoustics that are truly outstanding, considering the time and age, it was built. It is a must visit for everybody interested in history, culture and architecture.
Nagarjuna Sagar : An ancient Buddhist site was found that would have been submerged by the waters of the Nagarjuna Sagar dam. So, it was decided to excavate the site and transplant the structures to the Nagarjunakonda hill.
Thotlakonda : Located atop a hill, Thotlakonda houses a Buddhist complex itself with structural remains of religious, secular and civil areas, displaying the prominence of Buddhism in India, at that time.
Bavikonda : Bavikonda also has remains of an entire Buddhist complex with 26 structures comprising of the three phases. A piece of bone kept in an urn, said to be the remains of the Buddha is housed, here.