Amaravati, translating to the “city of the immortals”, has generated a buzz ever since it was declared the new capital of Andhra Pradesh. Prior to this, Amaravati was in the news during the Kalachakra event.
Situated on the banks of the Krishna river, Amaravati was a capital during the Satavahana rule and also a prominent Buddhist site, with the Amaravati Mahachaitya stupa built here between the 2nd century BC and the 3rd century CE. There is an air of anticipation whenever Amaravati is mentioned as to whether the coming years would bring this quaint town the fame and glory, albeit in an altogether different time and space.
During a brief stopover at Amaravati, we decided to check out the Dhyana Buddha project which has become a modern symbol of Amaravati, and a tourist attraction of sorts.
The towering 125 ft Buddha statue made of concrete is unique in that it has been designed after studying and incorporating features from fifty types of Buddhist sculptures seen at major heritage sites across India. The monolithic Dhyana Buddha statue is said to be the tallest Buddha statue in India.
Mr. Regulla Mallikarjuna Rao had conceived the idea of the Buddha statue seated in a meditative posture in 2002. A connoisseur of Buddhist art, sculpture and literature, Mr. Rao wanted to recreate the magnificence of the Amravati School of Art. The Mahastupa at Amaravati was India’s greatest architectural achievement during 150-200 CE. Several Buddhist sculptures found at Amaravati contain insignia of Buddhism, emblems of sovereignty, mythical animals, chariots, ornaments of men and women, gateways, along with furniture and utensils. Mr. Mallikarjuna Rao created many paintings depicting these and exhibited them to fund the Dhyana Buddha Project.
The Dhyana Buddha Project was taken over by the Tourism Department of Andhra Pradesh in 2007 and after a series of changes and delays the project is nearly complete.
The Amaravati Museum is home to Buddhist relics collected in the vicinity of the Mahastupa. Many of these are examples of the Amaravati School of Art which flourished in this region. This School is mentioned adequately in the chronicles of the Satavahana era. The exhibits at the Amaravati Museum belong to the period between 3rd century BC to 12th century CE.
The Maha Stupa relic is reminiscent of the great event of Kalachakra that was held here, attended by the Buddha. While the Stupa is perhaps ruined, its replica can be seen in the Amaravati Museum. Lord Buddha had taught the first Kalachakra root tantra in Amaravati to King Suchindra upon his request. The king was the allowed to practice the Dharma without renouncing his worldly enjoyments and responsibilities.