Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh
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|Elevation||8 m (26 ft)|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
|Vehicle registration||AP 7|
Amaravati (Telugu: అమరావతి) is a small town situated on the banks of the River Krishna at 35 KM north-west of Guntur in the Guntur District (of which it is a mandal) of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is famous for its Amareswara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is one of the famous Pancharamas. Amaravati, also known as Dhanyakataka/Dharanikota was the site of a great Buddhist Stupa built in pre-Mauryan times. It was also the capital of Satavahanas, the first great Andhra kings who ruled from the 2nd century BCE to the 3rd century CE, after the downfall of Maurya empire.
The Skanda Purana gives a picture of the place and the Siva temple located here. Sage Narada explains to Sounaka and other saints that Amareswara is situated in Amareswaram on the bank of river Krishna and is on the north-eastern side of the Srisailam temple.
According to Vajrayana traditional sources the Buddha preached at Dharanikota/Dhanyakatakam and conducted Kalachakra ceremony, which would take the antiquity of Amaravati back to 500 BCE. Taranatha, the Buddhist monk writes: "On the full moon of the month Caitra in the year following his enlightenment, at the great stupa of Dhanyakataka, Buddha emanated the mandala of "The Glorious Lunar Mansions" (Kalachakra). This shows that Dhanyakatakam (Amaravati) was a very important place at the time of composition of this tantra. The recorded history of Amaravati and nearby Dharanikota dates from 2nd century BCE. It was the capital of Andhra Satavahanas who ruled from 2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE. After the decline of Satavahanas, Andhra Ikshvakus and later Pallava kings ruled Krishna river valley. Subsequently, Eastern Chalukyas and Telugu Cholas held sway over the region. Kota Kings were in control of Amaravati during the medieval times. Kota kings were subdued by Kakatiyas in 11th century CE and Amaravati became part of the unified Telugu empire.
The town was the site of a great Buddhist stupa originally built during the reign of emperor Ashoka. It was completed in 200 CE.It is decorated with carved panels which tell the story of Buddha's life. The region between Krishna and Godavari rivers was an important place for Buddhism from the 2nd century BCE and some ancient sculpture in low relief has been found here. During the Satavahana period (2nd century BCE-3rd century CE), Dharanikota near Amaravati was chosen as the capital. The stupa was then adorned with limestone reliefs and free standing Buddha figures. During the period of the decline of Buddhism, this stupa was also neglected and it was buried under rubble. There is a 14th-century inscription in Sri Lanka which mentions repairs made to the stupa and after that it was forgotten.
Around the year 1796 CE, Colonel Colin Mackenzie, who visited the site twice, prepared drawings and sketches of the relics in the area. Eventually, several European scholars including Sir Walter Smith, Robert Sewell, James Burgess and Alexander Rea excavated the site and unearthed many sculptures that once adorned the stupa. Many bas-relief medallions and paneled friezes decorated the Amaravati stupa. Similar to Sanchi Stupa, the stupa was decorated with carvings of life and teachings of Buddha and events of Jataka Stories, e.g. taming of a rogue elephant by Buddha. The 95 ft tall stupa was made of brick with a circular dome and platforms protruding in four cardinal directions. Recent excavations have revealed remains of an Ashokan pillar, the first such example of Mauryan art to be found in South India.
This stupa is related to the Vajrayana teachings of Kalachakra, still practiced today in Tibetan Buddhism. According to the Kalachakra tantra texts, Suchandra, the King of Shambhala and many of his retinue received the initiation into this practice by the historical Buddha. For this reason, the Dalai Lama of Tibet conducted a Kalachakra initiation at this location in 2006.
Art historians regard the Amaravati art as one of the three major styles or schools of ancient Indian art, the other two being the Gandhara style and the Mathura style. Some of the Buddhist sculptures of Amaravati betray a Greco-Roman influence that was the direct result of the close trade and diplomatic contacts between South India and the ancient Romans. Indeed, Amaravati has itself yielded a few Roman coins. The Government Museum at Egmore (Madras Museum) and British Museum, London host the "Amaravati Gallery".
Chinese traveller and Buddhist monk Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) visited Amaravati in 640 CE, stayed for sometime and studied 'Abhidhammapitakam'. He observed that there were many Viharas and some of them were deserted, which points out that Hinduism was gaining ground at that time. Xuanzang wrote a glorious account of the place, Viharas and monasteries that existed.
In Amaravati, situated in the eastern Deccan, a different type of art form evolved and flourished for nearly six centuries commencing from 200-100 BC. Patronized first by the Satavahanas and later by the Ikshvakus and also by other groups (feudatories, officials, and merchants), four periods of activity are easily discernible. 
The Amaravati school of art occupies a pre-eminent position in the history of Indian Art. With its beginning in 3rd century BC the Amaravati unfolds its chapters through the galaxy of sculptural wealth that once adorned the Mahachaitya the majestic monument of the Buddhists situated here with its history extending over a period of a millennium and a half.
The Amareswara (Shiva) temple walls have lot of inscriptions that give information about the kings who ruled over the area.
The present holy shrine of Amaralingeswara (Lord Shiva) temple is associated with the reign of Vasireddy Venkatadri Nayudu who ruled the region before the advent of the British rule (See Amararama). He was well known for his benevolence, munificence and construction of a large number of temples and education centers in the Krishna river delta.
It is reachable by road or by boat / coracle on the Krishna River. Amaravati is located 35 km northwest of Guntur. It is connected by the Amaravati road from the heart of Guntur. It is 46 km south west of Vijayawada. Gannavaram, north of Vijayawada is the nearest airport.
The people speak Telugu. The common traditional clothing for women is a Saree and for men a Pancha or a Lungi and Uttariyam. The town was given a hagiographic portrayal in the famous short story series Amaravati Kathalu by Satyam Sankaramanchi. The stories describe the contemporary culture of local people during the reign of Vasireddy Venkatadri Nayudu and also post-independent times.
The town is a center of pilgrimage to both Hindus and Buddhists. Amaravati is also famous for the temple dedicated to the god Shiva. The main Hindu festivals celebrated are Mahashivaratri and the Navaratri. The 30th Kalachakra festival, a popular Buddhist ritual was held at Amaravati in the first week of January 2006.
Dhyana Buddha under construction on the banks of River Krishna at Amaravati
A representation of Mara's assault on the Buddha, depicted in aniconic form, 2nd century CE, Amaravati. Guimet Museum
Amaravati triratna Buddhist symbols
Scroll supported by Indian Yaksha, Amaravati, 3rd century CE. Tokyo National Museum
- The Hindu : Andhra Pradesh News : Amaravati gearing for Buddhist festival
- The Hindu : Magazine / Events : On a mission for enlightenment
- The Kalachakra Mandala
- Skanda Purana In: Puranic Encyclopedia, 1975, Vettam Mani, Motilal Banarsidas, New Delhi
- Buddha's Preaching of the Kalachakra Tantra at the Stupa of Dhanyakataka, H. Hoffman, in: German Scholars on India, Vol. I, 1973, PP. 136-140, Varanasi
- Taranatha; http://www.kalacakra.org/history/khistor2.htm
- The History of Andhras, Durga Prasad
- Amaravati: Buddhist sculpture from the Great Stupa, R. Knox, 1992, The British Museum Press, London
- Kilty,G Ornament of Stainless Light, Wisdom 2004, ISBN 0-86171-452-0
- Sculptures from Amaravati in the British Museum, D. Barrett, 1954, Trustees of the British Museum, London
- Travels of Xuanzang: http://www.odiseos.net/XTWeb/index.html
- Sri Raja Vasireddy Venkatadri Nayudu, 1973, K. Lakshminarayana, Ponnuru (http://www.openlibrary.org/details/rajavasireddyven022548mbp)
- Maps, Weather, and Airports for Amaravati, India
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amaravati.|
- Valley of stupas
- The Amaravati Gallery at the Madras Museum
- Related Buddhist Sites of Andhra Pradesh