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Chandavaram Buddhist Site

By Gaurav Manandhar at

Chandavaram Buddhist Site

Chandavaram Buddhist site is located in Chandavaram village in Prakasam district in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh. This ancient Buddhist site, Chandavaram Buddhist site, was established between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE during the Satavahana dynasty. This site was long lost and the excavation team led by Dr. Veluri Venkata Krishna Sastry in 1964 discovered the site.

The historical importance of Chandavaram Buddhist Site

This Buddhist site was the first one that was established in the Andhra Pradesh. This site was an active center for Buddhist religious activities at that period. It was learned that this place was used as a resting place by Buddhist monk traveling from Kashi to Kanchi. With the help of excavation, it is learned that Ayaka pillars were absent from the site. This absence means that Hinayana form of Buddhism was practiced. This site houses a double terraced Maha Stupa on a hilltop. This hilltop is also popularly known as Singarakonda.

Structures at Chandavaram Buddhist Site

Chandavaram Buddhist Site consists of following structures:

  • Main Stupa (Maha Stupa)

  • Museum

  • Silamandapa

  • Vihara

  • Votive Stupas

The Maha Stupa is one of the important structure in this Buddhist site. This stupa exhibits the characteristics of stupas built under the Hinayana form of Buddhism. The main dome of the stupa is 120 feet (37 m) in circumference and 30 feet (9.1 m) high. It has carved panels that portrays the Dharmachakra, the wheel of Dharma. Apart from the main stupa, the site also houses other several Viharas, Brahmi inscriptions, and other stupas. The panels on the Maha Stupa are made up of limestone. The panels and the drum sections of the Maha Stupa exhibit the Buddha footprint, Stupas, Bodhi trees and also narratives in the form of Jataka tales along with other stories.

In the Maha Stupa, there is also a Maha Chaitya which measures 1.6 meters (5.2 ft) high and 60 centimeters (2.0 ft) wide. If we observe closely, the Maha Stupa resembles the Dharmarajika stupa of Taxila, Pakistan. Since 1964, the Chandavaram Buddhist site has been excavated four times, and fifteen regular-sized and approximately one hundred small stupas have been discovered.

Monolith statue of Buddha

Other than ancient structures and Buddha statues, modern day project has also been proposed with the name of "Buddha Poornima Project". Under this project, the world's tallest standing monolith Buddha Statue was to be erected on the site. This statue was carved by 200 sculptors in two years. When completed it was weighed 440 tonnes with a height of 17 meters (56ft).

But, the Buddha statue was transported to the city of Hyderabad in 1988 instead. The statue was erected in 1992 in the Hussian Sagar Lake.

Archeological findings

The Buddhist site was first excavated by Dr. Veluri Venkata Krishna Sastry in 1964. The carbon dating of the artifacts discovered during an excavation and the sculptural panels in the site suggested that the site was established between 2nd century BCE and 2nd century CE. During the excavation, the team found one Maha Stupa, fifteen regular-sized stupas, and approximately one hundred small Stupas. Apart from the Maha Stupa, Silamandapa, Vihara and the Votive Stupas, more than two dozen "Buddhist slabs" (decorated with designs and inscriptions) have also been discovered.

Pilferage

Since 2000, there has been reported pilferage of artifacts from the Chandavaram Buddhist site. In October 2000, two 9 ft long panels were stolen from the site's museum. These panels had engraved Bodhi tree and chaitya. In February 2001, three pillars measuring 9 feet long were stolen. In one of the pillar the Buddha was represented as a fire. In March 2001, three more ornate pillars and a lotus medallion were stolen.

Archaeologically and Religiously, Chandavaram Buddhist site is very important place. The artifacts found in these place help us to learn about the Buddhist society and community so these must be preserved. But there are cases of pilferage of these artifacts. So when a person, or curator goes to buy from Buddha statues for sale, they must be alert regarding how that statues or other artifacts were acquired.