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Amaravati Stupa, Guntur Overview

Located in the Amaravathi village in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati Stupa (also known as Amaravathi Mahachaitya) is a heritage monument and an ancient Buddhist stupa. Believed to have been built in phases between the 3rd century BCE and 250 CE, the monument is currently under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India. The premises also have an Archaeological Museum other than the stupa itself. Popularly known as the Mahachaitya, Deepaladinne or the Great Stupa of Amaravati, this is among the largest stupas in India and one of the most visited sites in Amaravati.

Situated on the banks of River Krishna, Amaravati Stupa boasts of the architecture of the Buddhist school. Known to have been built by a representative of Emperor Ashoka, the monument is constructed of brick and has a circular vedika which houses Lord Buddha in a human form seated over an elephant. Besides, Lord Buddha is depicted in various forms- there are carvings and inscriptions and sculptures and incarnations from the Jataka tales. Amaravati Stupa is also known to be an important specimen of the Mauryan architecture.

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History of Amaravati Stupa

Amaravati Stupa is believed to have been founded in the 3rd century BCE during the time of the reign of Emperor Ashoka, however, there is no authentic evidence for the same. The stupa was constructed in two periods- in the first period, there were only plain railings, granite pillars, cross bars and coping stones. The latter period is believed to have lasted around 50 BCE and continued till 250 BCE. In this period, additional railings and carved slabs were also placed around the original stupa.

Recovery of Amaravati Stupa

The recovery and even the discovery of the Amaravati Stupa can be credited to the Britishers. An Scottish army officer - Major Colin Mackenzie came to visit Andhra Pradesh in 1797 and found some Buddhist structures made with bricks and limestone, that were facing the River Krishna. But at that time no steps were taken. And when he returned to the site in 1816, the remains had also been destroyed by indiscriminate excavations. He studied the research and drew a sample of the stupa. Later in 1845, Sir Walter Scott explored the area thoroughly, conducted research and found several sculptures in the excavations that followed.

Architecture and Design of Amaravati Stupa

Amaravati Stupa is considered to be one of the largest in Andhra Pradesh and is also sometimes compared to the Sanchi Stupa. With a height of 27 m and a diameter of 50 m, the monument has a circular vedika that is built with bricks and protruding rectangular Ayaka platforms for the four directions. It is predicted that there could have been five pillars on these platforms representing the five main events from the life of Lord Buddha- the birth, the great renunciation, enlightenment, the first sermon and the final extinction. These platforms also have some crystal and one Ivory casket which have bone-pieces, precious stones,  pearls and gold flowers. 
Amaravati Stupa Relief

Boasting of Mauryan style of architecture, the stupa has a semi circular spherical dome that is mounted on a circular drum like platform. There are also decorations done in stucco- there are tales from Buddha’s life and Jataka tales, and animal and flower drawings. This entire structure was surrounded by pillars which form a railing. These pillars are separated by cross bars. The sculptures have been removed from the site but some ruins of the pillars remain.

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