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Bavikonda: A Protected Buddhist Monument


What happened at Bavikonda has shocked peace and heritage lovers.

Introduction: Vandalism
(The incident brings into limelight the need to preserve Buddhist monasteries, which are languishing in utter neglect.)
 It was an act of vandalism by some unidentified persons, but the sacrilege at one of the oldest and immensely sacred Buddhist monument, located 15 km
 along the beach road leading to the 17th century Dutch township of Bhimili, left many in a state of shock.
Incidentally, the damage was done on the midnight of Ugadi, the Telugu New Year, and it came to light the next day when watchman Krishna found a
 layer of bricks removed and thrown scattered all around the ‘mahastupam’.

The police, after registering a case of arson, said they would try to
 nab the culprits.
 Protected monument                                 
But, it is said that tracking down the ‘fly-by-night’ operators is a Herculean task as it is suspected to be the handiwork of some drunkards.
 The monument, notified as a protected site by the State Archaeology Department, dates back to the 3rd century BC.
 The artefacts unearthed belong to the period from 3rd century BC to 2nd century AD. Remnants discovered here stand testimony to Buddhist
 establishment in South India.
  The ‘stupas’ and the ‘viharas’ built atop a hillock facing the sea were identical to Borobadur of Indonesia.
 A piece of bone kept in an urn along with large quantity of ashes found in the complex was believed to be the mortal remains of Lord Buddha. Excavations
 carried out during 1982-87 led to unearthing of ‘mahachaitya stupas’, stone-pillared congregation hall, votive stupas, silver and gold caskets,
 refectory, relic caskets, Roman and Satavahana coins.
 Bavikonda is in a state of neglect and the authorities have made arrangements only for a couple of security guards during daytime. Broken liquor bottles and condoms found in the area suggest how the sacred place was being misused after sunset.
 The Buddhists, in a bid to spread their establishment in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, had set up monasteries at beautifully located sites –
 all on hillocks overlooking the sea. Bavikonda lay along the ancient trade linked to Andhra with northern India through Kalinga.
 It came to light during excavations carried out by State Archaeology Department in 1982-87.
Thottlakonda, another landscape, is also located in blissful environs on the apex of a hill called Mangamaripeta. It was discovered during an aerial
 search by the Navy for site to locate a naval base.
 Excavations conducted in 1988-92 led to unearthing of priceless Buddhist viaharas, pottery, Roman and Satavahana coins.
 Excavations established the fact that Buddhism flourished in Visakhapatnam and its surroundings, where Bavikonda and Thottlakonda were found along
 with Bojjanakonda near Bhimunipatnam and Pavuralakonda near Anakapalle.
 Retired bureaucrat and an MP K.S.R. Murthy, who embraced Buddhism sometime ago, points out that despite huge tourism potential, the powers-that-be has failed to develop a tourist circuit.
 Foreign exchange
 There is tremendous scope to earn foreign exchange by carrying out further excavations, providing tight security to the Buddhist sites and showcasing their importance by taking recourse to wide publicity.
 The Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage has already appealed to the authorities to ensure better protection of Buddhist sites by taking up the declaration of Bavikonda, Thottlakonda and other monuments as heritage sites by UNESCO. This will not only pave the way for steady flow of funds but also generate employment opportunities for the
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