Nagarjunakonda is a historic town located in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh state. The stupa here was discovered in 1926 AD. It is an ancient city, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Hyderabad.
It is famous after the famous Acharya Nagarjuna (second century AD) of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism.
There was a kingdom of Satavahana kings in the first century. The Satavahana king named ‘Hall’ had built a vihara for Acharya Nagarjuna on the Shree Parvat peak. It is known from the records from Nagarjunakonda that in the first century AD, India had a relationship with China and the Greek world, and Lanka.
In the first century AD and before him Nagarjunakonda was named ‘Sriparvat’, which is described in the context of Mahabharata, Vana Parva, pilgrimage –
Srimad Bhagwat also mentions Srisail or Sriparvat–
‘Devagiri Rishyamuk: Srisailo Venkato Mahendro Waridharo Vindhya:
In the first century AD, there was a kingdom of Satavahana kings. The Shatavahana king named ‘Hal’, who is said to be the author of the famous poem ‘Gathasaptami’ of Prakrit, had built a vihara for Nagarjuna till Sriparvat Shikhar, where these Rasavid Acharya lived at the end of his life.
Due to his stay here, this place became the center of Mahayana Buddhism. Which contributed to the propagation of Mahayana in India and Greater India. At that time a Buddhist college was established here. Nagarjuna’s name is also famous in Tibet and Chinese Buddhist literature. Another Tantric scholar Nagarjuna is said to have lived here in the third or fourth century AD.
After the Satavahanas (Andhra kings), the Ikshvaku kings ruled Nagarjunakonda and brought it from Amravati, the capital of Andhra Pradesh. At that time Nagarjunakonda was called ‘Vijaypur’ or ‘Vijaypuri’. The Ikshvaku king was a patron of Buddhism despite being a Hindu stalwart, even the queens of many kings were Buddhists and participated actively in propagating this belief. This is the rare example of religious tolerance in the history of the world.
The beauty of the city
Nagarjunakonda (Vijaypur) was a very beautiful city during the rule of the Ikshvakus. Situated on the banks of river Krishna and surrounded by four-pronged mountain garlands, this city was integrated with the natural beauty and was also safe as a fortified fort. The ruins of nine Buddhist stupas were excavated from the site of Vijaypur about forty years ago, which are witness to the ancient glory and opulence of this city.
In the eighth century, Buddhism received a major setback as a result of Bhagiratha’s efforts to revive the ancient Hindu religion of the great seer Shankaracharya, among other reasons, and the decline of Nagarjunakonda in South India as well.
Nagarjunakonda was made the main center of its propaganda by Shankaracharya, whose symbol is ‘Pushp Girishankar Math’. The ruins of this place were situated at the core of the Nallamalai hills.
Now, due to the formation of a huge dam here, this area has become waterlogged. Only archaeological material has been preserved in a museum on the hill.
The ruins here lie between the forested site and the hills. The remains of one Mahachaitya and twelve stupas were found by excavation. Apart from this, Char Vihar,
The remains of six chaityas and four pavilions were also brought to light by excavation. The Mahachaitya was excavated by Longhurst. In this stupa, a tooth of Buddha (Balm Shwdant) was found safe in a metal mirror. Manjusha had inscription-
‘Smyak Sambuddhas Metalwar Pargit Mahachaitya.
The description of Yuwanchwang
The Vihara of Acharya Nagarjuna could not be found in the ruins here. Regarding this, Yuvanchwang has written that in order to build this vihara, a tunnel had to be built inside the hill. This building, built in the midst of tall streets, was built on five floors and each had four rocks and viharas.
In each vihara, human sculpted statues of Buddha were installed. They were unmatched in terms of art. In the third century AD, queens of the Ikshvaku kings built many Buddhist viharadis here.
Rani Shantashree had built Mahavihara and Mahachaitya here. The second queen Bodhishri had built chaitya grihas for the monks of Sinhala, Kashmir, Nepal and China. (The ruins of Sinhala Vihar were also found on a hill in the last excavation).
At this time Nagarjunakonda was indeed an international center of Buddhism. Apart from these buildings, the remains of six hundred large and four hundred small artifacts were also obtained from these buildings.
The architectural style of Nagarjunakonda is very similar to the art of the nearby Amaravati and both can be adapted from the same name i.e. ‘style of Krishna valley’. The main stupa, which is 70 feet high and 100 feet wide, was built on a high platform, on which there were also stairs to climb.
The ‘Aayak Vedis’ and rows of thin pillars and plain entrance or archway guarding the shrines are displayed here, the features of these stupas are inaccessible elsewhere in Andhra. The carving or etching of the Stupadic stones is a unique example of this art.
The light greenstone, which has been used here for most of the time, was uniquely suited for marking the diverse expressions of life. Based on the images carved on these stones, the then (second-third century AD) Buddhism and The study of art can be of great help.
Many of the scenes depicted in it are taken from the stories and events of Sanskrit Buddhist literature. Apart from these, the practice of placing many Buddhist statues around the grounds of monuments has also been found here in Anuradhapura (like Sri Lanka). The rows of pillars in this craft are particularly notable,
Because this specialty is also a part of the art of temples built during the transitional period in Andhra Pradesh.
The language of the inscriptions of Nagarjunakonda is semi-literal Prakrit, which was the dialect of the Dravidian speakers of this province. This language (or Maharashtri Prakrit) was well respected during the time of the Satavahanas, as indicated by the famous Prakrit poetry book ‘Gatha Saptashati’ composed by Hal Naresh. The records throw considerable light on the history and social condition of the time.
In 1954, two marble sculptures were received from Nagarjunakonda which have been sent by the Indian government to the Singapore Museum. They have Bodhidrum inscribed in the middle of a plaque, which is shown with the Buddhist Triratna. The second plaque probably marks the visit of Bindusar, the king of Magadha, to visit Buddha. In it, the king is depicted in a chariot of four horses. Some foot soldiers are moving in front of the chariot. These scenes are very entertaining and are depicted very naturally.