Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Buddhist stupa found buried under a Siva temple at Kondaveedu in Guntur district

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: An ancient Buddhist stupa has been found buried under a Siva temple at Kondaveedu in Guntur district, dating back to the second century CE.

The discovery of the Buddhist stupa pushes the history of Kondaveedu by at least 1000 years.

"Kondaveedu fort, which is so far believed to contain only the fortification and the habitational remains of the Reddi Kings of 14th century and later, seems to have a very hoary past. The discovery of stupa remains below a Siva temple suggests that Kondaveedu was a prominent Buddhist centre right from the second century CE," says Dr Ruchi Singh, a former faculty of the University of Hyderabad.

Dr Ruchi Singh, who is currently working on a project on "heritage and cultural tourisin in Andhra Pradesh" discovered the Buddhist stupa.
The stupa has a diameter of about 12 feet. It was noticed below a medieval temple, believed to have been dedicated to Siva, as per the local tradition.

"Some portions of the stupa have been exposed due to rampant diggings by treasure-hunters. The stupa was constructed in concentric circular formations, using light green Palnadu marble for outer and inner casing and black limestone of Kadapa variety for the middle circle. The exposed portions of the stupa reveal five courses of stones having a thickness of 7 to 12 cm," she said.

Kondaveedu Fort contains extensive habitational remains, which are now lying either buried or in ruined condition. Presence of a particular type of roof tiles, known as ‘channelled tiles’, which are usually dated to Satavahana period suggest that the site was in existence since at least 1st century CE. The similarity of the material used for the stupa and the style of construction suggests that the stupa could be dated to around 2nd century CE, though further investigations could push back this date.

"There is every possibility of finding a complex of more stupas, if proper excavations are conducted. It is very essential that the Government take appropriate measures to prevent further vandalisation by the treasure hunters, so as to preserve the valuable evidence that has come to light now," Dr Ruchi Singh said.

This is the first evidence of the presence of Buddhist monuments on the Kondaveedu fort. Now with this discovery, the history of Kondaveedu region is pushed back by more than 1000 years. The fact that the foundations of the temple are lying immediately above the stupa remains, suggest that there was no time gap between the destruction of the stupa and construction of temple above it.

Whether the construction of ‘Garbhagriha’ just above the stupa is deliberate or accidental, is a point for further investigation. The investigations here may be very important for reconstruction of religious history of the ancient and medieval period in Guntur district, she added.

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