Nagarjuna konda or Nagarjuna Hill Buddhist Site of AndhraPradesh
Nagarjuna konda or the Nagarjuna Hill which is a historical Buddhist site is located in Macherla Mandal of Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh near Nagarjuna Sagar Dam. At a distance of 150 km from Hyderabad, the place is one of the richest Buddhist town belonging to 2nd century AD named after the famous Buddhist monk and scholar Acharya Nagarjuna who some consider as the most important Buddhist philosopher after Buddhism. He was essentially the founder of the ‘Middle Path’ among the Buddhist schools and is even regarded as Second Buddha by philosophers and historians.
This early Buddhist settlement was the capital of Iksvaku dynasty ruled circa 225 AD to 325 AD and was the successors of the Satavahanas. Nagarjuna konda was home to more than 30 Buddhist monasteries which were excavated during late 1920s by English archeologists. These excavations have unraveled works of art and valuable inscriptions relevant to the scholarly pursuit leading to a better understanding of the place and how Buddhism influenced the era. The inscriptions reveal that constructions of temples and monasteries received state sponsorship coming mainly from queen of Ikshvaku.
Nagarjuna konda served as a great religious epicenter promoting and spreading Buddhist faith.The site held one of the largest monasteries in South India and some of it pertaining to Bahusrutiya which is an early school of Buddhism and Aparamahavinaseliya which is another sub-school of Buddhist religion. More than 100 relics and ruins of stupas were excavated until 1931 and one of them was the great stupa of Nagarjuna konda which is an uncased stupa decorated with large flowery ornamentation.
With an 18 meter height and brick-walled structure, the Nagarjuna Konda leaves many significant relics dated from the Stone Age. The carved architectural units depict the life of the Master from his life to his great journey to Nirvana, his meditation, enlightenment and teachings. The stories of Buddha’s incarnations which are commonly known as Jatakas like Sasa-jataka, Champeya-jataka, Sibi-jataka are also used as subjects of carvings. Most of the scriptures are written in ornate Brahmi of 3rd-4th century AD. Among them some are Prakrit language where others are composed in Sanskrit language. These inscriptions are written on pillars, sculptures and even on pedestals and form exclusive archaeological evidences manifested throughout the site of Nagarjuna konda.
How to Reach
The nearest airport to the place is Hyderabad airport which is 150 km away and about three and a half hour drive. The nearest railway station is Macheria which is located at a distance of 29 km and from there taxi, bus or hiring a cab would be ideal to reach the destination.
Buses from Guntur, Hyderabad are also another option to reach Nagarjunasagar from where one can take a ferry ride of 45 minutes to reach Nagarjuna Konda. The island of Nagarjuna Konda can be traveled by a ferry ride.
From its scriptures to ancient inscriptions, there is no dearth of wisdom in this Buddhist site that doesn’t fail to amaze us even in the 21st century.