Despite some talk by the state government of Andhra Pradesh over several years of setting up a Buddhist corridor and reviving various Buddhist heritage sites—including the three 2,000-year-old hilltop sites of Bavikonda, Thotlakonda, and Pavurallakonda on the Vizag-Bheemili stretch that connects Visakhapatnam with Bheemili in coastal Andhra Pradesh—little work has been carried out to date and the sites remain largely neglected, according to a recent report by The Times of India.
“The road-laying work comes under [the] roads and buildings department. We have also informed that only one security guard is functioning (from 10 am–5 pm) and there is urgent required of manpower. In fact, we have only four regular staff while the remaining eight regular posts in the department are vacant,” assistant director of the state archaeology department Venkat Rao told The Times of India about the most neglected site, Pavurallakonda.
“For the three north-coastal districts, just 12 security guards have been allocated for all the Buddhist sites, monuments, and museums, which is far too less considering the fact that each site requires at least three guards for round-the-clock security,” Rao explained. (The Times of India)
According to The Times of India report, Bavikonda which lies some 16 kilometers from Visakhapatnam, faces encroachment threats and suffers from a wastage of funds due to duplication of civil construction work for a second interpretation center.
Thotlakonda, a 48-hectare heritage site, has been in the news for a long time, but for the most part for the wrong reasons, including encroachment by a film club, court cases, the rushed reconstruction of an excavated stupa in 2016 and the collapse of the rebuilt stupa in 2019. The latest controversy surrounding the site centers on the construction of a state guesthouse on a 12-hectare plot of land. However, the authorities insist that there are no plans for construction within the Thatlakonda archaeological site.*
Relics at Pavurallakonda are reported to be in a state of advanced disrepair, including scattered monasteries, staircases, rock-cut cisterns, remnants of votive stupas, and a 17th century Dutch building. There is still no approach road and the only access is via an almost three-kilometer uphill hike over rocky terrain. The sole security guard at the site said bikers would visit after sunset, enter the heritage site by breaking the lock, and sit and drink.
Rao, however, mentioned that the state archaeology department had written to the district administration requesting a proper gate and a road to the top of the hill. He also mentioned that Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage members had promised to help construct a gate to prevent bikers and other trespassers from entering Pavurallakonda.
“We are organizing a heritage enthusiasts’ initiative to raise funds and fix a strong gate at the bottom of the hill to stop bikers from going up,” said Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage member Jayshree. “We will also clean up the site. Information and instruction boards would be put up to inform about Pavurallakonda. Beach patrolling should be extended to this site too.” (The Times of India)
“As these are in north coastal region it’s ignored, if same is there in Guntur or Vijayawada they would have made golden roads for the monuments. These what we can say unfair treatment given to regions by our politicians,” posted Sathya Makka, a reader of The Times of India.
* Development Threatens Ancient Buddhist Site in Southeast India, Activists Say (Buddhistdoor Global)
Buddhist Sites on Visakhapatnam-Bheemili Stretch Lie in Ruins (The Times of India)
The Sacred Bavikonda Monastery: Vestiges of the Buddhist Golden Age in India (Ancient Origins)