A treasure under threat

THE HINDU A view of Buddhist site at Rampa Yerrampalem village in East Godavari district. Photo: Special Arrangement

THE HINDU A view of Buddhist site at Rampa Yerrampalem village in East Godavari district. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Hindu
K. N. MURALI SANKAR

As more and more Buddhist sites are being found in East Godavari district dated back to the era of Before Christ, paucity of funds is forcing the department of Archaeology and Museums to adopt a wait and watch approach towards commencing excavations.

According to historians, Buddhism and Jainism flourished in the district and there were numerous temples, monuments and reminiscences of these two faiths in different regions. Very few sites, however, have seen the light following the initiative of the Central and the State archaeology departments.

With regard to Buddhism, Adurru, Kodavali and Kapavaram are the three cites where excavations are completed and the reminiscences are unearthed by the two departments. In the recent past, the State Archaeology department has spotted eight more Buddhist spots at Rampa Errampalem, Erravaram, Kummari Lova, Marlapadu, A. Kothapalli, A.P. Mallavaram, A. Mallavaram, Lampaka Lova, Onti Mamidi and Pandavula Metta – all are in the vicinity of East Godavari and Visakhapatnam border and close to Tuni town. The department is able to take Rampa Errampalem and Erravaram sites into its fold and commenced excavations at Erravaram.

The remaining sites, however, are abandoned and the department is not in a position to take them into its possession due to shortage of funds. Most of the sites are on the village outskirts and being used for cattle gazing. The cattle gazers spotted a couple of Buddhist reminiscences in the spots and informed it to the village elders out of curiosity. Thus the department is coming to know through the village elders and the local police and marking the places as sites to be excavated.

“Buddhism flourished on the banks of the rivers Pampa, Tandava and Yeleru. During the period of Eastern Chalukyas, people from these places enjoyed wealth and focused on constructing Buddhist monuments. This is the reason why more and more number of Buddhist sites are now coming to the light in the border villages of East Godavari,” says Merapala Narayana Rao, a scholar in Buddhist Studies.

“Immediately after knowing about the reminiscences, we are marking the sites and sending proposals to our headquarters seeking permission and funding for the excavations. Nine such proposals are awaiting permission,” says K. Timma Raju, Assistant Technical Officer of the department of Archaeology and Museums.

Assistant Director of the department Seera Venkata Rao, however, says the department is now on the job of rebuilding the Venugopalaswamy temple at Namagiri Narendrapatnam near Tuni. “The temple was built by Rajarajanarendra in 9th century AD. Now we are rebuilding it intact by spending a sum of Rs. 1 crore. We are focusing on the excavation works at the Buddhist sites too,” Mr. Venkata Rao says.

“There is an immediate need to protect the Buddhist sites by releasing the required budget. Otherwise, we may lose some important history which is not good for the society at large,” says T. Rajyalakshmi, president of the Kakinada unit of Brahmo Samaj.

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