Restoration work apace at Thotlakonda, Bavikonda

rsetore_2786957gThe Hindu
B. MADHU GOPAL

The treasure trove of Buddhist heritage sites, dating between 3{+r}{+d}century BC and 3{+r}{+d}century AD, located in the three north Andhra districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, and Visakhapatnam, are a mute reminder of the popularity of Buddhism in the North Andhra region more than 2,000 years ago.

The State Department of Archaeology and Museums took up restoration and reconstruction of the heritage structures of Thotlakonda and Bavikonda in a scientific manner and the sites are expected to regain their original shape by the end of this month.

A Buddhist gallery, interpretation centres, souvenir shop, and a luggage room, besides amenities like drinking water, snack bar, and rest rooms, are being provided.

Tourists used to rush back after a quick look at the few brick and stone pathways and broken structures lying on the ground in the absence of any amenities, including drinking water and shelter. They can now go round the structures in a relaxed manner and wonder at the ingenuity of our ancestors in building brick- and-stone structures at a time when there were no modern machines to move men and material to the hill top.

“The Mahastupam, along with its five parts, 11 votive stupas, and three circular chaityagrihas are some of the structures found here. The vruttakara chaityagriha, with two entrances, one on the East and the other on the West, is unique to this site and has features of Roman architecture,” says Ch. Lakshmana, a tourist guide at Thotlakonda. “Our aim is to set up tourist amenities away from the protected monuments under the supervision of archaeological experts to attract more tourists. The Department of Archaeology and Museums has been entrusted with the scientific restoration and reconstruction of the structures at these sites,” Principal Secretary (Tourism and Culture), Government of AP, Neerabh K. Prasad, told The Hindu .

“The bricks used in construction at these sites are very large unlike conventional bricks. Large-size bricks had been specially ordered and ‘ganugu sunnam’ (a mixture of limestone, clay…) is being used to replace the missing and damaged bricks. The brick walls and other structures in ancient constructions used to be held together by ‘ganugu sunnam’ and concrete was not used,” says Assistant Director of Archaeology K. Chitti Babu.

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