Ruins of Amaravati Stupa, Amaravati

Name of the Monument







Ruins of Amaravati Stupa



Andhra Pradesh

3rd   century B.C.E. to 250 C.E


The great stupa or Mahachaitya at Amaravati was one of the biggest in Andhra Pradesh with a probable diameter of 50 meters and a height of 27 meters. It has a brick built circular vedika or drum with projecting rectangular Ayaka platforms in four cardinal directions measuring 7.20 X 2.10 meters each. Five Ayaka pillars must have stood on each platform symbolically representing the five main events in Buddha’s life viz., the birth, the great renunciation, the enlightenment, the first sermon and the final extinction. The drum and Ayaka platforms were covered with sculptured slabs.  All the four-ayaka platforms have yielded seven crystal and one Ivory relic caskets, some of which contain bone-pieces, pearls, precious stones and gold flowers. This is a Saririka type of stupa and hence it has a great importance.


The present day twin villages of Amaravati-Dharanikota situated about 33 km north of Guntur town in Andhra Pradesh, formed part of an ancient township called Dhamnakada or Dhanakataka.  Colonel Colin Mackenzie was the first to record the antiquarian wealth of this place early in 1797, and thereafter, the site lured many an art historian, archaeologist and epigraphist.  The Maha chaitya mound was called Dipaladinne– the mound of lamps.


This place name is mentioned on the various architectural and sculptural members of the Maha chaitya site.  In a sculptured stele datable to Mauryan Period, on its second facet facing north, a scene in relief with the label inscription read “Dhamnakada Vamda namagothi“.  The portrayal of Dhamnakada in this scheme is not only very realistic but of great importance.  The depiction of the river Krishna, particularly it’s north-easternly bend, is true even today.  The flowers and paduka like objects shown in the waters of the river Krishna suggests Master’s descent along the river tract.  The label “Dhamnakada” confirms the illustrated scene of the place in very clear terms.  The Asokan pillar Edict part and Northern Black Polished Ware found in excavations at the Mahastupa site has pushed back the origin of the stupa to early Mauryan Periods.


The label records “Dhamnakada Kasa nigamasa” or Dhankata kasa nigamasa in 2nd B.C.E Brahmi characters were found on sculptures.  On a pillar we get again “Dhana(ka) dasa Mahavihare.  On a sculpture fragment of the times of Gautamaputra Yajna Sri (150 CE) the record reads “Dhanakata Mahachetiya”.


In early centuries CE the place name is Dhanakada or Dhanakata king Vasishthiputra Pulumavi made this place his eastern capital and calls himself as Dhanakata Saminehi.  Another inscription refers to the set up of Diva Khabo (lamp pillar) at the foot of this Dhammasthana.  This older form (Dhamnakada Vathavasa) is retained in an inscription of the period of Ikshvaku king Virapurushadatta (240-80 C.E) from Uppugundur (Prakasam district).  Slightly of later date we come across a reference to Dhamnakada in the Pallava period.  An inscription of a Kota Chief Mahamandalesvara Keta Raja (1182 C.E) the importance of the place is vividly described.


   Asti Sri Dhanya Katakam Puram Surapuratpuram

    Yatramaresvarah Sambhuramaresvara Pujitah !

    Buddhodevasya Sannidhyat Tatra dhatro prapujitah

    Chaitya matyunnatam yatra nana chitra Suchitritam !!


Obviously Dhanakataka continued to be a great centre of Buddhism as well as Saivism.  The place came to be known also as Amaravati sometime after 1182 C.E.  The fortified area was called separately as Dharanikota.  Gandavyuha, a Prakrit work, or 3rd cent. C.E. speaks of Dhanya Kara as a great city of Dakshinapatha and a seat of Manjusri.  This place had the relics of Buddha enshrined in the Supa – “Sri Dhanyakataka Chaitya Jinadhatu dhare bhuvi”.  Chinese Pilgrim Hiuen Tsang calls it as Tena-ka-che-ka, i.e. Dhanyakataka (in 639 C.E) in Ta-An-To-Lo that is Great Andhra.  He stayed at this place for nearly a year and learnt Abhidhamma.  According to the Tibetan tradition Sakyamuni promulgated the Kalachakra Mulatantra, at this well known stupa or Dhanyakataka. 


Buddha’s previous birth as Sumedha in the city of Sri Dhanyakataka gains added significance.  This being so the toponym Dhamnakada with its variant Dhanakataka originated due to its being a prominent seat of Dhamma right from the times of the Master.


Out of the vast sculptural wealth this stupa has yielded, a good number have become the objects of exhibition in the galleries of the British Museum, London, Musie Guimet, Germany, National Museum, New Delhi, Indian Museum Calcutta, Government Museum Madras.  The rest are on display at the Site Museum.