Two millennia later, Amaravathi becomes Andhra capital once again

Ch R S Sarma M Somasekhar Visakhapatnam | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on April 05, 2015

The Dhyana Buddha Project at Amaravathi T VIJAYA KUMAR

Historic, spiritually-significant town makes a comeback as the seat of power

In the quest to build a brand new capital city, the ruling Telugu Desam Party led by N Chandrababu Naidu has, after nine months, delivered the first definitive step. It officially declared the name of the upcoming capital city as Amaravathi.

It is derived from Amaravathi in Guntur district - a small town on the banks of river Krishna which boasts one of the most ancient Buddhist stupas in the country, as well as an ancient Siva temple.

In a way, it will be a case of history repeating for the Andhras (Telugu speaking people in Andhra Pradesh) in their 2,000 year journey. Amaravathi is not a new capital. It is an old one - two millennia ago, when the Andhra Satavahanas were reigning supreme, their capital was located in the region. It was known then as Dhanya Katakam, according to historians.

During the British rule and after Independence, the Andhra region was part of Madras State with Madras as the capital. After the formation of the Andhra State, the capital moved to Kurnool. With the creation of Andhra Pradesh with the merger of Telangana in 1956, Hyderabad was the choice of capital. In all these three capital cities, the Andhras have made a significant contribution.

The creation of the new State of Telangana in June 2014 has one again forced the Andhras to search for a new capital. In the May 2014 elections for Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu won a handsome mandate from the people to give shape to this dream for a State with 13 districts. For Buddhists, the ancient place of Amaravathi is very important, although it has neither got due recognition nor patronage from successive governments as a tourist-cum-pilgrim destination. The sole exception was the Dalai Lama who choose it to conduct the Kala Chakra (wheel of time) ceremony in 2006. “I am fortunate to be in Amaravathi,” he had said then. “This is the place from where the Sakyamuni (the Buddha) gave his Kala Chakra sermon. It is a sacred, revered spot.”

Today it hosts a museum, under the archaeological department, which preserves the relics from the Amaravathi stupa. Many of the historical relics have found their way to the Chennai museum as well as to the British museum in London. The potential to draw tourists from south-east Asia, other Asian and European countries is quite high.

Forward movement

Amaravathi resonates with rich historical associations and it is certainly a symbol of Telugu pride, aspirations and culture. The man at the help of affairs, Chandrababu Naidu appears determined to realise the dream and find his place in history as a capital builder.

After dilly-dallying with Vijayawada, discounting the recommendations of the Sivaramakrishna Committee, which recommended a few options and also taking into consideration Vaastu, he has got onto the fast track with Amaravathi, immediately clearing off Phase-I of the master plan submitted by the Singapore Government.

The State Government has already acquired 33,000 acres of land under the land pooling system in 29 villages in Thullur – between Vijayawada, Mangalagri and Guntur, for housing the capital. It expects the first phase to be completed by June, 2018. Indications are that it will have a few skyscrapers, housing government offices, essential services and facilities to promote the accelerated growth.

Facing challenges

The grand plans of Naidu have many stumbling blocks. The first is the stark reality of finding funds. Naidu himself talked about ₹4.5 lakh crores. The State has to depend heavily on central grants as it is saddled with a deficit budget.

On the other hand, the CM’s efforts to build a grand capital - rather than a functional one - have also come in for criticism from some quarters, but he seems undaunted.

“I have built up Hyderabad as the software capital of the country, and placed it on the world map. I am going to repeat the feat with the new capital of AP,” he has often proclaimed. The dissenters, which include the opposition YSR Congress Party, Left parties, NGOs argue that the State Government is paying too heavy a price for the venture. Huge chunks of good agricultural land is being sacrificed in the Krishna basin and the capital could well have been located in a more arid zone such as the uplands of Prakasam district.

Naidu is outright in rejecting the criticism. “It is not possible to have a capital anywhere one chooses. It should be centrally located, accessible to all, and have the necessary urban, social and other infrastructure. We have felt the Amaravathi region in Guntur district - roughly equidistant from Vijayawada and Guntur - meets all the criteria,” he contends.

Published on April 05, 2015
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