Buddhavanam with Rs 65 crore in an extent of 274.28 acres on banks of Krishna river .

Buddhavanam with Rs 65 crore in an extent of 274.28 acres on banks of Krishna river .

Few know that Buddhism had its strong foundations laid in Telangana during the lifetime of Gautam Buddha himself, before it spread in South India and then across South Asia. In a bid to revive this past glory and turn Telangana into an international tourist destination, a humble beginning has been made in the form of ‘Buddhavanam’ project at Nagarjunasagar on the banks of Krishna.

To be inaugurated by Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao shortly, the Buddhavanam project was taken up with Rs 65 crore in an extent of 274.28 acres on the banks of Krishna river. An international tourist destination in the making, the project is an attempt to capture the Buddhist heritage in Telangana and interpret it to the present generation.

About 170 acres of land around the core of the Stupa has been already reserved for Buddhist establishments including universities, monastic establishments, Buddhist training centres, meditation retreats and other establishments of different countries. Vipassana International has already started its meditation centre, while Buddhist organisations of Sri Lanka and Tibet have taken land for their monasteries, retreats and Buddhist cultural centres.

“We are already in talks with institutions from three different nations of South East Asia for establishing educational and spiritual centres. Soon after the inauguration of the project, we are expected to sign agreements with them. Several international institutions have already expressed interest to partner with the government in this regard,” Buddhavanam project special officer Mallepalli Laxmaiah told Telangana Today.

Initiated during the regime of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in 2001, the Buddhavanam project (then known as Sriparvata Aarama project) was neglected by the successive governments until Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao came across the historical, cultural and religious importance of the project site while participating in the 2559th Buddha Jayanti celebrations in 2015. He had floated a special purpose vehicle, the Buddhavanam project, and immediately sanctioned Rs 25 crore. So far, about Rs 65 crore has been spent on this project.

A 21-meter high hollow Maha Stupa with 24-metre radius commemorating the ancient Amaravati/Sriparvata Stupas, is constructed in the centre of the project site. The Stupa is embellished with sculptures depicting the life and ministry of Buddha, giving a good idea of the ancient stupas. Under the dome of Maha Stupa, stands a massive brass-coated mandapam with eight statues of Buddha in five postures facing eight directions.

The core area of the project is divided into eight segments to celebrate the eight-fold path of the Buddha (Astangamarga), with each segment commemorating an important aspect of the Buddhist heritage. Of these, five segments namely – Buddhacharitavanam (major events in the life of the Buddha), Bodhisattva Park (Jataka Park), Dhyanavanam (meditation park), Stupa park (miniature stupas) and Mahastupa have been completed. Other segments include a Buddhist museum, universities and monasteries.

A comprehensive Buddhist museum, along with a gallery for Buddhist art and a mini auditorium for talks and meetings, are coming up below the Maha Stupa. The Buddhist museum will have several historic and cultural divisions which are being put together to depict the Buddhism in Telangana and other parts of the country. While some sculptures and other artifacts lying at the State Archaeology Museum are proposed to be moved to Buddhavanam, efforts are on to get a few more sculptures and artifacts which were excavated in Telangana area but are currently stored in the possession of Andhra Pradesh at Nagarjuna Konda.

The project has another jewel in the form of a Bodhi tree which was planted by the Dalai Lama during the 30th initiation of Kalachakra held at Nagarjuna Sagar in January, 2006. Surprisingly, the plant sapling is an offspring of the sacred Bodhi tree of Gaya where Buddha gained enlightenment.

A large extent of land is also available along the Krishna River banks for tourist recreational purposes including water sports and amusement parks. “We have great plans for Buddhavanam project. We are planning to turn Nagarjuna Sagar into a major tourist attraction in association with the Andhra Pradesh government. I have already spoken to my Andhra Pradesh counterpart in this regard and we would be meeting soon to chalk out an action plan. Thereafter, we will execute these projects after getting approvals from both the Chief Ministers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Tourism Minister V Srinivas Goud.

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