One of India’s least visited areas, eastern Andhra Pradesh is sandwiched between the Bay of Bengal in the east and the red soil and high peaks of the Eastern Ghats in the north. Its one architectural attraction is the ancient Buddhist site of Amaravati, near the city of Vijayawada, whose sprinkling of historic temples is far overshadowed by impersonal, modern buildings. For anyone with a strong desire to explore, however, pockets of natural beauty along the coast and in the hills of eastern Andhra Pradesh can offer rich rewards. At the northern tip of the state, the nondescript city of Visakhapatnam is a useful place to break up a journey to northern India.
More about India
Find out more
Almost 450km north of Chennai, a third of the way to Kolkata, VIJAYAWADA is a bustling commercial centre on the banks of the Krishna delta. This mundane city, alleviated by a mountain backdrop of bare granite outcrops and some urban greenery, is seldom visited by tourists, but is an obvious stop-off point for visits to nearby Amaravati. The Kanaka Durga (also known as Vijaya) temple on Indrakila Hill in the east, dedicated to the city’s patron goddess of riches, power and benevolence, is the most interesting of Vijayawada’s handful of temples. Across the river is an ancient, unmodified cave temple at Undavalli, a tiny rural village reachable on any Guntur-bound bus.
AmaravatiLittle more than a village on the banks of the Krishna, 33km from Vijayawada, AMARAVATI is the site of a Buddhist settlement formerly known as Chintapalli, where a stupa larger than those at Sanchi was erected over relics of the Buddha in the third century BC, during the reign of Ashoka. The stupa no longer stands, but its size is evident from the mound that formed its base. There was a gateway at each of the cardinal points, one of which has been reconstructed, and the meticulously carved details show themes from the Buddha’s life. A Kalachakra initiation programme was conducted by the Dalai Lama here in January 2006 to commemorate 2550 years since the Buddha’s birth.
Exhibits at the small but fascinating museum date from the third century BC to the twelfth century AD and include Buddha statues with lotus symbols on the feet, tightly curled hair and long ear lobes – all traditional indications of an enlightened teacher.
Andhra Pradesh’s second largest city, 650km east of Hyderabad and 350km north of Vijayawada, VISAKHAPATNAM (commonly known as Vizag) is a busy port and home to major shipbuilding, oil refining and steel industries. Apart from a few decent beaches and some interesting temples, the main point of interest is the Submarine Museum on Beach Road, which is the decommissioned Russian-built INS Kurusara. Most of all, the city is a useful place to break up a long journey along the east coast.