For centuries Amaravati, 33km from Vijayawada, has been little more than a village on the banks of the Krishna. All that is due to change in the coming decade, however, as this is the location that has been chosen to be the brand-new capital of Andhra Pradesh, following the secession of Telangana. If the hoardings are to be believed and enough investment is forthcoming, an ultramodern city of gleaming skyscrapers will rise from the quiet fields, although the ground had barely been broken at the time of writing.

Pending this building frenzy, Amaravati remains famous as 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.

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