Little 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.