One of the most prominent Buddhist centers of South India and an interesting tourist spot in Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati attracts both pilgrims and picnickers from far and near.
Situated on the banks of the sacred Krishna river in Guntur district, Amaravati is 26 kilometers away from the north-west of Guntur town and 60 kilometers from Vijayawada. River Krishna takes a curve from north to south here. According to ancient beliefs, such places were considered as pious and temples were usually built along the banks of the river bed.
How to go? Where to stay?
Amaravati can be reached by train or bus from Vijayawada or Guntur. The route from Guntur to Amaravati is still an unmetalled road and leads one to the temple of Amareswara. Tourists can avail a comfortable accomodation at the Tourist complex or PWD travellers bungalow.
Except for the rainy season, one can visit Amaravati any time of the year. However, the best time to visit Amaravati is on the Shivaratri day when the place is bustling with pilgrims and there is an aura of festivity all around.
What to see?
From visiting the Shiva temple, seeing the Mahachaitya, to having a jolly boat ride on river Krishna, Amaravati has a lot to offer to the tourists. Earlier known as Dhanyakataka, Amaravati got its present name after the Amaraas who lived here.
Visitors throng the lofty temple of Amareswara to see the sacred linga believed to have been installed here by Lord Indra in the Dwaparyuga. However, the Buddhists assert that the temple belongs to the time of the Buddha as the temple edifice is in typical Buddhist style of architecture. The white marble lotus medallion on the dome above the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) is a fine example. It is believed that a complete picture of the temple is depicted in the Skanda Purana. Legends associated with the linga are many. According to Sthala Purana, between the fag end of dwaparyuga and the beginning of kaliyuga, the Saunakadi rishis once sought the advice of Narada Muni for attaining salvation. Narada advised them to appease Lord Shiva by doing penance along the banks of river Krishna. The Shiva lingam here, is in the form of five lingas - Pranavesvara, Agastesvara, Kosalesvara, Somesvara and Parthivesvara. There is a strong conviction that whoever stays at Amaravati for three days and worships Amareswara, attains salvation.
The temple walls have a number of inscriptions that throw light on the different dynasties that reigned over this place. Some of these include the Reddis of Kondavidu and Krishnadevaraya.
Amaravati is most famous for the large Mahachaitya stupa built during the 2nd century B.C.. Built of kiln-burnt bricks and marble slabs, the stupa is richly adorned with carvings depicting the life and teachings of the Buddha. Its dome reaches a height of 32 meters and measures 50 meters in diameter. The 5 meter wide pradakshanapatha is surrounded by a 4 meter high railing. At this stupa, the Buddha was revered as Amareswara. The stupa houses a small museum with a collection of old monuments and pictorial depiction of Buddha's life and teachings and terracotta articles among other antiquities.
What makes the trip to Amaravati most exciting is the boat ride on the cool, placid, clear blue waters of river Krishna. Local streamers carry visitors to the other end of the river in half an hour. There is a water route to Vijayawada also but the service is limited to twice a week.
For tourists coming from Vijayawada to Amaravati, the first stop could be Mangalgiri, famous for its ancient temple and cotton textiles which is gaining popularity in the fashion world. The Panakaalaswamy temple at Mangalgiri is built on a volcanic hill and closes by sunset. People talk about the panakam miracle here. It is said that when the panakam (prasad made of jaggery water) is poured as offering to the deity, only half is absorbed and the rest remains as it is - to be distributed among the devotees.
At the foothill of the hillock is another famous shrine with architectural splendor, the Meenakshi temple. About five kilometers from Amaravati, lies the cave temple of Lord Venkateswara at Vaikuntapuram. In all, the trip to Amaravati is fulfilling both as a pilgrimage center as well as a picnicking spot.
Amaravathi Pilgrimage Attractions
Location : Sattenapalli Taluk of Guntur District
Attractions : The Amreshwara Temple, the Buddhist Stupa.
Ideal Time To Visit : Throughout the year
The Pious Land of Amaravati
Located in the Sattenapalli Taluk of Guntur district, is a small town of Amravati. This place is famous for a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva worshiped here as Lord 'Amareswara'. Amravati is also famous for the Buddhist sculptures all over the world.
Apart from these attractions, Amravati or Amareswaram is regarded holy because of the presence of the Krishna river, Sthalamahatyam, a vital Kshetra and the Sri Mahalinga Murthy. All these are pious and represent the principal of the temple.
Amaravati is also known as 'Punyakshetra'. Here, one can find five different forms of Lord Shiva. These lingams are called 'Pranaveswara', 'Agasteswara', 'Kosaleswara', 'Someswara' and 'Parthiveswara'. Both 'Lord Amareswara' and his spouse 'Bala Chamundika' are worshiped here, along with other deities of the temple. The temple's origin is a subject of curiosity among many people. There are various beliefs related to it, some Puranic and some historical. Thus, the temple tour attracts innumerable tourists with its purity and might.
The History of The Temple
The elevated Amreshwara Temple is situated on the holy Krishna river. According to one of the legend, even a flood in the river Krishna won't affect the temple, instead it will turn its flow to some other side. Therefore, one can see the river Krishna diverted from north to south at this place. Temples are usually built on these short turns of the river, as they are regarded sacred.
Another legend tells us that the temple was earlier a Buddhist shrine but later a Hindu temple was built here. This contradiction is the root of a controversy, as the foundations of the temple are laid with the typical Buddhist slabs only.
The Architecture of The Temple
The presiding deity of the this temple is Lord Shiva, present in the form of a 15 ft. high white marble Shiva lingam. There are four high gopuras surrounding the temple, built in typical Dravidian style. The 'Vimana' of the temple is also built in the same style of architecture.
There is a white marble lotus Medallion decorated intricately with early Buddhist 'Silpas'. It is placed just above the 'Mula Virat' in the Garbhagriha of the temple. The cylindrical Mula Virat is a part of typical Buddhist monument.
There is also a beautiful Buddha Stupa, famous throughout the world. Thus, this place hold significane for both Hinduism and Buddhism.
Some of the major festivals celebrated in the Amareswara temple are the Maha Shivaratri, falling on the 'Magha Bahula Dasami'. Other festivals celebrated are the Navaratri and the 'Kalyana Utsavas'.
By Air : The nearest airport is Vijayawada (82 km).
By Rail : The nearest railheads are Guntur and Vijayawada. A good network of connect Guntur to Amaravati.
By Road : Amaravati is situated 20 miles northwest of Guntur and is connected by a good motorable road.
Local Transportation : Taxis and buses are available from Guntur.