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Tourism in State on a historic roll

Suresh Krishnamoorthy

Buddhist sites are being spruced up to attract visitors from India and abroad



MUST SEE The Buddha statue at Nagarjunakonda

HYDERABAD: The year 2006 will be a landmark for Buddhists in the State with the Dalai Lama visiting Amaravathi for `Kalachakra,' the international conference.

The Department of Tourism and the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) are sprucing up popular Buddhist sites to attract tourists from India and abroad. It is estimated that Buddhist population in India is about seven million, while China has 102 million and Andhra Pradesh has about 22,000 of them.

52 sites identified

The APTDC Managing Director, T.V.N. Rao told The Hindu that the cultural, religious and historical importance of the sites dating back to the 3rd and 5th centuries was being showcased for a panoramic view of Buddhist history from the 3rd to 14th century. Fiftytwo major sites like Kalingapatnam, Ramateertham, Pithapuram, Bavikonda Ghantasala, Amaravathi and Nagarjunasagar had been identified.

APTDC's focus is on Amaravathi and Nagarjunasagar and works will be over by December, weeks ahead of the conclave. Located near `Dhanyakataka,' capital of the Satavahana rulers, Amaravathi was one of the four renowned Buddhist centres of learning in India. It will have an Interpretation Centre to display Satavahana art and culture. The project cost is Rs. 4 crores.

Nagarjunasagar will see "Sriparvata Arama," a Buddhist Theme Park being built at a cost of Rs. 8 crores. Work has started and the park will focus on "Life and preachings of Gautama Buddha, Acharya Nagarjuna and Ikshvaku dynasty".

The Department of Tourism has plans underway to develop Thotalakonda and Bavikonda near Visakakhapatnam at a cost of Rs. 50 crores. Encompassing the three phases of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana, the State's rich Buddhist heritage has long been majorly confined to text books. The State is home to great figures like Buddhaghosha, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, Vashubandhu and Dharmakirti.

Considering that the Andhra Pradesh State Museum here is planning to have a high security holy relics gallery it sure appears as if there is a whole lot in store for Buddhists and patrons of the art and religion.

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