Saturday, September 30, 2017

QUIT 2017 - Day 2

Today's plan was to visit Amaravati Stupa and Undavalli Buddhist caves. Started at 8.00 AM from  Guntur to Amaravati. The Stupa and museum complex opens only at 9.00 AM . It was a pleasant drive. This is the road that leads to Amaravati, the new capital of Seemandhra being built near the ancient town. So it was well maintained and free of pot-holes.

Amaravati MahaChaitya Stupa was built around 3rd Century  BC and was active till 13th century AD. After that it was forgotten and buried under rubble before it was discovered by Col. Mackenzie, who  later became the first Surveyor General of India. The stupa is situated right in the middle of the town of Amaravati. There is an ASI museum that houses the relics found during the excavation of the stupa.

Amaravati Museum

We were the first visitors to the museum and had to wait till they opened. The museum contains Stone Lotus medallions, a life size Buddha statue, many stone reliefs of Dharma chakra worship, naga worship and other scenes from daily life. These are remarkable to say the least. Unfortunately photography of artifacts inside the museum was prohibited.

The Stupa excavation site is just behind the museum. It is massive and impressive. Based on the foundation left, the Stupa is thought to have been of 50m diameter and 27 m height. We walked around it clicking photos like crazy. No one else was around. Part of granite pillars too are found near the site. It is well maintained by ASI.

Maha Chaitya Stupa, Amaravati

Lotus Medallion made of stone
 A security guard walked towards us and said we hadn't bought tickets since we walked in through the small gate from the museum. He took money from us and returned back with the tickets. While giving me the tickets he asked me in Telugu , "Where are you from". I replied Chennai. He was confused, looked at me and then said "If you are from China, ticket is 200 Rs." I quickly explained to him I was from Tamil Nadu, Madras that is now called Chennai. Never in my life has any one thought of me as a China man. There is a first time for everything in life.

Then we drove to Undavalli caves, driving along the Krishna river. Some river front activity was taking place near the new capital city and we got down for a picture of the river. 

A small island in Krishna River

 Undavalli caves are monolithic caves that were built around 6th century AD as resting place for Buddhist and Jain monks. Later the upper level was appropriated as a Hindu temple. Talk of cultural appropriation :-). Now it is a popular selfie spot with the tourists. It is a hillock by the side of the road and is easily reachable.

Undavalli caves, over run with tourists

Next stop was Saree purchasing at Mangalagiri. Mangalagiri is famous for its Cotton handlooms and as is our practice,we stopped to buy a saree from one of the weaver's shops.

Handloom at Mangalagiri

After a quick lunch in Vijayawada, started our drive to Rajahmundry. The National Highway was patchy with lot of pot holes, especially after Eluru. Had to drive carefully and still I hit as many pot holes as possible. But the scenery outside was miraculous. Acres and acres of paddy fields stretching as far as the eye can see. I now understand Andhra people's obsession with rice. Some one has to eat up the produce of these fields, right?

Fed up with the pot holed Highway, we took a detour at Tanuku road and started driving in the narrow village roads. This was a wise decision - with the canal on one side and green paddy fields on the other, it was a marvellous drive, especially for some one from the driest part of Tamil Nadu.

Canal off Godavari river. We would give an arm for a river of this size in TN 
Green paddy fields dotted by coconut trees. A feast for the eyes.

Crossed Godavari river by the Kovvur - Rajahmundry bridge. The river just goes on and on. We had booked a room at a river front hotel with a good river view. Missed the sunset by a few minutes. There is always tomorrow for that.

Bridge across the Godavari River at dusk

Total distance travelled : 782 km

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