Hyderabad: Buddhavanam, a mega Buddhist theme park developed by the Telangana government at Nagarjunasagar on the banks of the Krishna River to attract international tourists, is all set for inauguration on Saturday.
Considered to be Asia’s biggest Buddhist spiritual centre, the Buddhavanam has come up at a cost of over ₹100 crore. “It is a treasure trove of Buddhist relics, comprising numerous cultural remains dating back to the 3rd century AD, the project site has the potential to attract domestic and foreign tourists particularly from South-East Asian countries,” Buddhavanam project special officer Mallepalli Lakshmaiah told HT.
The project will be formally dedicated to the nation by Telangana industries and information technology minister K T Rama Rao, along with tourism minister V Srinivas Goud, energy minister G Jagadish Reddy and senior officials.
Lakshmaiah said Nagarjunasagar and its surrounding areas had once flourished as major Buddhist centres during the 6th century BC. There is a Buddhist pillar dating back to 3rd century AD, located on a platform inside a natural cave, once a habitat of the pre-historic man.
The project site also has several Mesolithic and Neolithic age grooves on the surface of laterite rocks located along the left bank of the Krishna River. There are also Mesolithic stone tools including blades and burins dating back to 8500 BC, he said.
Buddhavanam project has been divided into eight thematic segments -Buddhacharitavanam, Jatakavanam (Bodhisattva Park), Dhyanavanam (Meditation Park), Stupavanam, Mahastupa, Buddhist Education Centre, Hospitality units and Wellness Centre.
“These segments depict major events from the life of Siddhartha Gautama and his previous birth stories, miniature stupas of national and international models. The Sri Lankan government donated the Replica of Avukana Buddha Statue of 27 feet height and a “Dhamma Bell” under the Indo–Sri Lankan Cultural Exchange programme,” he said.
The centre of attraction of Buddhavanam project is the 21-meter high and 42-metre wide hollow Maha Stupa with a 24-metre radius commemorating the ancient Amaravati stupas, constructed at the centre of the project site. It is embellished with sculptural panels of Buddhist themes on its drum and dome portions all around. Under the dome of Maha Stupa stands a massive brass coated mandapam with eight statues of Buddha in five postures facing eight directions.
Lakshmaiah said another interesting feature of the Buddhavanam project is Jatakavanam or Bodhisattva Park. “According to Buddhist belief, a Bodhisattva goes through several lives practicing “ten perfections” before he is finally born as Siddhartha and attains enlightenment to become the Buddha. These stories about the previous births of Bodhisattva are illustrated in 547 stories called jatakas, which were revealed by the Buddha while giving sermons at various places,” he said.
He said Jataka stories had been an integral part of Buddhist culture. It is customary for practicing Buddhists to listen to the monks narrating the stories on full-moon days in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia and other Buddhist countries.
“Over 40 Jataka sculptures were installed at the project site and replicas of 13 prominent Buddhist stupas from across the country and including those from Southern Asia have also been developed,” he added.