Buddhavanam or Sri Parvatarama

Shri Parvata Aarama project which is under execution seeks to capture the Buddhist heritage of the Telugu land and has the potential to swing Telangana on to the centre-stage of culture tourism. 

Graphical representation of the proposed Buddhist Theme Park
It is appropriate that a project of this magnitude is coming up on the soil of Telangana as it is to the Asmaka country (environs of Bodhan), Buddhism came first in Dakshinapatha during the life time of Buddha himself. By now the story of Bavari, an ascetic who lived on the banks of Godavari in 6th century BC in an ashram practicing traditional rituals is well-known. SuttanipataTripitakaShravasti arhants anagami, arahant.
Buddhavanam or Sri Parvatarama at the Nagarjuna Sagar in Telangana is going to be one of the biggest theme park based on Buddhism by the Telangana State Tourism Development Corporation.

The project also seeks to revive the forgotten Buddhist visual art traditions. Of the three schools of Buddhist art, the Madhura School, the Gandhara School and the Amaravati School.

Buddhavanam (Buddha + Vanam (Forest)) is a part of the Integrated Development of Nagarjunasagar dam. The Nagarjuna Sagar dam is a part of the lower Krishna valley. The strategic location of the Buddhavanam is mainly to attract a large number of domestic and foreign tourists, particularly from the South-East Asian countries.

The Arama project is set in 279 acres of land on the left bank of the Krishna river at Vijayapuri, the ancient capital of the Ikkaku (Ikshvaku in Sanskrit) dynasty which ruled in the 2-3rd Century AD. 

The Buddha spent much of his life in the shade of trees – he was born under a Sala tree, experienced first meditational absorption under a jambu tree, attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree and finally passed away in a Sala grove at Kusinagara. 

The eight sectors surrounding the Stupa would be imaginatively landscaped and planted with 28 species of trees mentioned in the Buddhist literature explaining their significance in Buddhism.

The entrance plaza of Sriparvatarama is a square having eight quadrants with four openings. All the quadrants are embellished with panels with relilef sculpture depicting Asthamangala (eight auspicious) symbols.

At the centre of the plaza stands on octagonal basement an octagonal column carrying the Dharma Chakra whose 24 spokes depict different virtues. Dharmachakra is Ashoka’s contribution to the Buddhist art. At the base of the pillar on all the four sides are half-lotus medallions are carved.

In the first of the eight sectors is 
Buddha charitha Vanam which would present the major events in the life of the Buddha. Mahabhinishkramanam or the Great Departure from home 
Sambodhi or Enlightenment
Dharma chakra pravartana or Setting the Wheel of the Dhamma in motion 

As the visitors walk along an imaginatively designed pathway, they see these narrative sculptures in chronological order in right ambience and get a good idea of the life and mission of the Buddha.

Stupa Park

Buddhism was the first, perhaps the only early religion in an otherwise insular India that promoted a missionary zeal inspired by the famous exhortation of the Buddha to early converts to move out and propagate the Dhamma for the benefit of all. “bahujana hitaaya, bahujana sukhaaya, lokaanukampaaya, arthaya, hitaaya deva manussanam” As the Dhamma spread to other countries, its places of worship, the Stupas acquired different shapes. We have bubble-shaped (budbudha) stupas of India, bell-shaped ( ghanta) stupas of Sri Lanka, pagoda-type stupas of Myanmar, tower-shaped stupas of China, mammoth multi- tiered monuments like Borobodur and many others. In the stupa park of the project, midsized representative stupas of different styles are created to scale to give an idea to the visitors, of the spread and variety of the stupa architecture.

Jataka/Bodhisatva Park
Jataka stories illustrate the several lives of Bodhisatva through which he practised the Dasa paramitas or ten perfections – Dana, Sheela, Virya, Kshanti, Nekkhama, Metta, Upekkha etc- that would finally make him a Buddha. There are 52 Jataka stories illustrated in relief sculpture on the stupas of the Telugu country. These jatakas have been identified, brought together and illustrated in relief sculpture in the Bodhisatva/Jataka park. Stone panels in relief sculpture are fixed along a pathway that winds through an appropriately landscaped garden so that a walk-through would take a visitor to all the Jataka panels.

Nagarjuna Park
In the Nagarjuna park, the unique place of Nagarjuna in the history of Buddhism would be brought alive by illustrating his life in relief sculpture set in a garden with appropriate sutras. This sector would also have a semi-open (open on all sides with a roof) hexagonal convention hall for1500 people for major conferences and cultural performances. This would be set in a wooded place and would be elegant without being ostentatious.

Masters’ Park
Another sector is devoted to the great masters of Buddhism that came from the Telugu country like Buddhaghosha, Bhava Viveka, Aryadeva, Dharma kirti, Dignagh etc. There would be free-standing or relief sculptures illustrating their lives and work. Important Buddhist inscriptions and the dharmalipi of Ashoka at Erragudi will be reproduced in rough sand-stone. All these exhibits would be placed in a time-line to explain the evolution of Buddhist thought in this part of the country.

Krishna Valley Park
In the 2nd century AD, there were several minor and a few major Buddhist and other establishments — bathing ghats, public performance areas along the Krishna river banks. Yet another sector would try to capture in simulated landscape set to scale the original river-front ambience to bring home to the visitors the cultural importance of the river. This sector would also have an open-air performance area in a modern adoption of the architecture of its 2nd century AD ancestor which is now a reconstructed monument near Anupu!

For the present, these developments would comprise the project; three other sectors would be left for future developments.

Living Buddhist Community
The Arama project is also designed to create an international living Buddhist community. The land around the core of the Stupa – about 170 acres in area – is reserved for Buddhist establishments – monastic establishments, training centre for monks and laymen, meditation retreats etc of different countries. 

Vipassana International has already started its imaginatively designed meditation centre. Buddhist organisations of Sri Lanka and Tibet have already taken land for their retreats and monasteries. Each of them is given one or two hectares of land depending on the kind of institution they want to establish. When it is all done, Sriparvata Arama would be a show piece of our Buddhist heritage amidst a living Buddhist community.

The area around the Nagarjuna Sagar dam is also called as Nagarjuna Konda or Sriparvata – Vijayapuri. The place Nagarjuna Konda was named after the famous Buddhist monk Acharya Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna Konda used to be a famous place for the Buddhist monks.

It is believed that Buddhist monks came to these secluded places for meditation.

Excavation conducted at Nagarjunakonda between 1954-60 have revealed the existence of a Maha Stupa, Votive Stupas, Chaityas, Silamandapas and a good number of Buddhist sculptural panels and antiquities. The structures exposed also included a palace complex and a few Brahmanical temples built of bricks. The sculptural panels were depicted with the major events of the life of the Buddha and Jataka stories. As these vestiges were threatened for the submergence in the Nagarjunasagar reservoir, most of the structures were reconstructed on the Nagarjunakonda Island and at Anupu, a ferry point on the right bank of the river Krishna. The antiques including the holy relics of the Buddha recovered are displayed in the island museum for the benefit of the visitors.