Nagarjunakonda or the hill of Nagarjuna on the southern bank of the river Krishna is a located in a valley that was known till recently t archaeologists by the same name, in the Palnad Taluk of Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh. This site is now completely submerged under an irrigation-reservoir formed as a result of a dam built across the river Krishna about 10km. down the stream. The flattish top of this hill which about 14 meters above the full reservoir-level is at present the only landmark of that famous and extensive archaeological site discovered as early as 1926 and subjected to spade for 40 years. This hill is lozenge-shaped with a plateau of sheet rock on top, the edges of which form rugged cliffs all around converting it into a natural fortress. The kings of ikshvaku period as well as their successors, who used this hill early period and later by a cyclopean masonry wall of granite with curtain walls, partitioning the top in to three enclosures.
It is on the top of this hill that much of the excavated antiquities of the sites in the valley and on the hill-slopes are now preserved in a museum .Adjoining this museum and in the open space, structures of supreme importance from the valley Have been bodily transplanted and re-built for display. Those that could not be lifted but which form an important link for an understanding of the cultural sequence of this site, have also been preserved by the preparation of full-scale models which are also exhibited in the first and second enclosures on the hill-top. There is another group of reconstructed monuments at 18th km. where the road from Macherla descends into the valley. A few of the reserve-collections have been Have been preserved in the building constructed here.
The museum has on exhibition in its different galleries, choice specimens of the antiquities, small and large, of various periods, both prehistoric and historic. They include, among the small antiquities, beads from the Neolithic period onwards, gold and silver ornaments of the megalithic and Ikshvaku periods, coins of the Roman empire, later satavahana kings, Ikshvaku rulers and late Muslim and vijayanagar rulers, relic caskets from the stupas with their contents of gold and silver, an entire goldmith’s a outfit of tools and implements and a bronze figure. The larger specimens are the sculptures, bas-reliefs and panels in the round, both Buddhist and Brahmanical, architectural components like pillars, ayaka pillars, chandrasila ( moon-stone step), ayaka-patas, casing slabs ( sailamaya kanchuka), inscribed pillars and slabs, objects of daily domestic use such as pestles, querns, dabbers weight, moulds etc., all of the Ikshvaku times; and pottery of the Neolithic, megalithic and the Ikshavaku and later periods. One of the halls in the Museum houses a full-scale model of the valley and small-scale models of the excavated monuments such as the Neolithic and the megalithic burials, the Maha-stupa, the Amphitheatre, the Bahusrutiya-vihara, Mahisasaka-vihara, Sarvadeva temple, Pushpabhadrasvami temple, Ashtabhujasvami temple, bathing- ghat, etc.
On the ground outside the Museum building, on the Nagarjunakonda hill, the monuments transplanted and reconstructed, are the bathing ghat (site 34) megalith (Site 44), monastery (site 4) apsidal shrine (Site 43) Maha-chaitya and apsidal shrine (site 7) and stupa with svastika inset (Site 59). The monuments that have survived and as such conserved or reconstructed in situ on the east bank of the reservoir, are the Amphitheatre and the so called Hariti temple ( Site 17), monasteries (site 3 and 32A) , and temple ( Site 56). The replicas of the monuments in the first group of open-air exhibits are: section of rampart-‘cutting A’ stupa with four-spoked base ( site 14) monastery ( site 106) monastery ( site 4) temple ( site 64), Karttikeya temple (site 82) and temple-complex (site 78) The replicats in the second group are the Sarvadeva temple(site 99) Pushpabhadrasvamin temple ( site 34) Burning Ghats (site 126) the ablution tank and fire-places for Asvamedha (site 93) arena (site 122) and a section across the palaeolithic site ( site 128). The valley itself, about 4 km east-west and slightly less in the north-south, is bounded on its three sides, north, east and south, continuously by hills, formed by the spurs of the Nallamalai range of the adjoining Kurnool District, while on the fourth or the western side flowed the mighty Krishna forming its boundary on that side. The erstwhile village of Pullareddigudem and its hamlets nestled in the valley, the red soil of which supported partially cultivated areas, the rest beige scrub or dry forest ascending up the hills. The Nagarjunakonda hill lay to the north-west of this alley close to and overlooking the river. Across the river, the other side of the valley in the Nalgonda district, which is likewise surrounded by low hills on its three sides, with the river to the east on its fourth sides; the river thus, more or less, segments a larger valley that has now become the hill-locked reservoir after the construction of the Nagarjunasagar Dam. Earlier the river could e crossed at fordable points, near yelleswarnam ferry and at a place near the bathing Ghat, etc. The nearest rail head is at Macherla on the Guntur-Marcher lab ranch-line, and some 20km from the site on the east, the distance from Guntur, the District headquarters, being 160km. It can also be approached by road from Hyderabad, the capital of the State, located some 166km. to its north-west. The approach roads from Guntur and Hyderabad terminate on the right bank of the Nagarjunasagar Dam from where there is a connecting launch-service across the reservoir, to the Nagarjunakonda hill and the Museum.
The discovery of Nagarjunakonda is as romantic as the nature of the objects discovered, climaxed by its sad and unexpected submergence. Longhurst reports that the site was first brought to light by the late Rangaswamy Saraswati (pl. III), Telugu Assistance to the government Epigraphist for India in 1926. Earlier the site appears to have been explored by interested local scholars, particularly by a school teacher-Sri Suraparaju Venkataramiah, a native of Macherla and working at Nagulavaram, a hamlet about 9.5 km. from Nagarjunakonda. On the information supplied to him by some cowherds about the existence of stone pillars and mounds of brick over grown by jungle at Nagarjunakonda the existence of stone pillars and mounds of brick overgrown by jungle at Nagarjunakonda the existence of stone pillars and mounds of brick over grown by jungle at Nagarjunakonda this school teacher visited the mounted on the 21st February, 1920, and with great difficulty approached the pillar on the mound containing the inscription, took a rubbing of it and, failing to understand the contents of the records, reported the matter to his deputy Inspector of School, stationed at Gurala. The latter, Sri Lingammallu Dharmapuri, who was also an enthusiast, reported the matter to the Government Besides giving publicity to the find of new inscription and the mound discovered at Nagarjunakonda in the local news paper. This information and the publicity given by the local school teacher and the Deputy Inspector of School might have attracted the attention of Sri Rangaswami Saraswati who identity visited Nagarjunakonda, copid the inscriptions and submitted his report. The latter is said to have found several brick mound sand standing marble pillars, some of them bearing inscriptions in Prakrit characters of the second and the third centuries A.D. Hamid quraishi, officiating of officiating in the place of Longhusrst, was deputed in the same years to visit Nagarjunakonda to ascertain the extent of the site and its potentialities. To Quote Longhurst’s to ascertain the extent of the site and its potentialities. To quote than eighteen inscribed pillars, two ruined apsidal temples and several sculptures, showing that the site was rich in Buddhist antiquities and well worth the cost of excavation.” During the same year, Dr. Hirananda Sastri, the then Government Epigraphist for India visited the site and had stumpages’ prepared of all the inscriptions discovered. These were forwarded to professor Vogel of the Leiden University who, at Dr. Hirananda Sastra’s request, undertook the laborious task of editing the inscriptions.
It gives me great pleasure to present before the scholars this is second volume of Nagarjunakonda excavation Report, which is the outcome of a special project undertaken to unveil the extensive remain in the valley in 1954. As result of this great event, a new approach to combat the total destruction of the cultural heritage was possible by transplanting the ruins. Within a span six years more than hundred sites were unearthed ranging in dates from Early stone Age to the late medieval period. Nagarjunakonda came into prominence under the Ikshvaku rulers when structural activities and artistic pursuits reached their height. This preset volume gives an account on the historical period relating to the chronological frame work with details of religious and secular structural remains, in scrimptions, witnessed a fall both in political glory and inartistic tradition, which regained its lost position during the bahmanis vijayanagra and Gajapati kings.
In bringing out this volume, a great deal of hard work done by all members of the publication section of the archaeological Survey of India for which I express my thanks to Dr. B.R. Mani, Director (Pub.) Dr. Arundhati Banerji, S.A. (Pub.), Sh. Hoshiar Singh, production officer (Pub.) Dr. Piyush Bhatt and Gunjan Kumar Srivastava, Assistant Archaeologists (Pub.), besides all the members of drawing section and photo section. Thanks are also due to Sh. K.M. Bhadri, Director (Epigraphy), Mysore, along with his staff his staff, Dr. P.K. Trivedi, S.A. (Excavation Branch IV), Bhubaneswar and Dr. A. Jha, Dy. S.A. (Jaipur Circle)
The Nagarjunakonda Excavation Report (Text) Vol. II (Historical period) is now completed and is presented in the following pages.
The Editor, at the outset, wishes to record his thanks to the directors General (Saravashri J.P. Joshi earlier and M.C. Joshi subsequently) for having given the requisite support to the effective processing of the text of the Report. The Editor also finds a fulfillment for himself in this, by virtue of his close association with Nagarjunakonda, in the initial years of the salvage excavation Project.
While dealing with the draft chapter prepared by several younger colleagues in the Survey, under Dr. Subrahmanyam and the line drawing material made available, a degree of in sufficiency was noted by the Editor, both regarding incomplete stratrigraphic material in the several sites, on the basis relevance to the story of the valley sites, and also by the non-utilization of available stratigraphic and other information for evolving an authentic chrono-cultural narrative for the eventual Report. A review painstakingly gone through by the Editor revealed much evidentiary data, including precise working levels of important structures and their phases, besides information on the decline of the valley site of Vijayapuri and its disappearance from the historical horizon abruptly in early 4th century A.D., after so much of promise. The emerging Report has now made good these deficiencies.
The rich inscriptional materials from the excavations were also discussed with the Epigraphy Branch whose published authentic text and translation have however directly utilized, without any additional discussion, notwithstanding their variation with archaeological evidence from the excavations. The Edition thanks Dr. K. V Ramesh, Director (Epigraphy), not only for his help, along with his able colleagues, in the Edition’s task, but also for his having contributed an introductory note to the chapter of Epigraphical discoveries, besides supplying the set of photographs of the published inscriptions from Nagarjunkonda.
The Editor is particularly thankful to the officers and staff from various Circles of the survey who had contributed in various ways to the successful completion of this Report, among whom he would desire to acknowledge Sarvashri Vidhyadhara Rao (the then incharge of Hyderabad Circle), Dr. B. Narasimhaiah, suptdg. Archaeologist, Madras circle, Shri Rajagopalan, Deputy Suptdg. Archaeologist, Museum Branch, Madras and his local Asstt. Suptdg. Archaeologist, Sastri at Nagarjunakonda Island Museum, R. Ramani, former stenographer, Madras Circle, for his laborious help in the typing work of the Report at successive stages, B.K. Sharma Lal Pas and R.N. Kaw Photographer, all in the directorate General’s office at Delhi. The editor would also like to thank Shri. M.S. Mani, for his diligent and close help in the preparation of the plan drawing for the press, in the report.
Thanks are also due to several senior and junior colleagues who had given their views during discussions besides all the offices and staff members of the Publication section of the Survey for making this enormous task possible by bringing out the Vol. II of Nagarjunakonda Excavation Report.
With this Report (as and when published), the national obligation to the grand legacy of Nagarjunakonda (now submerged for good) also stands fulfilled.
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