Maha Bodhi Society seeks steps to stop their encroachment
Members of the district Maha Bodhi Society and the All-India Lay Buddhists’ Organisation staged a demonstration near the office of the district Collector on Wednesday demanding that all Buddhist sites in North Andhra districts be developed into tourist centres for the benefit of devotees.
In a memorandum submitted to Collector Luv Agarwal, they sought measures to preserve the sanctity of the sites and prevent their encroachment.
The rich cultural heritage and archaeological wealth of the Buddhist sites should be protected from misuse by anti-social elements and immoral traffickers, who had been spoiling the sanctity of the pilgrim places in the absence of watch and ward staff, they said.
Prayer halls need to be constructed at the sites to enable visiting devotees to pray and meditate and enjoy spiritual bliss and serenity, they said.
Bojjannakonda near Anakapalle, which is an ancient Buddhist site, should be renamed as ‘Buddhunikonda’ as the name was given in 1908 as per GO No. 791 on the basis of a popular misconception.
Historical domes and stupas at the site were being damaged by tremors caused by bomb blasting by those carrying on rock quarrying within the 2 km radius of the site.
A team of geophysicists from Andhra University, which visited the site and studied the reported damage at the request of the Archaeology Department, also confirmed damages to certain structures in the form of cracks.
District Maha Bodhi Society president G. Babulu and secretary B.V.G. Gautam were of the view that establishment of a ‘Site Museum’ for preserving and displaying archaeological finds and antiquities such as caskets should be done on an urgent basis. A ‘Buddha Vihara’ for international devotees should be set up at Appu Ghar in M.V.P. Colony.
Encroachment of the sites at Bojjannakonda, Thotlakonda, Bavikonda, and Bouddharamam should be checked. A survey should be ordered and fresh demarcations be made, they demanded. They also alleged that seven acres of land on the Bheemunipatnam road at the Buddhist sites had been encroached and warned of legal action if steps were not taken to restore the same.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conservation assistant A. Venkateshwara Rao told The Hindu that funds were required for appointing watch and ward staff. Eight home guards, who were earlier employed for the protection of the sites, could not be continued due to paucity of funds. Several proposals for development of Buddhist sites near Anakapalle, including arrangement of ticket sale for raising resources too, were waiting approval. There are about 12 sites in the North Andhra districts and 136 monuments in the State under the control of the ASI.