This month, February is full of news about Buddhism, in Hyderabad. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was here on 12th February for the Ground-Breaking Ceremony of the new South Asia Hub of the ‘Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values’ at HITEX Arena in Madhapur. You can read about this ceremony and the speech by His Holiness the Dalai Lama by clicking on the following link: Public Talk. And now the Telangana Tourism Department is holding a two-day international conference on ‘Global celebration on Buddhist heritage in Telangana’ from tomorrow that is from 23rd to 24th February. The Telangana chief minister will inaugurate the event, which will be attended by international delegates from 16 countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, USA and Vietnam among many others and 171 delegates from across India. The event will start with chanting by Sangh at Buddha statue at Tank Bund followed by exhibition on Buddhist theme, presentation by tourism department on Buddhavanam and sessions on Telangana Buddhism. On Day 2, panel discussions on 'Different countries on Buddhist history and experiences of different countries on Buddhism' will be held followed by cultural program in the evening.
The event is also aimed to promote the Buddhavanam project. The Buddhavanam project is a much delayed theme park coming up on a 275 acre land at Nagarjuna Sagar by the Central government, under which a great monument including museum, auditorium and meditation centre is being built. The dome of monument will have different types of Buddha sculptures. As part of this, Telangana State Tourism Development Corporation is also expediting the project. It will focus on the Buddhist heritage of the state. It is nearing completion in the next six months. The celebrations also include field visits to Buddhavanam project and Nagarjuna konda. The tourism department will also unveil a documentary film on Buddhism in Telangana along with art works and handicrafts, Buddhist theme photo exhibition and book stalls.
Today Buddhists are a microscopic minority in Telangana but in ancient times Buddhism flourished in Telangana. Most people are only aware of the historical Buddhist town of Nagarjuna Konda, an island in Nagarjuna Sagar Dam catchment area, about 160 kms from Hyderabad. In ancient times this area was known as Sri Parvata. Sri Nagarjuna, the South Indian master of Mahayana Buddhism lived here in the 2nd century AD. He was responsible for the Buddhist activity in this area. This was the location of many Buddhist universities and monasteries, attracting students from as far as China and Sri Lanka. Innumerable archaeological findings in this area are now housed in the museum at Nagarjuna Konda. Apart from this site; adjoining Nalgonda district of Telangana, there are many other sites in Telangana State which establish the presence and popularity of Buddhism in ancient times. And fresh evidence keeps cropping up from time to time.
Buddhism flourished between 1st Century and 4th Century BC in several places of Telangana. Some popular Buddhist sites in Telangana are Badankurthi, a remote village on the banks of River Godavari near Khanapur in Nirmal district, Bodhan in Nizamabad district, Kotilingala, Dharmapuri, Dhoolikatta and Peddabankuru in Karimnagar district, Phanigiri, Gajula Banda, Tirumalagiri, Vardhamanakota, Chada, Nagaram and Singaram in Suryapet district and Nelakondapalli in Khammam district. There is enormous history behind the excavations and findings in these areas. I am glad that there is a serious move to research and bring out the ancient history of Buddhism in Telangana.
Here are pictures of us at Bodh Gaya, Amaravati, Miyajima and Hiroshima-Japan, Ananda Buddha Vihaar Shrine and Giant Buddha Statue at Tank Bund, Hyderabad, to showcase our interest in Buddhism: