By Shyamal Sinha
Amravati is quiet a familiar name for the Buddhists in India, It is a town located on the banks of the Krishna in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. It was the capital of the Satavahanas, the first great dynasty of the Andhra kings who ruled between 2nd century B.C to the 3rd century A.D. At that point of time, it was known as Dhanyakataka. Amravati was also once amongst the four major learning centres in India which attracted a large number of students from all over the world. It gave impetus to the development of art, architecture, trade and was instrumental in in spreading Buddhism to the east coast
The first Amaravati Buddhist Heritage Festival was held in the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on 3–5 February, The opening ceremony began with a collective chant for world peace and harmony by more than a 1,000 monks representing the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana schools, with more than 45,000 people from around the world participating via the Internet, setting a world record for the largest global chant.
More than 4 million people followed the proceedings of the three-day event online, and thousands of visitors attended in person to experience an array of Buddhist culture, cuisine, and handicrafts. The festival, organized by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Authority, featured spiritual sermons, guided meditation, exhibitions, foods, heritage walks, discussions, and cultural performances, including abansuri (bamboo flute) performance by internationally acclaimed flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, a recital of the Heart Sutra, the recitation of famous Buddhist scriptures by students of Maitreya School in Bodh Gaya, a Cham dance performed by Buddhist monks, and performances by classical artists from across India.
Irrigation Minister Devineni Umamaheswara Rao of the state government, who attended the event, noted that the festival had become the perfect platform for a global prayer for peace, and that hosting the event was a proud moment for Andhra Pradesh. He described how Buddhism has flourished in Andhra Pradesh, and that many of the great Buddhist philosophers, such as Acariya Nagarjuna (150–250 CE), who has contributed greatly to Buddhism around the world, had ties to the region.
“We’re happy to host a first-of-its-kind Buddhist festival that will bring together monks, patrons and artists from different parts of the world right here in Andhra Pradesh,” said Mukesh Kumar Meena, secretary of the Government, Tourism, and Culture Department of Andhra Pradesh. “Global Shanti is not only a festival but a global movement toward the Buddhist tenets of peace and universal brotherhood,” he observed, thanking the senior monks who lead the chanting ceremony. (The Indian Express).
Bhikku Rahul Ratna of Bangladesh Monastery in Bodh Gaya called upon the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Authority to make the festival an annual event. “Not many people know that Andhra Pradesh has a rich Buddhist heritage,” he commented, applauding the efforts of the state government to protect and promote Buddhist heritage sites via events such as the festival. (The Hindu)
Amaravati is a Buddhist site on the southern bank of the Krishna River, once a renowned center of Buddhist learning from the 2nd century BCE to the 3rd century CE. The historic site is home to the Amaravati Stupa, now in ruins, which was built during the reign of the Indian emperor Ashoka (r. c. 268–232 BCE).
Aiming to increase tourism in the region, the state government is seeking to establish a “Monastery Boulevard” in Amaravati, where different Buddhist orders can build monasteries and temples, making the city a truly international Buddhist hub similar to Bodh Gaya in the north eastern Indian state of Bihar. The festival was a part of a government drive to promote the region.