Amaravati is also referred as Amareswaram, for its famous Amareswara temple dedicated to Lord Siva one of the famous Pancharamas. It was formerly known as Andhra Nagari.
Amaravati is also known as ‘Punyakshetra‘. When Subramanya killed the demon Tarakasura, the Shivalingam in his throat broke and fell in five different spots, which became the Pancharama kshetras. The foremost of these is Amareswara at Amaravati where Indra and Devas are believed to have worshipped Shiva. Amareswaram is the ‘Sri Mahalinga Murthy‘, which are three sacred principles embodied in one. It was also the capital of Satavahanas, the first great Andhra kings who ruled from the 2nd century BCE to the 3rd century CE, after the downfall of Maurya empire.
Amravati or Amareswaram is regarded holy because of the presence of the Krishna river, Sthalamahatyam, a vital Kshetra and the Sri Mahalinga Murthy. Five different forms of Lord Shiva are called ‘Pranaveswara‘, ‘Agasteswara‘, ‘Kosaleswara‘, ‘Someswara‘ and ‘Parthiveswara‘. Lord Shiva, present in the form of a 15 ft. high white marble Shiva lingam. the temple is surrounded by four high gopuras built in typical Dravidian style.
Original Shivalingam is said to have been held in worship by the seven rishis – Kasyapa, Atri, Gowtama, Kousika, Bharadwaja, Vasishta and Jamadagni. These rishis are believed to be present in the seven tributaries of Godavari.
The major festivals celebrated in the Amareswara temple are the Maha Shivaratri, falling on the ‘Magha Bahula Dasami‘, the Navaratri and the ‘Kalyana Utsavas’.
Buddhist history of Amaravati
Amaravati was a seat of Buddism prior to the rise of Satavahanas, and a stupa and monastery were built there during the region of Emperor Ashoka (269-232 BC) under Mauryan empire.
The great stupa or Mahachaitya at Amaravati was one of the biggest in Andhra Prasad with a probable diameter of 50 meters and a height of 27 meters.
According to ‘Vajrayana‘ buddhism traditional sources, the Buddha preached at Dharanikota/Dhanyakatakam and conducted Kalachakra ceremony, which would take the antiquity of Amaravati back to 500 BCE. Taranatha, the Buddhist monk writes: “On the full moon of the month Caitra in the year following his enlightenment, at the great stupa of Dhanyakataka, Buddha emanated the mandala of “The Glorious Lunar Mansions” (Kalachakra). This shows that Dhanyakatakam (Amaravati) was a very important place a the time of composition of this tantra.
The recorded history of Amaravati and nearby Dharanikota is from 2nd century BCE. It was the capital of Andhra Satavahanas who ruled from 2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE. After the decline of Satavahanas, Andhra Ikshvakus and later Pallava kings ruled Krishna river valley. Subsequently, Eastern Chalukyas and Telugu Cholas held sway over the region. Kota Kings were in control of Amaravati during the medieval times. Kota kings were subdued by Kakatiyas in 11th century CE and Amaravati became part of the unified Telugu empire.The origin of the temple shrouded in mystery, though there are many legends, puranic and historical, about it.
In 18th century ‘Raja Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu’ shift his power from Chintapalli in Krishna District to the Dharanikota or Amaravati. Amaravati had a brief, if slight, renaissance under the Vasireddy clan, which ruled the region for around one hundred or so years. It was the last ruler, Venkatadri Naidu, who escaped to the then crumbling town and engaged in a large building program of not only the town layout itself, but also its temples.
The Amaravati Buddhist sculptures are world-famous.Slabs with Buddhist inscriptions were found in its groundwork, the temple is said to have been a Buddhist shrine in the previous times.famous for its world famous Buddhist sculptures. Home to best known 2000 years old Buddhist relics, which make the place an important pilgrimage for the Buddhists. The place is also identified as Dhanyakataka by several scholars, who connects Amaravati with the origin of many Tantric teachings especially, Kalchakra.
Amaravati Mahachaitya (The Great Stupa), built around the 2nd century must have been the largest stupa in the whole country. The stupa was earlier a simple structure with limestone crossbars and simple carvings, but when renovated by the Satavahana rulers, became a highly marked architectural monument. It is believed to have been constructed with the efforts of the great saint, Acharya Nagarjuna. Excavated a few years back, this stupa is engraved with intricate carvings that depict the life and teachings of Lord Buddha.
In conclusion, Amaravati was a place of ancient worship for followers of different faiths.