The rock-cut caves are what is left of a glorious past that is over 2,000 years old

Steeped in history the Moghalrajpuram caves lay virtually unnoticed during the day and are in the grave danger of being vandalised by night. The rock-cut caves are what is left of a glorious past, that is over 2,000 years old.

Chinese-Buddhist traveller Hsuan Tsang is said to have visited the two famous Buddhist Monasteries -- Avarasila and Pourvasila -- located on the hills on the West and East side of Bezwada. Bezwada was the name of the town according to records of the British Empire. Robert Sewell, historian and civil servant and keeper of the Madras Record Office, argued very strongly that Bezwada was the place where the two famous monasteries were located.

By the time he made his observations in 1878 the Chaityas and Viharas of Avarasila and Pourvasila were totally destroyed.

Sewell recorded that he could still see “the ornamented bases of rock-cut Buddhist buildings” on which bungalows were constructed.

Demolition

Commenting on a bungalow constructed by an engineer who built the Bezwada anicut, Sewell said, “What the condition of these remains was when the bungalow was first built I am unable to say, but I know that zeal for house-building in the last few years has led to the demolition of several portions of the grand old Titan work which remained till our times to honour the memory of the Bezwada Buddhists. The appearance of the few relics left would lead to the conclusion that the platform had been artificially levelled, and that, as the useless stone was removed, monolithic buildings were left standing, the halls and galleries being hewn out of the solid rock ; at any rate, the bases still remaining are monolithic.”

The two monasteries were on the wane even by the time Hsuan Tsang came to Bezwada where he studied ‘Abhidhammapitakam’ for a prolonged period of time in 639 A.D. The number of Buddhist monasteries had come down to 20, but the number of Hindu Temples was 100, recorded.

Sewell believed that the Chaityas and Viharas of Bezwada were deserted even before the Vihara at Undavalli across the river Krishna.

In what seems to be a recurrence of history even the few monuments left seem to be still in danger. An Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officer of the Senior Conservator Assistant cadre is posted in the city to protect and maintain the monuments. But the monuments are constantly under threat. “The monuments are in greater danger because they are located in the heart of the city. We have put grills to protect them. Cracks appear in the rock and rain water seeps in. Every year repairs have to be conducted to the grills and fences,” said an officer who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

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