The renovated Amaravati gallery, one of the two major attractions of Government Museum in the city, will be opened to the public next month.
“The major works are over. We will complete all the remaining works by the end of this month,” according to an official of the State Archaeology department. The museum authorities want to keep on display as many sculptures as possible. Earlier, hardly 40 of the huge collection of sculptures were on display and the remaining kept in storage.
One official said “close to double the earlier number” will be on display once the gallery reopens.
The gallery has been under repair since 2008. In order to display them better and repair the walls, these sculptures were removed. They are now being rearranged.
Amaravati marbles are one of the most important and internationally known collection of sculptures in India. They are said to belong to a period between 200 B.C and 250 A.D and are considered as important as Sanchi and Bharhut Buddhist sculptures.
Amaravati near Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, was an important Buddhist centre. In 1797, when Colonel Colin Mackenzie first heard about it, the remains of an ancient stupa and the sculpted panels had already been vandalised.
In 1830, some of these marble slabs were taken to decorate a market square at Masulipatam and in 1854 they were brought to Madras Museum, along with the other pieces excavated by Walter Elliot, Commissioner of Guntur. In 1859, many of them were shipped to British Museum, London. They were popularly known as Eliot marbles, after Walter Elliot. Later, about 180 marble pieces were excavated from Amaravati and added to the Madras collection.