Andhra Pradesh

Thotlakonda: lack of basic amenities hits tourists

The Mahastupa, which was damaged during the recent rains, at Thotlakonda Buddhist heritage site, around 20 km from Visakhapatnam.

The Mahastupa, which was damaged during the recent rains, at Thotlakonda Buddhist heritage site, around 20 km from Visakhapatnam.   | Photo Credit: C.V. Subrahmanyam

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Steps will be taken to spruce up the Buddhist heritage site without disturbing its sanctity: Minister

Thotlakonda, the 2000-year-old Buddhist heritage site, located around 20-km from the city, attracts tourists from across India and abroad. There was a spurt in the tourist footfall over the years, ever since the construction of the road to the hilltop, about two decades ago.

The Buddhist monastery, which had flourished some 2,000 years ago, grabbed the headlines recently after the Maha stupa, collapsed partially following rains. The State government has announced its decision to restore the structure at an estimated cost of ₹40 lakh.

There are rock-cut cisterns in various sizes, obviously for the storage of water to meet the requirements of the monks. A circular Chaityagriha (prayer hall), a congregation hall, a kitchen and dining hall are some of the structures discovered at the site. Coming to the present, tourists going up the hill cannot even get basic amenities like drinking water and washrooms.

No maintenance staff

Ironically, a modern amenities centre, constructed about three years ago, is in disuse as it remains locked all the time. The site resembles a jungle due to lack of maintenance staff atop the hill.

“This place should be maintained properly like the Buddhist sites in Nagarjunasagar, which are maintained by the ASI,” said Shyamal Kumar Mukhopadhyay, who writes for the Bengali travel magazine ‘Chalo joi’, who visited Thotlakonda for the first time.

Thomas of Chennai, calls for urgent action to reinforce the fallen Maha stupa to prevent further damage. “Students of schools and colleges can be brought here on field visits to arouse their interest and create awareness among them.

Merven, a student from Chennai, said that the signboards should have at least a few lines of information to make common tourists appreciate the antiquity of the place. “On an average, around 100 tourists visit the site during the peak season every year. Normally, foreign tourists prefer to come early in the morning as it would be cool and the light would be right for pictures,” says Lakshmana Rao, a freelance tourist guide.

“Tenders will be called soon for restoration of the Maha stupa, setting up of facilities for meditation, gardening and provision of open amenities, without disturbing the sanctity of the place. The work is expected to be completed in three to four months,” Minister for Tourism Muttamsetti Srinivasa Rao told The Hindu.

H. Lal Thanpuria, a retired Director of Agriculture, Government of Mizoram, was impressed by the stone path way at the site and the hilltop road. “I visited this site for the first time in 1988. There is a lot of improvement,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 5:39:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/thotlakonda-lack-of-basic-amenities-hits-tourists/article30142949.ece

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