Thotlakonda Buddhist Complex is a famous hilltop monastery on the coast in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The complex is located about 15 km from the city of Visakhapatnam
. It lies on the way to Bheemili town on a hill about 128 mts. The complex is 128 meters above sea level overlooking the sea of Thotlakonda. The name Thotlakonda has been derived from the presence of a number of rock-cut troughs hewn in the bedrock of the hillock. These were used for storing water that used to be purified with herbs.
History of Thotlakonda
Thotlakonda remained under the influence of ancient Kalinga region. This place served as an influential source of dissemination of Buddhist culture to Sri Lanka and various parts of south-east Asia. It provides an insight into the process of Trans Oceanic diffusion of Indian culture, especially Buddhism
Thotlakonda came into existence while an aerial survey by the Indian Navy for setting up a Naval Base was conducted. Since its discovery the Andhra Pradesh State Archaeology Department during 1988 - 1993 have carried out major excavations. During such excavations a Hinayana Buddhist complex that was flourished 2000 years ago was found out. The site proved to be ideal for the Buddhist monks to build a monastery complex here. There is water tank to the South of the complex that was the source of water for the inhabitants of the monastery.
Excavations of Thotlakonda
Various excavations have been carried out in Thotlakonda. Many items have been excavated such as Satavahana lead and Roman silver coins indicating foreign trade; Terracotta tiles stucco decorative pieces, sculptured panels miniature stupa models in stone, Buddha padas and others. 12 Brahmi Label inscriptions have also been found here. Thotlakonda witnessed peak activity between the 2nd Century B.C. and the 2nd Century A.D. owing to brisk Roman trade and religious missions sent abroad.
Many nearby sites in Visakhapatnam district like Bavikonda and Pavuralakonda also came into existence along with Thotlakonda. According to various researches there has been no royal patronage for this monastery. Thus the traders and local believers seem to have supported the complex. Presently Thotlakonda has the capability to accommodate more than 100 Buddhist monks. The complex has arrangements for storing food, clothing, medicines and served as a religious cum academic centre. Hinayana Buddhism appears to have been practiced here which involved worship of Gautama Buddha
through symbols like Pudukas and other material remains and not in human form.