Amarāvatī

(‘the abode of immortals’)

The purāṇas (Hindu mythological works) delight in describing Amarāvatī, the capital of Indra’s paradise. Situated on the eastern side of Mt. Meru it is said to have a thousand gates and a hundred palaces. Full of fragrant flowers and sacred trees and with celestial chariots moving at will, it is the abode of a variety of celestial beings like devas, siddhas, apsaras, gandharvas and others. It can be attained only by those who have performed sacrifices and practised severe penance as also those who die on the battlefield.

There is an Amarāvatī in Andhra Pradesh, situated on the south bank of the river Kṛṣṇā, about 32 kms. (20 miles) from Guntur. Though a small village now, it was formerly a flourishing city by name Dhānyakaṭaka, the capital of the Śālīvāhana empire (2nd and 3rd cent. A.D.). The Amareśvara temple and the Śivarātri celebrations there were famous even by the tenth century A.D. The discovery in A.D. 1798 of parts of a stūpa by Col. Mackenzie has put Amarāvatī firmly on the architectural map of India. The great stūpa which took shape between 200 B. C. and A. D. 200 and which was bigger than the Sāñcī stūpa must have been 49 metres (162 ft.) in diameter and about 37 metres (120 ft.) in height. The works of sculpture, most of which are in the British Museum, are exquisitely beautiful carvings, mostly in limestone.