Tel: అమరావతి amarāvati
‘Immortal City’ -City/Capital Andhra Pradesh
From Skt: amara, ‘ immortal’; Dra: paṭṭī/vāṭī, ‘settlement’, ‘town/village’.
Amaravati was the ancient capital of the Satavahana dynasty in the 2ndC BCE. It was an important Buddhist centre and the site of the Maha Chaitya, the ‘Great Stupa’, which is now a ruined archaeological monument. The stupa in its time was sculpturally and architecturally the most elaborate in South India.
The British Museum houses 120 sculptures and inscriptions, from the Amaravati stupa. They were removed from the site by Sir Walter Elliott in the 1840s and are sometimes called the Elliot or Amaravati Marbles. But they are neither Elliot’s nor marble (they are actually limestone). And, like the Elgin/Parthenon marbles, their status as looted treasure is incontrovertible.
Their reliefs, in the British Museum, capture the hustle and bustle of an ancient age:
‘In scenes crammed with vitality, turbaned crowds fill every panel. Musicians crouch intently over their instruments and wasp-waisted dancers sway provocatively. Above them ladies ajangle with necklaces and bangles lean from a first-floor balcony beneath the fanciful gable of a barrel-vaulted roof. Horses prance in the street, bullocks patiently haul an elaborately decorated carriage, and an elephant goes berserk. One can almost hear the hubbub, smell the dust’ [Keay (2010) p125].
Here is a British museum virtual tour of the original stupa: The Great Shrine at Amaravati
Amaravati is the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh following its split from Telangana, chosen for its proximity to the geographic centre of the state. It is already the de facto political capital but dreams of Amaravati as a futuristic, state-of-the-art, greenfield city on the southern banks of River Krishna may have been prematurely ambitious.
There are another 14 villages/towns with the name Amaravati/Amaravathi in southern and western states.