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Ancient Buddhist Settlement of Telangana

Buddhism, an ancient religion has flourished in South and South East Asia, several centuries ago. Telangana is a blessed land that has witnessed ancient Buddhist and Jain settlements. Phanigiri is located nearly 90 km from the district headquarters of Nalgonda in the state of Telangana. In Sanskrit language, the word Phani means Snake and Giri means hillock.  It is home to one of the significant Buddhist sites of immense archaeological importance. The name of Phanigiri village is believed to have been derived from the shape of hillock which is located on the northern side of the village that appears like a snake hood.

The excavations conducted here by the team of archaeology department has yielded many relics. It includes Maha Stupa followed by a stone pillared congregation hall, two apsidal Chaityagruhas, three viharas, sculptured panels depicting Jataka tales and Brahmi label inscriptions belonging to the Satavahana and Ikshavaku dynasties. There are many coins discovered at this site, belonging to the Mahatalavarasa, Satavahana and Ikshavaku Kings in addition to the early historic materials dating back from1st Century to 3rd Century A.D. This is one of the rare sites in Telugu states which has yielded panels carved related to Jataka Stories with Amaravati, Nagarjuna konda and Goli being the other sites. This site has been mainly classified as Mahakshtrapa. Due to such significant discoveries, it has been assessed that this Maha stupa may be considered as a Paribhogika stupa, which contains the personal belongings of Buddhist monks.

During the scientific clearance works undertaken by the archaeology department in the year 2015, archaeologists have discovered a valuable red ware earthen pot with silver container that consisted of 11 miniatures beads, three silver and three thin gold flower petals. They were found in the north eastern corner of Mahastupa, at the base of drum portion.  A Potin Coin (weighing 1.3 gm and a diameter of 1.5 cm) was even collected from the surface. On the obverse side of the coin, a bust of the male figure (King) was seen while on the reverse a ship with 3rd Century AD characters were depicted.

The village of Phanigiri is renowned as a key site of Buddhist importance and for visitors, the site is well accessible by road transport from Nalgonda. The location of Nagarjuna Konda and Nandikonda settlements in the same region, clearly reflects the spread of Buddhism in ancient times.

 

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