Amaravati Art in the Context of Andhra Archaeology

by Sreyashi Ray chowdhuri | 2018 | 90,477 words

This page relates ‘Trading routes of Amaravati-Dhanyakataka’ of the study on Amaravati Art in the Context of Andhra Archaeology, including museum exhibitions of the major archeological antiquities. These pages show how the Buddhist establishment of Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh) survived from 4th century BCE to 14th century CE. It includes references and translations of episodes of Buddha’s life drawn from the Avadanas and Jatakas which are illustrated in Amaravati art.

Trading routes of Amarāvatī-Dhānyakaṭaka

It may be emphasized that Amarāvatī-Dhānyakaṭaka served as a strategic point in the communication of early Andhra. It is usually believed that the suitability of communication and transport networks linking the coast to the interior and exterior zones helped in the easier movement of commodities[1]. The same pattern can be noticed at Amarāvatī.

According to Jouveau -Dubreuil it is likely that there were five main routes leading to and from the Andhra region. These are:-

  1. Routes to Kaliṅga (North East)
  2. Routes to Kośala (North)
  3. Routes to Mahārashtra (North West)
  4. Routes to Karnāṭakā (South West)
  5. Routes to Drāviḍa (South)[2]

It is interesting to note that almost all the Buddhist sites are located along these routes. But there is some problem in this classification as Jouveau -Dubreuil concentrated only on the distribution of Buddhist sites ignoring distribution of city sites. However, it can be undeniable that Amarāvatī-Dhānyakaṭaka was at close proximity to some of the Buddhist sites on the various routes. Thus Dhānyakaṭaka was well connected to some of these Buddhist sites.

Further it may be added that the prosperous routes of the western Deccan and central India converged on the East coast trading station. There were different branches of a single route connecting Mahismati with the kingdom of Daksin Kośala through Dhānyakaṭaka. Dhānyakaṭaka had a branch line for Vidarbha. The Kauṇḍinya migration to Funan might have taken place through the route from Vidarbha to Dhānyakaṭaka[3].

From Hiuen Tsang’s account it is learnt that from Kośala he travelled south covering a distance of 900 li or 250 kms to reach An-Ta-Lo or Andhra. The capital of Andhra to Tsang is Ping-ki-lo. This was probably Pingila or Pingili. After travelling a further distance of 1000 li or 270 kms to the south of Pingila, Hiuen Tsang reached To-na-kie-tse-kia, that is, Dhānyakaṭaka[4]. This account undoubtedly proves that Kośala was reachable from Dhānyakaṭaka.

It is well known that before Amarāvatī, Pratiṣṭhāna was the capital of the Sātavāhanas. There was an internal road connecting Bharukaccha with Pratiṣṭhāna (modern Paithan on Godāvarī) and Togara[5]. This route was connected to Dhānyakaṭaka. There were also trunk routes from Ujjain, Sopara, Kalinga and Dhānyakaṭaka.

Dhānyakaṭaka/Amarāvatī was situated on the southern bank of the river Kṛṣṇā. It may be highlighted that river Kṛṣṇā played a significant role in the brisk maritime traffic. It had easy access to the Bay of Bengal[6]. The early Buddhist literature refers to this place as Andhranagarī on the river “Telivāha” (flows back like oil), identified with the river Kṛṣṇā which is locally called the “Nalleru” (black river)[7]. The river flows here as Pūrvavāhinī in eastern direction but takes a sharp bend towards north-east. As a consequence the upstream flowing from rocky heights stagnates and takes a slow motion in the downstream enabling the navigation along the river as well as crossing to other side. Due to this trade route coming from central India through Paiṭhan and Kaliṅga on the east coast and going to Vaijayantī and Kāñchī in the south converged here to cross the river[8]. The sārthavāhas often used this route to exchange their merchandise. The river played its part in transporting goods to the inland regions. Sea going vessels could enter the river and sailed upstream to docks and wharfs to Dhānyakaṭaka.

The north Indian coins (silver punch marked) and pottery (NBP) at the base of the Andhra sites of Amarāvatī and Vāddamānu is indicative of trade linkages. It is believed that the NBP and punch marked coins were carried to the Andhra region by trade. The date of NBP is generally C. 800 B.C.E in the central section of the Gaṅgā valley. But NBP in Andhra is not later than C 600 B.C.E[9]. The trading network through the sea route helped in the transportation of these ceramics and coins.

The sea-ports of Andhra became busy with considerable indigenous and foreign traffic. This was a major cause for the prosperity of the region. With regard to the foreign traffic mention may be made of the Indo-Roman trade. The sea-borne trade connected the coasts of India with the Roman Empire[10]. A number of indicators such as the presence of Roman coin hoards (2nd century C.E) in the lower Kṛṣṇā valley suggests the flourishing condition of trade in the region in 2nd -3rd Century C.E[11]. The Roman ships ceased to visit the Mālābār coast and their activities were concentrated to the ports of Sopara and Bhrigukachha or Broach (Barygaza of the Romans) on the western side and on the eastern side they anchored on the coastal emporiums of Andhradeśa. The Roman relations with the Andhra region began from the time of Tiberious (1437 C.E). This is attested by the coins. The trade seemed to have ended by the 1st quarter of 3rd Century C.E. After Caracalla (211-212 C.E) there was a total absence of Roman coins in the eastern and central region of Andhradeśa.

The Roman contact prompted Roman objects to enter the Andhra region. The Roman objects were accepted and assimilated in the life of the people. The imported Rouletted Ware with Roman gold coins and precious objects, besides Arretine and Amphorae Wares (Pl 32b) were greatly favoured by the merchants and the Buddhists[12]. Roman artistic element also percolated in the sculptural art of Andhra. Amarāvatī being a prime art centre of the region, distinct Roman features were clearly visible in the iconoplastic antiquities. From the mass of sculptures from Amarāvatī we find a lady in foreign dress holding a chalice and couple of women in foreign hair style and costumes on a drum slab[13]. In addition to it mention may be made of the glass ear ornament found from Dhānyakaṭaka in 1st century CE. It was possibly of Graeco-Roman origin[14].

The existence of foreighner’s inscription in Amarāvatī is noteworthy. Two inscriptions may be cited in this regard.


Dh (v) no


….of Nāga Budhu


Nāga bu[16]

According to Chanda it is probably the name of the sculptor or mason. Since the name appears in so many places he can be called the Master craftsman. However, the identification of Nāgabu is a complicated problem. The Mathurā inscriptions also mention masons such as Lavana and Nayasa on the Indo-Scythian images. Thus it raises a question whether Nāgabu was a Yavana artist? Since Amarāvatī had contacts with the Graeco-Roman world, this is quite possible. Some of the caves at Nasik, Junnar and Kārle had inscriptions which recorded the donations by Yavana artists. It is believed that there were Yavana centres near Nasik where some artists were working. Thus Yavana artists working at Amarāvatī is highly possible. This assumption is further strengthened by the stylistic influences of Graeco-Roman art on the art of Amarāvatī mentioned earlier[17].

Footnotes and references:


Champakalakshmi R, 1996, Trade, Ideology and Unbanizationa-South India 300 B.C-A.D 300, Delhi, p 34.


Chakrabarty Dilip.K, 2010, Op.cit, p 127.


Ramachandran A, Op.cit, p 132.


Watters Thomas, 2012, Op.cit, p 214


Sarkar H. B, 1986, Trade and Commercial Activities in Malayo-Indonesian World, Calcutta, p 186.


Ramachandran A, Op.cit, p 132.


P.R.K Prasad, 1991, ‘Pre-Sātavāhana Phase at Amarāvatī Dharaṇikoṭa, Op.cit, p 328.


Ibid, p 329.


Chakrabarty Dilip k, 2010, Op.cit, p 195.


Vogel J.Ph, 1977, Buddhist Art in India, Ceylon and Java, Delhi, p 47.


Gupta Sunil, 2008, Early Sculptural Art in the Indian Coastlands A Study in Cultural Transmission and Syncretism (300 B.C.E C.E 500), New Delhi, p 58.


Sarma I.K, 1990-91, ‘Ceramics and Maritime Routes of India, New Evidence, Op.cit, p 39.


Roy Anamika, Op.cit, p 160.


Pisipaty S Rama Krishna, 2010, Andhra Culture, An obscure phase in the Early historical Archaeology of Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, p 193.


Sivaramamurti C, Op.cit, No. 76, p 292.


Chanda Ramprasad, 1982, Op.cit, No. 30, p 268. Sivaramamurti C, Op.cit, No. 77, p 292.


Rana Jyoti Rohilla, Op.cit, p 154-155.

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