Must Should know about Phanigiri Buddhist Site

Location and Significance of Phanigiri Village

Phanigiri is a village located in Tirumalagir Mandal of Suryapet district, Telangana. Phanigiri is home to one of the significant Buddhist sites that have immense archaeological importance. The name Phanigiri village has been derived from the shape of a hillock which is located on the northern side of the village in the shape of a snake hood. The Sanskrit language says that the word Phani means Snake and Giri means hillock.

Phanigiri was a major Buddhist site and its history dates back to the 3rd century BCE. It is famous for its Buddhist stupa, vihara, and chaityas which are spread over 16 acres atop a hill. Phanigiri village is situated at a distance of 52 km from Nalgonda town. It consists of a Buddhist complex that has a massive Stupa along with two apsidal halls with stupas in it.

Phanigiri Buddhist Site


Relics found at the Buddhist site

There are two large footprints in the complex that are believed to belong to Lord Buddha. The Buddhist complex also houses three viharas which once served as a residence for the Buddhist monks. The actual name of the village was Dharmachakrapuram which is later renamed Phanigir.

The archaeology department has performed excavations at this place and it revealed a Maha Stupa, 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. 

Some coins remain belonging to the Mahatalavarasa, Satavahana, and Ikshavaku Kings were found here. Moreover, some early historic materials dating back to the 3rd Century A.D are found. With all of its rich historical evidence, Phanigiri village is one of the rare sites in Telugu states.

As per the excavations in 2015, archaeologists discovered a valuable redware earthen pot with a silver container. It consisted of 11 miniatures beads, three silver, and three thin gold flower petals. The rare piece was found in the northeastern corner of Mahastupa, at the base of the drum portion.

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A Potin Coin (weighing 1.3 gm and with a diameter of 1.5 cm) was collected at the place. On one side of the coin, a bust of the male figure (King) was seen while on the other side, a ship with 3rd Century AD characters was depicted.

The Maha stupa could be a Paribhogika stupa, which contains the precious belongings of Buddhist monks. The Phanigiri village is renowned as a key site of Buddhist importance and also can be easily accessible by road from Nalgonda.

The first archaeological excavations were carried out in the Phanigiri village in 1941 by the Nizam government. Later, in the excavations carried out in 2002, a number of panels, articles, inscriptions, coins, and inscribed pillars were found.

The archaeological department found the relics of Buddhist materials in a small silver box that was kept in a small earthen pot and buried in the stupa. In the box, they found a meditation mala generally used by Buddhist monks with beads and also disintegrated lotus flower made up of gold and silver.

History and Significance of Buddhist Stupas

The different types of Stupas found at the excavation site are Maha Stupas also called Sariraka Stupas (used to bury bodily remains of the Buddha), Phari Bogika Stupas (used to bury belongings of Buddha), and Uddeshika Stupa.

Mr. Vijay Kumar, the chief archaeological officer said after the death of Lord Buddha his remains were kept at eight places in stupas in the world by his disciples. But the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, who adopted Buddhism after the great Kalinga war in the 3rd century BC, had removed the relics. It is believed the remains were kept at 84,000 places in the world to spread Buddhism across the globe.

Highlighting the importance of the relics, Mr. Vijay Kumar said that the archaeologists had found the relic caskets only in two places. One is at Nagarjunasagar and another at Bojjannakonda. They believed that another Buddhist site was about 45 km from Vishakhapatnam. He has also mentioned that the Phanigiri Buddhist site was renovated thrice during the Mauryan, Satavahana, and Ikshvaku periods.

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