Nagarjunakonda was one of the main Buddhist centers in South India from the 2nd century BC until the 3rd century AD. It is located around 165km southeast of Hyderabad on the Krishna River, near Vijayapuri. The site was rediscovered in 1926 after being covered for around 1600 years, and was then excavated. During which time the ruins of some stupas, chaityas and viharas were found.
The Ikshwaku dynasty constructed an important city here around the 2nd century BC. The Pallavas took control of the area around the middle of the 4th century and at that time it lost its importance.
The original site of the city was covered after the area was flooded, when the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam was built in 1960. Many of the buildings that were found were taken to and then reconstructed on Nagarjuna Hill, which is now an island in the middle of the lake. Nine structures were rebuilt and there are replicas of what was found constructed on the island. Also found were some outstanding memorial pillars and excellent ancient sculptures. On the hill was a 14th century fort and in some places the walls are still over 6m (20 ft) high. There are two ancient temples, dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, near where the museum is located.
The Maha-chaitya Stupa (3rd century AD), was originally built over some of the Buddha’s relics (said to be his tooth). Nearby is a large statue of a standing Buddha.
Also found were some jewelry, coins, statues and some impressive white marble sculptures of the Buddha, and these items are now in a museum on the island, which is open daily except Fri. In the museum is a 3m (10 ft) high standing Buddha. Most of the reconstructed structures are near the museum.
Boats depart from the village of Vijayapuri, which is on the shore of the lake, 10km from the island, at 9.30 am and 1.30 pm (Rs 30). The boats return from the island after just a half-hour, which is enough time to see everything quickly. If you want to spend more time, you could take the morning boat and return on the afternoon boat.
There is a detailed Archaeological Survey of India book about this place. You can hire a guide at the tourist office (2133), Project House, Hill Colony.
Nearby, the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam (125m high) is built across the Krishna River.