Visakhapatnam (nicknamed as Vizag and sometimes known by its historical name Waltair) is the largest city in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh located north east of Capital Region(Guntur). It is the third largest city on the east coast of India (after Chennai and Kolkata). It is a port city on the southeast coast of Bay of Bengal and often called as "The Jewel of the East Coast" and the "City of Destiny". , the population was recorded as 2,091,811 and occupying , it is the administrative headquarters of Visakhapatnam district. Visakhapatnam is the largest city, commercial hub and a financial capital of Andhra Pradesh, with a GDP of over $26 Billion (USD). The prominence of the city got highlighted once again when it figured along with Ajmer and Allahabad during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US tour. It is situated in the Eastern Ghats and on the coast of Bay of Bengal on the east. The city is known for heavy industries, steel plant, seaport, natural harbour and shipyard. The city is the headquarters to Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy.
The city was ruled by Andhra Kings of Vengi and Pallavas. The city is named after Sri Vishaka Varma, Legend has it that Radha and Viśakha were born on the same day, and were equally beautiful. Sri Vishaka Sakhi, is the second most important gopi of the eight main gopis. She carries messages between Radha and Krishna, and is the most expert gopi messenger. Local residents believe that an Andhra king,built a temple to pay homage to his family deity Viśakha. This is now inundated under sea water near R K Beach. Another theory is that it is named after a women disciple of Buddha named Viśakha.Later it was ruled by Qutb Shahis, Mughal Empire (between 1689–1724), Nizam (1724–1757) and France (1757–1765) before being captured by the British in 1765.
Hindu texts state that during the fifth century BC, the Visakhapatnam region was part of Kalinga territory, which extended to the Godavari River. Relics found in the area also prove the existence of a Buddhist empire in the region. Kalinga later lost the territory to King Ashoka in the bloodiest battle of its time, which prompted Ashoka to embrace Buddhism. Visakhapatnam is surrounded by ancient Buddhist sites, most of which have been excavated recently and illustrate the legacy of Buddhism in the region.
Pavurallakonda ("pigeon hill") is a hillock west of Bhimli, about from Visakhapatnam. The Buddhist settlement found here is estimated to date back from the first century BC to the second century AD. On the hillock (which overlooks the coastline) are 16 rock-cut cisterns for collecting rainwater. Gopalapatnam, on the Tandava River, is a village surrounded by brick stupas, viharas, pottery and other Buddhist artefacts.
In 1907 British archaeologist Alexander Rea unearthed Sankaram, a 2,000-year-old Buddhist site. The name "Śankaram" derives from the Sangharama (temple or monastery). Located south of Visakhapatnam, it is known locally as Bojjannakonda and is a significant Buddhist site in Andhra Pradesh. The three major schools of Buddhism (Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) flourished here. The complex is known for its monolithic stupas, rock-cut caves and brick structures. The primary stupa was initially carved out of rock and covered with bricks. Excavations yielded historic pottery and Satavahana coins from the first century AD. At Lingalakonda, there are also rock-cut monolithic stupas in rows spread over the hill. The vihara was active for about 1,000 years.
Bavikonda is an important Buddhist heritage site located on a hill about 15 km, northeast from Visakhapatnam city. Here the Buddhist habitation is noticed on a 16 ha flat terraced area. The Hinayana school of Buddhism was practised at the monastery between the 3rd century B.C. and the 3rd century A.D. Bavikonda has remains of an entire Buddhist complex, comprising 26 structures belonging to three phases. A piece of bone stored in an urn recovered here is believed to belong to the mortal remains of the Budda. The word Bavikonda in Telugu means "a hill of wells". Fitting its name, Bavikonda is a hill with wells for the collection of rainwater. It is located from Visakhapatnam and is a significant Buddhist site. Excavation carried out from 1982–1987 revealed a Buddhist establishment including a mahachaitya embedded with relic caskets, a large vihara complex, numerous votive stupas, a stone-pillared congregation and rectangular halls and a refectory. Artifacts recovered from the site include Roman and Satavahana coins and pottery dating from the third century BC to the second century AD. A significant finding was a piece of bone (with a large quantity of ash) in an urn, which is believed to be the remains of the Buddha. The Bavikonda site is considered one of the oldest Buddhist sites in Asia. It is a reminder of the Buddhist civilisation which once existed in southern India, and also reminiscent of Borobudur in Indonesia.
About from Visakhapatnam is Thotlakonda, a Buddhist complex situated on top of a hill. The Buddhist Complex on the Mangamaripeta hilltop, locally known as Totlakonda, lies about 16 km from Visakhapatnam on Visakhapatnam-Bheemili Beach Road. After its discovery (during an aerial survey), the Government of A.P. declared the 48 ha site as a protected monument in 1978. Excavations in 1988 to 1992 exposed structural remains and artefacts, classified as Religious, Secular and Civil. These structures include the Stupa, Chaityagrihas, pillared congregation halls, bhandagaras, refectory (bhojanasala), drainage and stone pathways. The site covers an area of , and has been declared a protected area by the government of Andhra Pradesh. Excavations have revealed three kinds of structural remains: religious, secular and civil. Structures include a mahastupa, sixteen votive stupas, a stone-pillared congregation hall, eleven rock-cut cisterns, well-paved stone pathways, an apsidal chaitya-griha, three round chaitgya-grihas, two votive platforms, ten viharas and a kitchen complex with three halls and a refectory (dining hall). Apart from the structures, Buddhist treasures excavated include nine Satavahana and five Roman silver coins, terracotta tiles, stucco decorative pieces, sculptured panels, miniature stupa models in stone, Buddha padas depicted with ashtamangal symbols (i.e. the eight auspicious symbols of Swastika, Shrivasta, Nandhyavarta, Vardhamanaka, Bhadrasana, Kalasha, Minyugala and Darpan) and early pottery.
The territory of Visakhapatnam then came under the Andhra rulers of Vengi, and Chalukyas and Pallavas ruled the land. The region was ruled by the Eastern Ganga king- SuryaVamsa Kshatriyas and the Gajapati kings of Odisha from the 10th century to the 16th centuries AD (when the region came under the Visakhapatnam rulers). Based on archaeological evidence, the Prabhakar and the Eastern Ganga Kings of Odisha built temples in the city in the 11th and 12th centuries. The Mughals ruled the area under the Visakhapatnam Nizam during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. European merchants from France, Holland and the East India Company used the natural port to export tobacco, paddy, coal, iron ore, ivory, muslin and other textile products.
Local legend tells that an Andhra king, on his way to Benares, rested at Visakhapatnam and was so enchanted by its beauty that he ordered a temple to be built in honour of his family deity, Viśakha. Archaeological sources, however, reveal that the temple was probably built between the 11th and 12th centuries by the Cholas. A shipping merchant, Shankarayya Chetty, built one of the mandapams (pillared halls) of the temple. Although it no longer exists (possibly washed away about 100 years ago by a cyclonic storm), elderly residents of Visakhapatnam remember visits to the ancient shrine by their grandparents (although author Ganapatiraju Atchuta Rama Raju denies this).
During the 18th century Visakhapatnam was part of the Northern Circars, a region comprising coastal Andhra and southern coastal Odisha which was first under French control and later British. Visakhapatnam became a district in the Madras Presidency of British India. In September 1804, British and French squadrons fought the naval Battle of Vizagapatam near the harbour. After India's independence it was the largest district in the country, and was subsequently divided into the districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam.
Part of the city is known by its colonial British name, Waltair; during the colonial era, the city's hub was the Waltair railway station and the surrounding part of the city is still called Waltair.
Timeline of Vizag's history