Amaravati (in modern Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh) on the banks of the Krishna River was a major Buddhist centre of ancient India. The history of this stupa-monastery complex spans some seventeen centuries, from its inception in the third century B.C to its demise in the fourteenth century A.D. Once abandoned, nature took its course, and the stupa gradually came to be enveloped in layers of dust and debris which eventually obscured it completely from sight. Then, towards the end of the eighteenth century, Amaravati was discovered by a local zamindar. This discovery was followed by the first documentation of the site by Colonel Colin Mackenzie.

Ironically, the documentation, exploration, and excavation of the mahacaitya of Amaravati was accompanied by its steady disappearance. Equally ironical was the fact that this steady disappearance of the stupa was accompanied by attempts by scholars to reconstruct its lost design. As its stones were carried off to form part of newer buildings or melted down for lime by local inhabitants, dug up by amateur and not-so-amateur archaeologists, and sent off to museums in Madras and London, very little indication of the grandeur of this Buddhist establishment eventually remained at Amaravati itself.