Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sanchi Stupa

Monuments and Memorials in India
Ajanta & Ellora Caves | Gateway of India | Jaisalmer Fort | Qutub Minar | Sanchi Stupa

Sanchi Stupa: Introduction

sanchi-stupaSanchi Stupa is situated around 70 kilometers from Bhopal in the State of Madhya Pradesh. It is the most well preserved example of Buddhist art built more than 1500 years ago.

Sanchi Stupa History

Sanchi Stupa is considered a religious place with historical and archeological importance. It is one of the oldest and most popular stone structures of India. It dates back to the third century B.C. and was built during the reign of emperor Askoka the Great. The structure is hemispherical in shape and is built over the relics of Lord Buddha. There are four ornamental gateways around the structure and a parasol shaped structure is built at the top as a symbol of honoring and sheltering the relics.  The stupa is believed to have been vandalized in the Sunga period and then probably rebuilt. The gateways and the balustrade are said to have been added in the Satavahana period. The existence of Sanchi was rediscovered by a British officer General Taylor in 1818.

Sanchi Stupa Architecture

The largest stupa is known as the Great Stupa. The architecture shows the hemispherical dome with the central chamber that contains the relics of the Buddha surrounded by four carved gateways facing the four cardinal directions.

Significance of Sanchi Stupa

Samrat Ashoka after embracing Buddhism had sent missionaries to various parts of the world to spread the teachings of Buddha. He also constructed stupas covering the relics of Buddha and his followers and pillars engraved with the teachings of Buddha. The image of the pillar with four lions facing the directions of the compass has also found a place on Indian currency as the national emblem.

Sanchi Stupa Nearby attractions/places of interest

There are several other historical places of interest near Sanchi Stupa:

  • The four Gateways: This was constructed in 35 B.C. and has exquisite carving depicting scenes from the life of Buddha.

  • The Ashoka Pillar
    The Ashoka pillar is famous for its crown that represents the four lions standing back to back facing the four cardinal directions, which had also been adopted as the national emblem of India.

  • Stupas
    These are the purely religious structures guarding the relics of Buddha and his disciples. They belong to the third century B.C. and are built of stone with lots of designs and carvings.

  • The Gupta Temple
    It is an ancient temple in ruins now. It was built in the 5th century B.C. and is a brilliant example of ancient temple architecture

  • The Museum
    This museum is maintained by the archaeological Survey of India and contains all findings of the excavation site of Sanchi. The most important exhibit of this museum is the lion crown from Ashoka pillar. 

  • The Buddhist Vihara
    These Buddhist viharas or monasteries were built in the ancient past. The relics of the Satdhara Stupa are located a few kilometers away from Sanchi Stupa.

  • The Great Bowl
    This bowl was astonishingly carved out of single piece of rock and was used to store grains that used to be distributed among the monks.

Places where you can plan excursions around Sanchi are as follows:

  • Raisen harbouring a Malwa fort dating back into the 13th century is built on a huge hill also containing some temples, cannons, three palaces, wells and tanks. This place is about 23 kms from Sanchi.

  • Vidisha
    It is a large town with historic origin situated about 10 kms from Sanchi. It was known as Besnagar in the ancient times.

  • Udayapur
    This place is about 90 kms north of Sanchi and is famous for Neelkantheswara temple built in the 11th century. Exquisitely carved walls and pillars are the highlights of this temple.

  • Gyaraspur
    This place is famous for the Gyaras fair that is held in the eleventh month every year and is situated about 51 kms from Sanchi containing several temples, tanks and a fort belonging to 9th and 10th centuries.

  • Sonari
    This place is famous for the eight stupas situated around 10 kms from the Sanchi stupas.

  • Andher
    This place has three small stupas and is located around eight kilometers from Sanchi.

  • Satdhara
    This place is famous for some more stupas situated on the banks of river Beas and deserve mention in history.

Connectivity by air, road, and rail

By Air: Bhopal has the nearest airport to Sanchi and is connected with all major cities of India.

By Railway: Sanchi is connected to the Central Railways with the nearest railhead in Vidisha, a small town about 10 km from Sanchi.

By Road: Sanchi is well connected by good, motorable roads to most important cities such as Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, and Vidisha.

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