The Great Stupa at Sanchi (Sanchi Stupa) is the oldest stone structure in India and was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. It was crowned by the Chatra, a parasol-like structure symbolising high rank, which was intended to honour and shelter the relics. The construction work of this stupa was overseen by Ashoka's wife, Devi herself, who was the daughter of a merchant of Vidisha. Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her and Ashoka's wedding.
Sanchi is famous for outstanding specimen of Buddhist art and architecture. The most important of all the Sanchi monuments is the Sanchi Stupa. Stupas are large hemispherical domes, containing a central chamber, in which the relics of the Buddha were placed. The Sanchi Stupa is one of the best preserved early stupas in central India. The Sanchi Stupa is surrounded by a railing with four carved toranas (Ornamental gateways) facing all the four directions. These toranas are carved in 1st century BCE.
During the Shunga period the Sanchi Stupa was enlarged and faced with stones and decorated with railings, staircase and a harmika on the top. Around the main Stupa, there is a path for circumambulation. This path is enclosed by a railing with gates at each of the four directions. The railings and gates of the Sanchi Stupa are richly sculptured with different motifs and designs. Another interesting characteristic about the Sanchi Stupa is that Lord Buddha has been symbolically represented by footprints, wheels, thrones etc rather than by his own image.
The Gateways of Sanchi Stupa:
The gateways of Sanchi stupa contain ornamented depiction of incidents from the life of the Buddha and his previous incarnations as Bodhisattvas described in the Jataka tales. The Buddha has been shown symbolically in the form of tree or through other inanimate figures.
The eastern gateway depicts Buddha’s journey towards enlightenment. It shows the young prince Siddhartha Gautama, leaving his father’s Palace and setting off on his journey to enlightenment.
The western gateway depicts the seven incarnation of the Buddha
The northern gateway, crowned by a wheel of law, illustrates the miracles associated with the Buddha as told in the Jatakas.
The southern gateway is the oldest and reveals the birth of Gautama in series of dramatically rich carvings. It also depicts the wheel of forth, the first sermon given by the Buddha at Sarnath.
The Stupa at Sanchi is one of the most wonderful structures of ancient India. It has been included by the UNESCO as one of the heritage sites of the world. The Sanchi Stupa is a fine example of the development of the Buddhist architecture and sculpture beginning from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. The site of Sanchi was discovered in the year 1818 by General Taylor and an archaeological museum was established in 1919y Sir John Marshall.
In a larger sense the stupa is also a cosmic symbol. Its hemispherical shape represents the world egg. Stupas commonly rest on a square pedestal and are carefully aligned with the four cardinal points of the compass. This is a recurrence of the symbolism of the dome whereby Earth supports Heaven and Heaven covers Earth. The axis of the world is always represented in the stupa, rising above its summit. The so-called "parasols," set one above the other along the shaft emerging from its uppermost region, represent a heavenly hierarchy. The cosmic symbolism is completed by a ritual circumambulatory path around the monument. Stupas are large-scale memorials built in particularly holy places. Generally they enshrine relics of some sort. As a building type the stupa is the forerunner of the pagoda. However, the stupa has also come to be known, on a smaller scale, as the reliquary itself and can be made of crystal, gold, silver or other precious metals.
Nearby Places to Visit:
· Sanchi Buddhist Temples
· Sanchi Buddhist Vihara
· Sanchi Gupta Temple
City : Sanchi
Dist. : Raisen
State : Madhya Pradesh
Country : India
PIN : 464661
How to Reach:
Bhopal is the nearest airport at a distance of 46 km.
Nearest railhead is at Vidisha, 10 km from Sanchi.
Sanchi is well connected to Bhopal, Vidisha and Indore through well laid road network.
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