Magnificient Architecture of Ancient India – Stupas of Sanchi

Always wondered about the great engineering skills our Indian ancient civilisation possessed. You are taken aback thousands of years whenever you visit these rich Indian heritage sites be it the religious structures like Stupas of Sanchi or Monuments of Hampi or temples of Khajuraho & Meenakshi etc. Most of these ancient monuments are unique in architecture and need to be preserved from natural and other calamities looking to their importance in Indian history and heritage. In year 2011 I had several visits to MP and during one of those visits, I had an opportunity to visit the Sanchi (a world heritage site) to witness the amazing craftmanship of the then civilisation had put in to erect these fantastic structures. The stupas along with few temples and monasteries were built on a hillock by Emperor Ashoka and dates upto 300 BC.

Places must see : Stupa No 1 or Great Stupa and its 4 gateways, Archaeological museum, Monastery and temple. Brief information about the site is given on the ASI plaque near the great stupa and the same is shown below.

1. Great stupa

The stupa no 1 is also known as ‘great stupa’. This hemispheral dome shaped structure is around 100 ft in dia and 50 ft in height. Apparently it seems to be made of bricks and mortar. There is a raised terrace with fenced circumference around the dome shaped stupa. The stupa is accessible from 4 sides through magnificiently carved gateways (called as ‘toran Dwar’ in hindi) depicting the epics of lord budha’s life and morale stories called ‘Jataka’s.  It is learn that each of these gateways have been made from carving out a single stones weighing more than 400 tons.

Great Stupa

Great Stupa

Lord Buddha Statue on the periphery of Main Sanchi Stupa

Lord Buddha Statue on the periphery of Main Sanchi Stupa

a) Northern Gateway

This is one of the best preserved gateways amongst the four however with the wheel in the uppermost area is in broken condition. The carvings on the gateway depicts scenes from Lord Buddha’s life. Both the pillars are supported by four elephants facing different directions. The gateway is crowned with a wheel of law which is in broken condition.

Northern Gateway

Northern Gateway

b) Southern Gateway

As learnt, this is the oldest amongst the four gates depicting scenes from Lord Buddha’s birth and some events from the life of Emperor Ashoka after his adopting the Buddhism.

Southern Gateway@Sanchi

Southern Gateway@Sanchi

Four back to back lions are sitting pretty on both the square shaped pillars of this gate. These back to back four lions are not knew to any Indian as they form our state emblem (I feel, saying this, you guys must be comparing the emblem on the Indian coin with the above image). The gateway is carved with the stories of Buddha’s birth and also life of Ashoka the Great after he took over Buddhism.

The four lions

The four lions

c) Western Gateway

Four pot bellied dwarfs are carved on each of the supporting pillar and this gateway mainly depicts the scenes from seven incarnations of lord Buddha.

Western Gateway of Sanchi

Western Gateway of Sanchi

d) Eastern Gateway

This is the most interesting of the four gateways. This eastern gateway depicts scenes of Lord Buddha’s entry into Nirvana. The ‘Yakshi’ or the statue of a goddess hangs beautifully on one of the pillars while it is learnt that the gateway originally contained two statues.

Yakshi hanging on the Eastern Gateway

Yakshi hanging on the Eastern Gateway

2. Pillars

Pillars near the Great Stupa

Pillars near the Great Stupa

3. Ruins of the Temple from the Gupta Era

Remains of temple from Gupta era

Remains of temple from Gupta era

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Some random pics @ SanchiDSCN2223DSCN2220DSCN2219DSCN2218DSCN2259

Remains near the Buddhist Vihara

Remains near the Buddhist Vihara

How to reach & where to stay

Sanchi is around 45 km eastwards from Bhopal and is easily accessible by road. One way is through the district of Raisen whereas there is another direct road from Bhopal bypass near Karond flyover. The nearby town is Vidisha (Loksabha constituency of Shri AB Bajpai). At Sanchi, there is an excellence restaurant run by MPTDC in case you want to stay or have food.

A trip I will always relish in my life and would like to come here again for the serene, calm and holy atomosphere. The dedication with which this architecture might have been built, makes you feel dwarf. Guys, I tried my best to collect the information about this site through the local guide, plaques and some information from internet but still if I have missed some things or any facts, my sincere apologies.

Your comments for improvements / suggestions would help me a lot in improving the contents my blogs.

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