I reached to the ‘Great Sanchi Stupa‘ after 12 km auto ride from Vidisha railway station. This site of heritage importance lies at a distance of 400 meter from Vidisha-Bhopal highway and exactly opposite to Sanchi railway station. Sanchi Stupa complex lies on the hill-top along with other two Stupas. This site is one of the most important UNESCO World heritage site of India. History of Sanchi Stupa goes back to 2300 year back and it become the backbone of ancient history of India.
History of Sanchi Stupa
Until the early 19th century, Indian history was not aware about the Mauryan Empire. Discovery of Sanchi Stupa has added an important chapter to the Indian history about the Mauryans. This site has a great importance among Buddhist and also has direct connection with great historical figure ‘Emperor Ashoka‘. Ashoka was married to ‘Devi’ who was daughter of a merchant of nearby Vidisha town. Ashoka’s son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra who brought Buddhism to Shri Lanka were born from Queen Devi.
The famous Sanchi Stupa is the oldest stone structure of India in such a good condition. Emperor Ashoka made the initial structure of Stupa over the relics of Buddha in 3rd century BC. That brick Stupa was half in size of existing structure. After fall of Mauryan rule, Pushymitra sunga destroyed the original structure. Again, other Sunga ruler renovated it during 1st century BC. These torans (ornamented gates) were not the part of original structure, they were built during renovation.
Torans of Sanchi stupa
Stupa-1 is the oldest one and stand over the relics of Buddha. It has four architecturally rich torans (gates) in all four directions. Apart from the beautiful decoration, carving of these gates says several stories about the life of Buddha and Ashoka.
It depicted the story of war over the rights of Buddha’s ash remains. The Mallas kingdoms of Kushinagar wanted to keep ash remains of Buddha after his last right. Similarly, other nearby follower kingdoms also wanted the same. So, a war erupt because of this dispute and finally Buddha’s ash remains (relics) divided among 8 royal families and his disciples. Other story of collecting these relics by Ashoka from royal families and making of thousands of Stupa.
Here, you can see the relief of different episode of Buddha’s life like his birth, leaving of Kapilvastu in search of knowledge, teaching to his disciples, enlightenment and death. Even, history of Bodhgaya get to know from one of the relief on toran, where a temple is shown around a Pipal tree (Bodhi tree). As per historical records, Ashoka build a temple at Bodhgaya at the same place where today’s Bodhi temple stand but that is no more exist. Some of stories on toran associated with Rajgir the Magadh capital. These torans are like painted canvas, which is having lots of important stories incorporated.
Sanchi Stupa complex
As i said there are two other Stupa along with many smaller Stupa within the complex of heritage site. Stupa-3 lies near the main Stupa while to reach Stupa-2 you have to walk down many stair behind the main Stupa. There is remains of a Buddhist monastery and a pond behind main Stupa, where one can also see a ‘great bowl’ of stone. A few Hindu temples of Gupta period also exist in the same complex but mostly in ruin today.
There is also a broken Ashoka pillar which is standing in front of one of the toran. One part of the pillar kept near the stupa and head part placed in the Sanchi archaeological museum. Head of the pillar has sculpture of four lions which is now emblem of India. Emperor Ashoka erected such pillars across the India, these pillar had several inscriptions, used to spread the instruction of Ashoka.
Sanchi museum is on the mid way from Highway to Sanchi Stupa. In the year 1919, this museum was developed by Sir John Marshall. Even the very old cottage of Sir John Marshall still stand close to museum. Sanchi stupa complex open from sun-rise to sun-set but museum open from 9 AM to 5 PM. Here you can see several ancient sculpture, pottery item and tools associated with site of Sanchi. A nice point to know more about history of Sanchi Stupa, main attraction of this museum is Ashoka’s pillar head (4 lion statue).
See more heritage Sites/monuments of India
|Ancient Nalanda University||Bhimbetka Rock Shelters|
|Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya||Konark Sun Temple||Udayagiri-Khandagiri Cave, Odisha|
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