Sanchi located in sylvan surrounding, stirs those inspired by exotica of the historically rich Buddhist past and spiritual healing...
Sanchi, situated in Madhya Pradesh has numerous stupas, monasteries, chaityas, temples and pillars that date from 3rd century BC to 12th century AD.
Amongst other important Buddhist sites in India, Sanchi has a remarkable distinction. Even though not associated with any significant event in Lord Buddha's life, it emerged to play an important role in Buddhism's growth and spread as a major religion in India.
Sanchi, however, isn't only known for ks religious importance; it is also known for its archaeological importance. The emperor Ashoka, who is credited with many stupas at various places in India, built eight stupas at Sanchi - of which three have survived. He also erected several pillars at Sanchi. The crown of the famous Ashoka pillar - with four lions standing back to back has been made India's national emblem. Various episodes in the life of the great Emperor are depicted at Sanchi. It was in Sanchi that Ashoka embraced Buddhism in 257 BC after the dreadful war of Kalinga, which changed his life.
The famed Sanchi Stupa 1 (India's second largest stupa, the largest being Amravati) was built by the emperor Ashoka. At that time was the governor of Ujjayini, His son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra were born in Ujjayini and sent to Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, they succeeded in converting the king, the queen and the people to Buddhism.
It's 16 metres high and 37 metres in diameter - with a railing surrounding it. There are four gateways to it through four toranas or gateways, which are, themselves works of the genius of Buddhist art.
The best preserved is the northern gateway, upholding a broken wheel of law, whilst the oldest is the southern gateway. Several pillars stand around. Pillar no.10, erected by Emperor Ashoka himself, and is close to the southern entrance to the great stupa. Halfway down the hill to the west, sits a second stupa, with 'medallions' decorating the surrounding walls with beautiful designs.
It contained the relics of the chief Buddhist teachers, and it is because the teachers were lower in stature to the Buddha and his direct disciple, that this stupa is positioned lower than the great stupa. The third stupa stands north-east of the main stupa, and even though smaller in size, resembles the great one. At one time, it housed the relics of two of Buddha's most important disciples. There are two other big stupas-one of them in very bad condition, and several small ones, some less than a metre high. To the south of the great stupa is a chaitya or hall, and a smaller temple, both indicative of Greek architecture. There are traces of wooden viharas or monasteries on the site.
The Sanchi stupa has withstood the ravages of time and destruction by invaders. In 2nd century BC - during the rise of the Sunga empire - the emperor Pushyamitra Sunga destroyed the original stupa, only to be rebuilt later by his son Agnimitra. During the later rule of the Sunga, the stupa was also expanded with stone slabs to almost twice its original size.
Notwithstanding the damage and restoration work done; Sanchi is one of the most significant and attractive Buddhist spots in the country. After the ebb of Buddhism, Sanchi remained forgotten for long. In 1818, General Taylor, a British Officer, rediscovered it, half buried. Afterwards, in 1912, Sir John Marshal Director General of Archaeology, ordered the restoration work at the site. Between 1912 and 1919, the stupas regained their lost beauty.
Sanchi is also renowned for its stunning gateways. These beautifully carved gateways are wonderful examples of early classical art. The images carved on the pillars and the stupas tell stirring stories of various interesting episodes from the Buddha's life.
Incidentally, at Sanchi, Lord Buddha is represented a through figure and not through symbols, as was the tradition in the early phase of Buddhism. For instance, while the lotus represents the Buddha's birth, the tree signifies his enlightenment, the wheel represents his first sermon and the stupa represents his nirvana or salvation. And the footprints and the throne symbolise the Buddha's presence.