Buddhist Monuments At Sanchi

Brief
Sanchi, also known as Kakanaya, Kakanava, Kakanadabota and Bota-Sriparvata in ancient times is situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh.Sanchi is the best place to head for those seeking beauty, spirituality, history and romance all rolled in one. Situated forty-six kilometers from Bhopal in central India, it sits upon a hill, and is a mute witness to a glorious era of Buddhism in India spanning its efflorescence to its decadence. It houses the best example of Buddhist art and architecture anywhere in the world and attracts common pilgrims as well as art aficionados from the world over. It is a religious place with historical and archaeological significance.Sanchi is home to the most famous and oldest Buddhist Stupa in the world. Now, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dotted around the Sanchi stupa are monasteries, temples and pillars, which are fine examples of classical art dating from 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D.

History
Sanchi was a quiet meditative place near the prosperous town of Vidisa. The monks from Sanchi could fulfill their religious duty of begging easily due to this proximity. Also, only the rich mercantile community of Vidisa could finance the scale of beautiful monuments in Sanchi. There is also a romantic tale associated with Sanchi. Emperor Asoka was approached by the merchants of Vidisa, who asked for the the land of Sanchi to be converted to a Buddhist center. Asoka agreed, and became actively involved in the project. During this period he fell in love and married, the daughter of a merchant. It is believed that she refused to move to Pataliputra, the Mauryan capital and instead drew the Emperor closer to Sanchi and Buddhism.Asoka became one of the most famous Buddhist rulers of India. It is during his time that Buddhism became the predominant religion of India. He is especially connected to Sanchi for building several Stupas, pillars and sanctuaries. The foundation at Sanchi was laid when he erected Stupa One along with a monolithic pillar at that site. Asoka built a total of eight Stupas on the hilltop of Sanchi including Stupa One.

Prime Attractions

The Great Stupa
The Stupa One or the Great Stupa is the most famous monument at Sanchi. It is the most characteristic Buddhist monument in India. Originally, Stupas were mounds housing the relics of The Buddha and his followers. The Stupa became a symbol of the Buddha’s final release or Parinirvana. The Stupa is also a cosmic symbol – the hemispheric world egg being covered by flat surface heaven. The ritual circumbalatory path around the monument adds to the cosmic symbolism. The Great Stupa is surrounded by a railing with four gateways covering the four directions. Asoka commissioned it in the 3rd century BC. It is a semi-hemispheric dome housing the relics of The Buddha.

The Asoka Pillar
The next attraction is the Asoka Pillar. It is one of the several pillars scattered around that area; some broken, some in order. It has a crown of the famous four lions standing back to back. This has been adopted as the national emblem of India. The Asoka pillar is an excellent symbol of Greco-Roman art.

The Gupta Temple
Ereceted during the 4th century AD, it is now in ruins but according to some historians, it is one of the earliest known example of  temple architecture in India. A simple flat roofed chamber characterizes it and a pillared porch constructed at front.