Sanchi is primarily a place of Stupas
and pillars but the gorgeous gateways add grace to the place. These
gateways are beautifully carved and carry scenes from the life of
Buddha or Ashoka. These gateways are the finest specimens of early
classical art, which formed the seedbed of entire vocabulary of
later Indian art. The images carved on the pillars and the stupas
tell moving story of the incident from the life of Buddha. The purpose
of these stupas was mostly religious. The most likely use of the
stupas has been said to keep the relics. Some of these stupas have
been found containing relics of disciples of Buddha. The stupas
date as early as the 3rd century and are built in brick made of
stone. Though most of the stupas are in ruins now three remain intact
and are of great archaeological value. The designs and the carvings
on the walls and gates of these stupas spell a heavenly grace and
are very tastefully done.
Great Stupa No. 1 - This is one of the oldest
stupas in India. 36.5 m in diameter and 16.4 m high with a hemispherical
dome this massive structure was constructed by Ashoka in the 3rd
century B.C. But the whole structure was enlarged later. Today the
original brick structure by Ashoka is inside the enlarged stone
one. The stupas of Sanchi stand on the top of a hill. There are
four entrances to the great stupa. A railing encircles the stupa.
The entrance is through the magnificently carved gates or as they
call it the Torans. These Torans are one of the finest examples
of Buddhist art in India and are best works at Sanchi. The path
to the stupa has been smoothen by the centuries of pilgrims visiting
the place. Near the stupa stands a Chunar sandstone pillar, which
has some edicts by Ashoka, which warns against the schism within
Stupa No. 2 - This is second stupa on the Sanchi
hill. This again a very good example of the Buddhist architecture.
The stupa stands on the very edge of the hill. Though there are
no entrance to this stupa, it attracts visitors for the stone balustrade,
which encircles it. The wall of stupa is decorated with medallions.
But the seems to be an imagination of a child as they depict animals,
flowers people and scenes from the mythology.
Stupa No. 3 - The third stupa is located near
Great Stupa. A polished stone umbrella crowns this stupa. The crown
denotes some religious significance. There is only one entrance
to this third stupa, In the stupa the relics of Sariputta and Mahamogallena
were discovered. These two were the earliest disciples of Buddha.
The relics were carried to England in 1853 and were returned to
Sanchi in 1953.
The Ashoka Pillar - The Ashoka pillars is one
many pillar which are scattered in the area some of these are in
broken and some in shape. The Ashoka pillar is on the southern entrance.
Today here only the shaft stands and the crown is kept in the museum.
The crown is the famous four lions, which stand back to back. This
figure was adopted as the national Emblem of India. The Ashoka pillars
are an excellent example of the Greco-Buddhist style and are known
for the aesthetic proportions and the exquisite structural balance.
The Buddhist Vihara - The earlier monasteries
were made from wood, which was exquisitely carved and tastefully
decorated. The present monasteries are not even the shadow of what
they were in the past. A few kms from Sanchi are the relics of the
Satdhara Stupa. The relics are kept in glass casket, which is placed
on the inner sanctum of the modern monastery.
The Great Bowl - Sanchi had a huge bowl carved
out of single rock. Grain was stored in this bowl and it was distributed
among the monks in Sanchi.
The Gupta Temple - This temple is now in ruins.
But what ever is left tells a saga of greatness and a temple which
had no match during its times. The temple was built in 5 the century
and is an excellent example of ancient temple architecture in India.
The Museum - The archaeological survey of India
maintains a museum, which house many items, which were discovered
during the excavation of Sanchi area. Most prized possession of
the museum is the lion crown from Ashoka pillar. The museum has
a sizeable collection of utensils and other items used by the monks
who lived here.
Four Gate Way
The Four gateways constructed in 35 BC is the best from of Buddhist
expression one can find anywhere in the world. Gateways or Torans
as they are called are covered with explicit carving which depict
scenes from the life Buddha and the Jatakas, the stories relating
to Buddha and his earlier births. At this stage Buddha was not represented
directly but symbols were used to portray him-- The lotus represents
his birth, the tree his enlightenment, the wheel, derived from the
title of his first sermon, the footprints and throw symbolizing
his presence. The carvings on the Torans are done with inspired
imagery, which in harmony with the surrounding figures balance the
solidity of massive stupas.
The Western Gate: This gate has depictions of
the seven incarnations of Buddha. The six incarnations before becoming
the Buddha is called the Manushi Buddha. The architrave's is supported
by the dwarfs. One of the pillars shows Buddha resisting the temptation
of Mara. While the demons are fleeing the angles cheer Buddha. On
the bottom Architraves the colourful stories of the Chhadanta Jataka
are also carved with the intense care. Pot bellied dwarfs support
the architraves on this gate.
The Eastern Gate: The pillar of this gate depicts
story of the great departure of Prince Gautama. The pillar shows
vividly the moments when the Gautama was leaving his fathers a place
in search of Enlightenment. It also depicts the dream which Gautama's
mother had before his birth. On the pillar Buddha is shown as riderless
horse. Also on the architraves are hanging images of Yakshi, which
is one of the best known images from Sanchi.
The Southern Gate: This gate is a representation
of scenes from the life of Ashoka and Buddha's Birth. There is another
representation of the Great Departure. This oldest of the three
gates and is very rich in the carvings.
The Northern Gate: This gate is crowned by the
wheel of law and depicts the miracles, which took place during the
life of Buddha. Though the wheel is broken the northern gate is
the most well preserved gates of all the four. The architraves of
this gate is supported by elephants facing four directions, the
gap between the architraves is filled by more horses and elephants.