Sep 6, 2012

Heritage- The great stupa of Sanchi

Sanchi is a sleepy small village 46KM from Bhopal, the state capital of Madhya Pradesh. I took a private bus from Bhopal. I could see the majestic stupa from far away on the 91m high hill. Took a budget hotel near to the railway station which is really very clean and the tea is fantastic! The place is run by an ex-Army man and his family. If you are very bored he is a good company to talk to.

Known for the Great Stupa which is a World Heritage Site, it is an important Buddhist pilgrimage center. (From wiki:) The Great Stupa with the height of 22m was originally built under the rule of Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BC. Later in 2nd century BC it was rebuilt by Agnimitra of Sunga dynasty with stones and bigger size. It is considered to be the oldest stone structure in India. The brick structure was built over relics of Buddha. The structure is crowned by three chakraswhich symbolizes high rank honoring the relics. These are symbol of Dharma, the wheel of law. 

There are four profusely ornate toranas (gateways) around the stupa in four cardinal directions. The narrative sculptures on these gateways depict story of Buddha and also Jataka Tales. Buddha is not depicted as a human figure. He is depicted as a Lotus flower when born, as a horse when he left the palace, as a tree when he attained enlightenment. There are other panels depicting everyday life and different symbols pertaining to Buddhism.

There are two more stupas, stupa-2 and stupa-3 which is a bit far down the other two. There are also ruins of temples and monasteries. There were many Buddhist monks visiting from different countries. Their faces looked radiant with calm and composed behavior. I met with two Japanese monks who couldn't speak English. But we communicated in sign language about ... where they were from, how long staying here, what are the plans, pose for a pic etc ... and one of them kindly posed for the picture :)

There are more excavated structures near stupa 3 on the slopes of the hill. Walk down and back up is a bit steep. They are amidst thick dry vegetation. Stupa 3 has a wall encircling it. On the wall these are different motifs carved. These motifs are very interesting. Like ... an elephant head with lion's body. There were many of them with strange combinations. I would love to know how to interpret.

Open from 8:00AM to 5:00PM and has an entry fee of Rs. 10. Audio guides are available and a must to understand what is depicted on those toranas. Photography is allowed for no extra cost. Museum at the bottom of the hill has some important sculptures including the original Ashokan pillar. Photography is strictly prohibited in the museum.

Other than stupa there is nothing much in this small own. During the night a night club played some Bollywood songs on loudspeaker. When I was in Sanchi the songs that repeatedly played all over the night were ... My name is Sheela ... Chikney Chameli ... Munni Badnam hui ... Jalebi Bai ... though I tried to sleep chanting Buddham sharanam gacchami ... it was a terrible night ever!!!

Since cheap and best accommodation is available Sanchi is a good base to stay and visit nearby lesser known attractions like Vidhisha, Gyaraspur and Udaypur. Sanchi and these places are connected by trains and buses.
It was a great experience to visit, and understand the intricately narrative sculptures. What a trip?! I walked down the same stairs that hundreds of years ago Devi and Mahendra, wife and son of Emperor Ashoka, had walked down. I was thinking about my next day's excursion to Vidhisha, a place on off the beaten track.

Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts :)

Click HERE to read more articles about Madhya Pradesh. Click HERE to read complete Backpacking India series.

If you want pictures please ask me :)
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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  2. The photos are beautiful. The last line where you mentioned that you walked down the same steps as Emperor Ashoka, goosebumps :-)

    1. Thank you Jenny! Yeah, history is something which is interesting.

  3. I love hsitory and Sanchi is something I would love to visit. Great pics Kusum !

  4. Nice one about these historical place, but Munni and Sheela followed you:)But yes these places do bring history back to life


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