Sanchi is a Buddhist holy site located near Bhopal ( 46 kms ) , which is the capital of Madhya Pradesh also called as “Heart Of India” . the township of Sanchi is famous for the the earliest Buddhist architecture known as the “Stupas” .
The Great Stupa At Sanchi is the earliest example of stone buildings , which were introduced in India around 250 BC .
The recent discovery of the archaeological site is ascribed to british military officer General Taylor as the monuments went into the dark age of history spanning over 500 years between 12 ad till 19 th ad , as it was the period of downfall of Buddhism in India for various reasons . The monuments are recognised as a world heritage site and the current state is due to renovations carried out in 1919 by archaeological department under the supervision of John Marshal .
The site is important to Buddhists as it contains the holy body relics of Gautam Buddha .
According to Indian historical texts body ashes of Buddha were distributed in 8 places . King Ashoka who is credited with patronising and popularising Buddhsim distributed the same in 84000 places and erected burial mounds over them called as “Stupas”.
Stupas are thus burial mounds containing ashes of Buddha / Buddhist holy persons . Besides stupas are also built to commemorate important religious , historical events .
Sanchi was selected by Ashoka because his most favorite wife Devi belonged to the nearby place called Vidisha . She was the the daughter of the rich diamond merchant of Vidisha .
Today around 50 monuments stands over the hills of Sanchi , witness to glorious days of Buddhist activism in Sanchi .
Monuments At Sanchi
Great Stupa ( Stupa No 1 ) was built by Ashoka The Great after redistribution of mortal remains of Lord Buddha . This stupa in its original form was built using bricks ,whose diameter was half than the one existing today . it has raised terraces at the base. It was enclosed by a wooden railing and a stone umbrella at the top. This Great Stupa served as a nucleus to the large Buddhist establishment during the later period.it was enlarged by the successive dynasties who ruled the region during the course of times , the important being Shungas and the Saatvahnas Of Andhra .
The dome and its surrounded structures are beautifully carved with events depicting the life of Gautam Buddha and King Ashoka .
Stupa No 2
Another stupa encircled by stone balustrade with carving of goddesses .
It was a Buddhist monastry and a dwelling place of of the monks . It has dedicated place for the religious activities .
The Great Bowl
The container used for the storage of food for distribution .
Temple No 17 - The Gupta Temple
This is a hindu temple built during the golden era of indian history under the leader ship of gupta dynasts of the region . This temple consists a small sanctum and a mandapa (portico) in front supported on four pillars. It is built on a low basement and the sanctum is almost a square. The plan bears a striking similarity with the protostyle type of early greek temples i.e. The temple of wingless victory. The sanctum has a flat roof which is a characteristic of early hindu shrine. . The pillars have a square shaft in lower part, changing into eight and sixteen sides in middle. The shaft has a bell-shaped capital on top, crowned with a lion abacus. The lions are placed on each corner, two lions sharing single head.
Temple No 18
The temple is in ruins . This temple was designed with an apsidal end at one point similar to many Buddhist Chaitya caves. A nave was formed by usage of pillar, and at present only these pillars are the only survivors of this glorious monument. The pillars are monolithic, 17 feet high, square in section but tapering towards the top.
Temple No 40
The temple is in ruin condition according to John Marshall the original super structure was of timber which burnt down at a relatively early , evident from charred remains of timber found on the original pounded clay floor of the temple.
Two entrance on the lateral side of the apse is rather unusual as it is not found in Buddhist chaitya caves. The remains of pillars found at the site bear inscriptions in brahmi script of the Shunga period. Hence it can be said that the original wooden structure would have been constructed during the Maurya period . Marshall suggests that it is probable that this timber structure was burnt down when Pushyamitra destroyed the Ashoka stupa. The reconstruction would have started soon after the death of Pushyamitra.
The plinth has five rows of ten columns each. Marshall suggests that the temple probably had more than fifty columns, as few columns might be put on sides however he also said that this surmise can be objected. The present shrine was constructed in 7th-8th century CE. It has a portico and faces west.
Sanchi is located at a distance of 46 kms form Bhopal . Being the capital city , it is easily accessed by air from all major Indian cities . It is also a major train station havinh good train and road connectivity from major Indian cities .
One can travel by cars or by buses playing at regular intervals from Bhopal bus stand .
Near By Attractions .
One can combine the visit to sanchi with a days trip to Bhopal “City Of Begums” . This was ruled by royal ladies of Muslim kings (Begums) for more than 100 years . The city is also called as “City Of Lakes” for its two grand lakes . One of them is the largest man made lake in India . the tourist can also enjoy the boat rides in the lakes . the city also has the largest mosque in India “Taj Ul Mosque”.
November to April . the temperature could be between 40 c in May to 10 in December .
Gateway retreat in very close to the site and is managed by State Tourism Department . Besides this there are other hotels In the vicinity of the site . Facilities include gym and conference hall, which makes it a much sought after MICE destination in the proximity of Bhopal. The spacious layout and best quality food makes it the first choice for events like weddings and corporate events.