Located in a serene backcloth, at a distance of 46 km from Bhopal, Sanchi is a little hamlet in Madhya Pradesh. The place is a treasure trove of ancient Buddhist architectural gems that deck its landscape in the form of monasteries, stupas, chaityas, temples and gateways. These antique relics, belonging from 3rd century BC to 12th century AD, are legacies of the heydays of Emperor Ashoka. The preponderance of Buddhism, in the form of its artwork, makes the place an important religious site of the Buddhists. This article will help you to unearth information on the various places to see in Sanchi and find out what its major tourist attractions are.
These large hemispherical domes of Sanchi contain the relics of Buddha and demonstrate the artistic prowess of the Buddhist monks. Their structural magnificence and meticulousness are akin to the precision that are required by delicate jewelry. Owing to their splendid architectural trimmings, these stupas have been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Great Stupa I or Ashoka’s stupa is one of the major hallmarks of Sanchi. Ashoka Pillar lies close to the Southern Gateway of this Great Stupa. It was erected during 3rd century BC and majestically stands with its four lion head stump. Though the structure is quite similar to the famous carved pillar in Sarnath, it doesn’t support a ‘Wheel of Law’ (Dharmachakra).
Gateways of Sanchi
The four ‘Toranas’ or Gateways (Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern) of Sanchi are a vivid description of Buddhist architectural geniuses. These ornamental gateways face the cardinal directions and capture the various phases of Buddha’s life. They are carved with various symbolic representations, pertaining to the life, enlightenment, death and various incarnations of Buddha.
Buddhist Vihara enshrines the sacred relics of the Satdhara Stupa. They are placed inside a glass coffer, on a platform of the inner sanctum of this modern monastery. This Vihara is located a few kilometers from Sanchi and is a famous religious site of the Buddhists. It serves as a house of residence for the monks, who pursue religious studies here.
The Great Bowl
The Great Bowl of Sanchi is one of the major historical landmarks of the place. Excavations have credited the fact that this bowl was shaped from a single rock structure of enormous volume. During the early days, it was used to distribute food among Buddhist monks. The historical connotations invested on this monolithic boulder make it a popular attraction amongst the tourists.
The Gupta Dynasty, which ushered in a new era in the field of temple-architecture, has bestowed Sanchi with its trademark in the form of the famous Gupta Temple. This temple is located amidst the ruins of the Temple 17 of Sanchi and bears testimony to the aesthetic sense of proportion and balance shown by the artisans of the Gupta period.
At Sanchi, there is a museum of the Archeological Survey of India that acts as a storehouse of many antique chattels and specimens. The museum has one main hall and four galleries. Valuable objects, excavated from different sites that are as old as 2000 yrs, are exhibited in this museum. The museum gives a glimpse of the lives and artwork of different dynasties. One of the notable specimens being displayed is the lion capital of the Ashoka Pillar in the main hall.