Sanchi a relic commissioned by Ashoka whose wife Devi belonged to Vidisha which is 20 KM from Sanchi. It was my second visit. First visit was in Sep,1989.
Really speaking I had a wish to see Pyramids of Egypt and this desire was fulfilled for me and I got the same proud of feeling to have visited such great-great place. We must pay high respect to John Marshal and then ASI department to keep such relics alive for visitors who throng here be in summer or winter or rainy season. An interesting fact is that Devi was abondoned by Ashoka on account that his father Bindusar was not ready to accept her as queen as she was not from a royal family but daughter of a merchant. Mahendra and Sanghmitra were daughter of Devi.
Sanchi is 55 KM from Bhopal and well connected by road (AC buses and taxis) and rail. Nearest airport is Bhopal.
Where to stay
Though Sanchi has very good MPSTDC hotel but I suggest to book MPSTDC hotel (jungle resort) at Udaigiri as both these places are only about 15 KM apart. Better stay in Udaigiri resort for 2 nights to enjoy ancient Uday giri caves and trek around hills of Madhya pradesh. It will be heaven place in rainy season. The hotel is great with all hospitality.
Day 1: Morning 8 AM visited 14 Ujjain temples (8 hrs).
Day 2 : Visited Jantar mantar Ujjain, Brith Hari caves, Vetaal Sinhasan and Triveni museum. Stay at Uday giri hotel of MPSTDC.
Day 3 : Visited Uday giri caves from 7.30 AM (2.5 hrs) and headed for Sanchi by Taxi (18 KM). Spent 2.5 hrs at Sanchi. Reached Bhopal by 8 PM.
Day 4 : Started for Bhimbetka 10 AM and on way Bhojpur temple. Reached Bhimbetka. Came back to Bhopal by 7 PM.
List of main tourist places in Madhya Pradesh and Chhatishgarh
Though these states are having many places to visit but just listing here a few important ones listed by Madhya Pradesh Tourist Department.
Around 230 BC there used to live a rich merchant in Vidisha. When Ashoka,Viceroy of Vidisha halted at Vidisha during his visit to Ujjayani he met this merchant and married his daughter named Devi. So Vidisha was wedding place of Ashoka. Historically it is interesting that Mauryan empire was finding it unfitting to accept daughter of a merchant to be Ashoka’s wife so Ashika had to be separate from her. But she was mother of Mahendra and Sanghmitra. Devi had established a monastery at Sanchi hillock. Years later when Ashoka’s son, Mahendra visited Vidisha. Devi took him to show her monarsty. Mahendra stayed here for a month. Later Ashoka brought it up and laid foundation of Sanchi stupa and erected a monolithic pillar. As guilde told Ashoka brought some relics, ash and teeth of Buddha from Rajgir and built the stupa 1.
Later when Ashoka’s heirs weakened and Sunga dynasty (Pushymitra) king killed last Mauryan empror Brahdarth in a guard of honour. Later Pushymitra Sung tried to demolish Ashoka stupa but again it was restored by his son Agnimitra. Shunga dynasty was hindu Brahmin but they were tolerant to Buddhism and built Stupa 2 and stupa 3. Further staircase and passage was built by Satvahan kings in 1st century AD.
Since nearby place Vidisha was rich a few merchants contributed to embellishment of the stupa and therefore their sculpture on life of the Buddha will have their names inscribed on it. That is why there are repetition of stories in toranas (ornamental door).
During Satvahans the gateways of Stupa 1 and 3 were elaborately carved. There was a revival of activity at Sanchi during the reign of Guptas who after conquering Kshatrapa in 400 AD used Mathura sand stone sculputure here.
Dates to 2nd century BC. It was found in entire by Captain Fell in 1819 but was later partly destroyed by various archaeologists. The stupa consists of a plain hemispherical dome with no gateways and external decorations, differently from Stupa 1 and Stupa 3. Instead of gateways, ‘medallions’ of flowers, plants, real and fanciful animals,
people and demigods decorate the surrounding wall – naive in design, but full of energy and imagination.
Stupa 3 though much smaller than Stupa 1 in dimension it was modeled after Stupa 1. It has only one Gateway and its dome is more hemi spherical. This stupa crowned by a single umbrella was built along with staircase in 2nd century BC not long after reconstruction of Stupa 1.
As per guide this stupa is important due to fact that archaeologist Cunningham had found the relics (bones,seven beads, pearl, sandalwood) of Buddha, Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, the two disciples of Lord Buddha. The relics were found in stone boxes inscribed with names. The lids are now in site museum.
The boxes were written in ink as “sa” and “ma” which are interpreted as Sariputra and Maudgalyayana.
It is of 2nd century BC and now exists only in heap as shown above.
Almost all the stupas except 1, 2 and 3 are now heap of bricks. As per guide these stupas contain the relics of different monks and sizes vary as per their knowledge and status.
It is probably one of the earliest Buddhist temples as it dates to the early Gupta period. It stands on low moulded basement. The capital of portico pillars bearing 4 lions each with two bodies.
Between the lions,which are at corners, is a tree. Now there is no image inside the temple. Earlier it had a Buddha image seated on lotus throne supported by 2 lions. This temple faces South gate (main) of Stupa 1.
It is built on the foundation of a hall of Mauryan or Sunga temple. This temple had 12 pillars. Temple faces South gate (main) of Stupa 1. Now I did not see any thing in this except pillars. As per guide this architectural additions were happening till even till 11th century and so was in use.
It was the last Buddhist temple built during the mid to late 9th century. Another point to be noted that at that time the monuments were enclosed within a wall. With the decline of Buddhism in India, the monuments of Sanchi went out of use and fell into a state of disrepair. In 1818, General Taylor of the Bengal Cavalry recorded a visit to Sanchi. At that time the monuments were left undisturbed and were in a good condition.
I saw 4 gateways (Torana) at Stupa 1 named as North, South, East and West. All these gateways date to first century BC of which earliest is South gateway. Guide told that this is probably principal gate as staircase of Stupa 1 opens here as well as Ashoka pillar is also kept near this gate.
The workers of these gateways must be wood, iron, ivory and metal workers from nearby Vididha.
Each gateway consists of square pillars crowned by a set of four lions,elephants and dwarfs supporting a substructure with different expression of bearing pains of load.
Height of gateways is 28 feet.
There are several monastries around the temple 47. These monastries are numbered from 43 to 46.
Similarly there is one monastry by the side of temple 17 as well as a big monastry at south end of the premises.
This is the earliest pillar erected by Ashoka the Great. Of this only lower part is intact while upper part is kept aside. It had a capital of 4 lions and an unfolded lotus, “Government symbol of India” is placed in Museum. This pillar is made of Chunar sandstone and is monolithic. A warning is inscripted in pillar for monks and nuns who try to create schism in Buddhist religion.
This was built during Sunga period in 1st century BC. Its shaft is octogonal below and 16 sided above. It had 4 lions and inverted lotus which is now kept in museum.
This pillar was imitation of Ashoka pillar. It has square base and circular above. It had 4 lions and inverted lotus which is now kept in museum.
Sanchi is unique in having the most perfect and well preserved stupas any where in India.These monuments record the genesis, efflorescence and decay of Buddhist art and architecture over 1300 years – covering whole range of Buddhism -Archaeological Survey Of India.
It is surprising and interesting that Hiuen Tsang visited India during 7th century and wrote all details of Buddhism but why was silent about Sanchi. As per the texts and excavations by 7th century all Sanchi stupas was as developed as we see today and was under continuous development.
The only record of Sanchi is in chronicles of Sri Lanka known as Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa which talks about his marriage with Devi at Vidisha and founding of Sanchi Stupa.
Categories: Madhya Pradesh