Sanchi stupas, a historical monument famous for Buddhist art and architecture pertaining to 3rd century BC to 12th century AD , is located at Sanchi Town in Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is located at a distance of 46 km from Bhopal, the state capital of Madhya Pradesh, India.
Some interesting things to know:
- The Great Stupa (Stupa 1) was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. The construction work of this stupa was overseen by Queen Devi herself, who was the daughter of a merchant of Vidisha.Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her wedding.
- It was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1989.
- The original stupa was a hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha.The stupa was later covered when it was expanded with stone slabs to almost twice its original size under the Shungas.
- Four elaborately carved ornamental gateways and a balustrade encircling the entire structure were added by Satavahanas in the 1st century BCE.
- Further stupas and other religious Buddhist structures were added over the centuries until the 12th century AD during Gupta dynasty period.
- One of the most interesting features regarding the Stupa is that Buddha has been depicted symbolically by figures like thrones, wheels and footprints due to the early aniconism in Buddhism which discouraged representations of Buddha after the extinction of his body.
- With the decline of Buddhism in India in the 14th century, Sanchi remained in deserted state till 1818 when General Taylor rediscovered the site.
- James Princep, who deciphered Brahmi, the script of ancient India, which was a sealed book till 1837, got his first clue for decipherment of Brahmi from Sanchi inscriptions most of which ending with the word danam (gift).
- The credit for putting together the scattered remains of this monument goes to Sir John Marshall during 1912-1919 who was the Director General of Archaeological Survey of India.
- Best time to visit : Oct – March and in monsoon from July – Sept
- One can also visit Udaygiri caves at a distance of 15 km from Sanchi ( Udayagiri Caves, Vidisha (Madhya Pradesh) – a relatively unexlpored 4th century marvel)
- Not to miss, the Tropic of Cancer line that passes through Vidisha district, a common stopover enroute to the Sanchi Stupas from Bhopal.