Sanchi, Mahastupa- World Heritage Site

Sanchi is a synonym for the Great Buddhist Stupa. It is situated at Sanchi town in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh state. It is 48 km away from the capital of the state, Bhopal. The Great Stupa is the oldest stone structure in India. Its foundation was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the antiques of Buddha.

Sanchi has exceptional specimen of Buddhist art and architecture right from the early Mauryan period, foundations laid by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. It was later crowned by the chatra, a parasol-like structure representing high rank, which was meant to respect and shelter the antiques. The construction work of the stupa was overseen by his wife Devi. The Sanchi stupa which was built during Mauryan period was made of bricks. Sanchi is always in the limelight for stupas, temples, monasteries, monolithic Asokan pillar and sculptural wealth.

The Great Stupa of Sanchi displays rigid beauty and the excellent carvings of the doorway depict in detail the significant episodes and miracles from Lord Buddha’s life and events depicted in the Buddhist Jataka stories. The reconstruction of Temple 40 and erection of Stupas 2 and Stupa 3 also date back around the same time.

Subsequently it has passed hands from Sanchi to Kushanas and Kshatrapas and then to the Guptas. During their period they also built some temples and sculptures adding classical and simplicity grace of the era. During the 7th – 12th centuries A.D shrines and monasteries were continued to be added. Thus Sanchi exhibits harmonious co-existence of Hindu and Buddhist faiths.

With such fascinating history of Sanchi, UNESCO has given the stature of ‘World Heritage Site’ to the Mahastupa. Presently it is being conserved and environmentally developed by UNESCO under the project of Sanchi and Satdhara, a Buddhist site.

The nearest airport to Sanchi is Bhopal airport. The nearest rail head is Bhopal, though many other trains work between Bhopal and cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ujjain, Agra. It has convenient distance from Bhopal, 48 km and 9 km from Vidisha. Various tour operators provide private taxis and cabs to Sanchi.

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This post is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a travel photographer and a photography trainer.
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