Sanchi is known for its Stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars dating from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. The most famous of these monuments, the Sanchi Stupa 1, was originally built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, the then governor of Ujjayini, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant from adjacent Vidisha. Their son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra were born in Ujjayini and sent to Sri Lanka, where they converted the King, the Queen and their people to Buddhism.
The world-renowned stupas of stupa of Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh are being designated by UNESCO as the world heritage site for its archaeological andhistorical importance.
A Chunar sandstone pillar fragment, shining with the proverbial Mauryan polish, lies near Stupa 1 and carries the famous edict of Ashoka warning against schism in the Buddhist community. Stupa 1 was found empty , while relics of the two disciples of Buddha enshrined in the adjacent Stupa 3 were carried away to England. The nearby moern temple has a reliquary containing the remains of a Buddhist teacher from another stupa outside Sanchi.
The Sanchi hill goes up in shelves with Stuupa 2 situated on a lower shelf, while Stupa 1, Stupa3, the 5th century Gupta temple No. 17 and the 7th century temple No. 18 are on the intermediate shelf while a later monastery is on the crowning shelf. The balustrade surrounding Stupa 2, carved with aniconic representations of the Buddha, was added in the late 2nd century BC under the Shungas, while the four gateways of Stupa 1 were built in the 1st century BC under the Satavahanas.
Carved with stories of the Buddha's past and present lives and with incidents from the subsequent history of Buddhism, the gateways are the finest spenciments of early classical art, which formed the seedbed for the entire vocabulary of later Indian art.
Two fo the moving stories told on these portals are those of Prince Vessantara, who gave away his wealth, his wife and children out of charity and compassioin, and of Buddha who, as the monkey king, sacrificed his life to wave his companions.
Sanchi Travel Information
The adjacent Gupta temple No. 17 was hailed by Sir John Marshall as one of the most rationally organized structures in Indian architecture. Though small, it was a herald of all the principles which went into the engineering of an Indian temple in the early medieval period. The Buddhas in the perambulatory surrounding Stupa 1 are not contemporary with the Stupa but belong to the Gupta period in the mid-5th century A.D The monastery and the temple with the tall pillars adjacent to Stupa 1 and the temple near the monastery on the crowning shelf illustrate the evolution of the architectural form after the 5th century Gupta temple.
Below the hill, the Archaeological Survey of India Museum houses, some of the earliest known stone sculptures in Indian art from the 3rd to the 1st century BC while the adjacent town of Vidisha has a state museum with medieval sculptures. The nearby monuments, like the 2nd century B. C. Heliodoros Pillar, the 5th century a.D. Udayagiri Caves and the Lohangi Hill monuments in vidisha are situated within as radius of 10 km from sanchi, and are well worth a visit.
How to Reach Sanchi
By Air : Nearest airport is at Bhopal (46 km via Diwanganj and 78 km via Raisen) which is connected with Delhi, Mumbai, Gwalior and Indore.
By Rail : Sanchi lies on the Jhansi-Itarsi section of the Central Railways> However, the most convenient railhead is Vidisha (10 km).
By Road : Good, motorable roads connect Sanchi with Bhopal, Indore, Sagar, Gwalior, Vidisha and raisen, besides other places.