Located on the foot of a hill-- Sanchi is just 46 kms Bhopal. It is more of a village than a town.
Sanchi is a religious place with historical and archaeological significance. Sanchi is a site for the numerous stupas, which were built on a hilltop. The place is related to Buddhism but not directly to the life of Buddha. It is more related to Ashoka than to Buddha. Ashoka built the first stupa and put up many pillars here. The crown of famous Ashoka pillars, with four lions standing back to back, has been adopted as the national emblem of India.
Sanchi adopted Buddhism, which replaced the prominent Hinduism. But time took its toll and slowly both the stupas and the place were forgotten. In 1818 Sanchi was rediscovered and it was found that the marvelous pieces of structure were not in good shape. Gradually historical and the religious significance of the place was recognized.
Restoration work of the stupas started in 1881 and finally between 1912 and 1919 these were carefully repaired and restored. It was accepted that the structure at Sanchi is the most organized construction, which went into the engineering of temples in the medieval period. The carvings here are done with the precision of Jewelers.
Despite the damage and restoration work done Sanchi is the most evocative and attractive Buddhist site in India. Sanchi is primarily a place of Stupas and pillars but the gorgeous gateways add grace to the place. These gateways are beautifully carved and carry scenes from the life of Buddha or Ashoka. These gateways are the finest specimens of early classical art, which formed the seedbed of entire vocabulary of later Indian art. The images carved on the pillars and the stupas tell moving story of the incident form the life of Buddha.
CLIMATE: As such the climate of Sanchi is moderate and it can be visited any time of the year. But the summers can prove to be very hot and winters may be biting cold. Nevertheless, it is better to visit the place during he winters. The best season to visit this Buddhist pilgrimage is between October and March
GETTING THERE: Sanchi is not so hot place on the tourist map and mainly attracts the Buddhist pilgrims. The nearest Airport is that of Bhopal. From Bhopal one can take flights to any place in India. From Bhopal one can hire a taxi or take bus to Sanchi. There is a railway station in Sanchi, which is on the Jhansi-Itarsi section. But the most convenient railhead is that of Vidisha. Sanchi has motorable roads which connects the place from any where in the state and as well as the tourists places in the neighboring states.
STUPAS: Sanchi has been famous for the Stupas, which were built on the top of a hill. The purpose of these stupas was mostly religious. The most likely use of the stupas has been said to keep the relics. Some of these stupas have been found containing relics of disciples of Buddha. The stupas date as early as the 3rd century and are built in brick made of stone. Though most of the stupas are in ruins now three remain intact and are of great archaeological value. The designs and the carvings on the walls and gates of these stupas spell a heavenly grace and are very tastefully done.
The Four gate Ways: The Four gateways constructed in 35 BC are the best from of Buddhist expression one can find any where in the world. Gateways or Torans as they are called are covered with explicit carving, which depict scenes from the life Buddha, and Jatakas, the stories relating to Buddha and his earlier births. At this stage Buddha was not represented directly but symbols were used to portray him-- The lotus represents his birth, the tree his enlightenment, the wheel, derived from the title of his first sermon, the footprints and throw symbolizing his presence. The carvings on the Torans are done with inspired imagery, which in harmony with the surrounding figures balance the solidity of massive stupas.
The Ashoka Pillar - The Ashoka pillars is one many pillar which are scattered in the area some of these are in broken and some in shape. The Ashoka pillar is on the southern entrance. Today here only the shaft stands and the crown is kept in the museum. The crown is the famous four lions, which stand back to back. This figure was adopted as the national Emblem of India. The Ashoka pillars are an excellent example of he Greece-Buddhist style and are known for the aesthetic proportions and the exquisite structural balance.
The Buddhist Vihara: The earlier monasteries were made from wood, which was exquisitely carved and tastefully decorated. The present monasteries are not even the shadow of what they were in the past. A few kms from Sanchi are the relics of the Satdhara Stupa. The relics are kept in glass casket, which is placed on the inner sanctum of the modern monastery.
The Great Bowl: Sanchi had a huge bowl carved out of single rock. Grain was stored in this bowl and it was distributed among the monks in Sanchi.
The Gupta Temple: This temple is now in ruins. But what ever is left tells a saga of greatness and a temple which had no match during its times. The temple was built in 5 the century and is an excellent example of ancient temple architecture in India.
The Museum: The archaeological survey of India maintains a museum, which house many items, which were discovered during the excavation of Sanchi area. Most prized possession of the museum is the lion crown from Ashoka pillar. The museum has a sizeable collection of utensils and other items used by the monks who lived here.
Videsha: Just 10 kms from Sanchi is a place called Videsha. In ancient times this place was called the Besnagar and was one of the largest town in the area.
Raisen: A Malwa fort built in the 13th century adorns this huge and colourful hill. Apart from the fort there are temples, cannons, three palaces, well and tanks. This place very ancient and lively. The Fort of Raisen was under an independent ruler but later it passed under the ruler of Mandu. One can spot ancient painting in the caves around this region. It is 23 kms from Sanchi.
Gyaraspur: Gyaras is the name of the fair, which is organized, in the 11th month every year. This place is just 51 kms from Sanchi and many temples, tanks and a fort dating to 9th and 10th century. But the main attraction has been the big fair.
Udayapur: 90 kms north of Sanchi is a fine example of Indo-Aryan architecture. The structure is the Neelkantheswara temple. This temple was built in the 11th century. The special thing about the architecture of this temple is that rays of the morning sunshines on the presiding deity of the temple. The temple is covered with profusely carved walls and pillars. There are four are prominently decorated bands around the Sikhara of this temple.
Sonari: Just 10 kms from the stupas of Sanchi are eight more stupas of which two are very important.
Satdhara: Towards the west of Sanchi are two more stupas, which are worth visiting. These stupas are on the banks of river Beas.
Andher: This place was discovered after Sanchi. The place has three small stupas but these are well preserved. Andher is eight kms from Sanchi.
MAIN LANGUAGES: Hindi & English
A WORD OF CAUTION: To all tourist - beware of touts, if, new to the place.
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