|Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi|
|Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List|
|Inscription||1989 (13th Session)|
Sanchi is a small village in Raisen District of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, it is located 46 km north east of Bhopal, and 10 km from Besnagar and Vidisha in the central part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Known for its "Stupas", it is the location of several Buddhist monuments dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 12th CE and is one of the important places of Buddhist pilgrimage. It is a nagar panchayat in Raisen district in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Toranas surround the Stupa and they each represent love, peace, trust, and courage. This world heritage site is well maintained and is open to public viewing from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It takes about an hour and a half for a non-research visit of the site. Photography is allowed and audio guides are available.
The 'Great Stupa' at Sanchi is the oldest stone structure in India and was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. It was crowned by the chatra, a parasol-like structure symbolising high rank, which was intended to honour and shelter the relics. The construction work of this stupa was overseen was Ashoka's wife, Devi herself, who was the daughter of a merchant of Vidisha. Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her and Ashoka's wedding. In the 1st century BCE, four profusely carved ornamental gateways and a balustrade encircling the whole structure was added.
Etymology of Sanchi
In Mahavamsa the site is referred to as Chetiyagiri, which was visited by Mahinda and his mother Devi. Early votive inscription refer to the pace as Kakanaya. In the Gupta period it was termed Kakanada-Bota, and Bots-Shri-Parvat in the 7th century. An adjacent village is still called kanakheda. Sanchi might have originated from Sanskrit and Pali word Sanch meaning To Measure. In Hindi, however Sanchi or Sancha means for Moulds of Stones.
Monuments at Sanchi
There are numerous monuments at Sanchi. The main are these (the numbers were assigned by Cunningham in 1854 and are still often used in the literature).
- The main terrace: Stupa 1 (Great Stupa), Stupa 3, Pillar 10 (Asoka Pillar), Temple 18 (Mauryan apsidal), Temple 17 (Gupta).
- Eastern Area: Temple 45 (10th century CE).
- Southern Area: Temple 40
- The western slope: Monastery 51 and Stupa 2.
- Chetiyagiri Vihara: Modern temple built in the 1960s (for the 2500th celebration of Buddha's Parinirvana) housing the remains of Sariputta and Mogglayan.
- The Archaeological Museum
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The 'Great Stupa' at Sanchi is the oldest structure and was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. It was crowned by the chatra, a parasol-like structure symbolising high rank. A pillar of finely polished sandstone was also erected. The old stupa was later covered when it was expanded.
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|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
On the basis of Asokavadana, it is presumed that the stupa may have been vandalized at one point sometime in the 2nd century BCE, an event some have related to the rise of the Sunga emperor Pusyamitra Sunga who overtook the Mauryan Empire as an army general. It has been suggested that Pushyamitra may have destroyed the original stupa, and his son Agnimitra rebuilt it. During the later rule of the Sunga, the stupa was expanded with stone slabs to almost twice its original size. The dome was flattened near the top and crowned by three superimposed parasols within a square railing. With its many tiers it was a symbol of the dharma, the Wheel of the Law. The dome was set on a high circular drum meant for circumambulation, which could be accessed via a double staircase. A second stone pathway at ground level was enclosed by a stone balustrade with four monumental gateways (toranas) facing the cardinal directions. The buildings which seem to have been commissioned during the rule of the Sungas are the Second and Third stupas (but not the highly decorated gateways, which are from the following Satavahana period, as known from inscriptions), and the ground balustrade and stone casing of the Great Stupa.
The gateways and the balustrade were built and appear to have been commissioned by the Satavahana. An inscription records the gift of one of the top architraves of the Southern Gateway by the artisans of the Satavahana king Satakarni:
- "Gift of Ananda, the son of Vasithi, the foreman of the artisans of rajan Siri Satakarni".
DC Sircar observes that palaeographically the Hathigumpha record is slightly later than Naneghat record whereas the letters of Sanchi inscription of Satakarni resemble the script of Hathigumpha inscription. Kharavela in his inscription mentions one Satakarni, who is identified as Satakarni II, who is also identical to the one who inscribed in Sanchi. If this be true, then the dating of Sanchi gateway and balustrade will be belonging to much earlier period of 180-160 bce.
Although made of stone, they were carved and constructed in the manner of wood and the gateways were covered with narrative sculptures. They showed scenes from the life of the Buddha integrated with everyday events that would be familiar to the onlookers and so make it easier for them to understand the Buddhist creed as relevant to their lives. At Sanchi and most other stupas the local population donated money for the embellishment of the stupa to attain spiritual merit. There was no direct royal patronage. Devotees, both men and women, who donated money towards a sculpture would often choose their favourite scene from the life of the Buddha and then have their names inscribed on it. This accounts for the random repetition of particular episodes on the stupa (Dehejia 1992). On these stone carvings the Buddha was never depicted as a human figure. Instead the artists chose to represent him by certain attributes, such as the horse on which he left his father’s home, his footprints, or a canopy under the bodhi tree at the point of his enlightenment. The human body was thought to be too confining for the Buddha.
Some of the friezes of Sanchi also show devotees in Greek attire (Greek clothing, attitudes, and musical instruments) celebrating the stupa.
Further stupas and other religious Buddhist structures were added over the following centuries until the 12th century CE. Temple 17 is probably one of the earliest Buddhist temples as it dates to the early Gupta period. It consists of a flat roofed square sanctum with a portico and four pillars. The interior and three sides of the exterior are plain and undecorated but the front and the pillars are elegantly carved, giving the temple an almost ‘classical’ appearance (Mitra 1971).
Temple 45 was the last Buddhist temple built during 10-11th century. Also at this 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 appear to have been left undisturbed for long time and in generally good preservation.
Nearby Buddhist sites
Sanchi is one of a number of Buddhist sites in close vicinity of Vidisha. Other Buddhist complexes  nearby are;
- Satdhara (the remains of Sariputta and Moglayan from here are now in Sanchi)
All the sites are south of Vidisha. Some other Buddhist sites have been recently studied.
A British officer in 1818, General Taylor, was the first known Western historian to document (in English) the existence of Sanchi (Sāñcī). Amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters ravaged the site until 1881, when proper restoration work was initiated. Between 1912 and 1919 the structures were restored to their present condition under the supervision of Sir John Marshall.
Sanchi, specially Stupa 1, has a large number of Brahmi inscriptions. Although most of them are small and mention donations, they are of great historical significance. James Prinsep in 1837, noted that most of them ended with the same two Brahmi characters. Princep took them as "danam" (donation), which permitted the decipherment of the Brahmi script,.
An analysis of the donation records  shows that while a large fraction of the donors were local (with no town specified), a number of them were from Ujjain, Vidisha, Kurara, Nadinagar, Mahisati, Kurghara, Bhogavadhan and Kamdagigam.
The inscriptions include those from Maurya, Shunga/Satavahana (175 BCE-15 CE), Kushana (100-150 CE), Gupta (600-800CE, see Sanchi inscription of Candragupta II). The Ye Dharma Hetu inscription in Temple 45 may be dated to 9th century.
On September 11, 2012, the Government of Madhya Pradesh announced the University Of Buddhist and Indic Studies, which is being built in collaboration with the government of Sri Lanka and Bhutan and will be located at Sanchi, in close proximity to the stupa. Designed by Sri Lankan architect SW Isurunath Bulankulame, the University will have various facilities, combined with a green landscape and usage of natural energy.
The foundation stone for the University was laid on September 17, 2012 by Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigmi Yozyer Thinley, and Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka president Bangala Upatissa Nayaka Thero, amid high security due to a massive protest being organised by MDMK leader Vaiko against Rajapaksa, who had specially arrived in Madhya Pradesh with many protesters, but ultimately stopped.
As of 2001[update] India census, Sanchi had a population of 6,785. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Sanchi has an average literacy rate of 67%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 75%, and to female literacy is 57%. In Sanchi, 16% of the population is under 6 years of age.
|The Four Main Sites|
|Lumbini · Bodh Gaya
Sarnath · Kushinagar
|Four Additional Sites|
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Sankissa · Vaishali
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Kapilavastu · Devadaha
Kesariya · Pava
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|Sanchi · Mathura
Ellora · Ajanta · Vikramshila
Ratnagiri · Udayagiri · Lalitgiri
Bharhut · Barabar Caves
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Sanchi|
- Buddhist Art Frontline Magazine May 13–26, 1989
- Debal Mitra, Sanchi, ASI, 1992, p. 6
- Debal Mitra, Sanchi, ASI, 1992
- Exposition of Relics at chetiyagiri Vihara begins Chamikara WEERASINGHE, http://www.dailynews.lk/2006/11/28/news30.asp
- Archaeological Museum, Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh) http://asi.nic.in/asi_museums_sanchi.asp
- "Who was responsible for the wanton destruction of the original brick stupa of Asoka and when precisely the great work of reconstruction was carried out is not known, but it seems probable that the author of the former was Pushyamitra, the first of the Sunga kings (184-148 BCE), who was notorious for his hostility to Buddhism, and that the restoration was affected by Agnimitra or his immediate successor." in John Marshall, A Guide to Sanchi, p. 38. Calcutta: Superintendent, Government Printing (1918).
- Original text "L1: Rano Siri Satakarnisa L2: avesanisa vasithiputasa L3: Anamdasa danam", John Marshall, "A guide to Sanchi", p. 52
- "A guide to Sanchi" John Marshall. These "Greek-looking foreigners" are also described in Susan Huntington, "The art of ancient India", p. 100
- Bhilsa Topes, Cunningham, 1854
- Julia Shaw (2011): Monasteries, Monasticism, and Patronage in Ancient India: Mawasa, a Recently Documented Hilltop Buddhist Complex in the Sanchi Area of Madhya Pradesh, South Asian Studies, 27:2, 111-130 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02666030.2011.61440
- John Marshall, "An Historical and Artistic Description of Sanchi", from A Guide to Sanchi, Calcutta: Superintendent, Government Printing (1918). Pp. 7-29 on line, Project South Asia.
- Indian Epigraphy : A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages, Richard Salomon, Oxford University Press, 1998
- Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor, Charles Allen, Little, Brown Book Group Limited, 2012
- A study of inscribed reliefs within the context of donative inscriptions at Sanchi, Author: Milligan, Matthew David, Thesis, p.77
- "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
- "Harmony set in stone". Frontline. Volume 24 - Issue 18 :: Sep. 08-21, 2007. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- Dehejia, Vidya. (1992). Collective and Popular Bases of Early Buddhist Patronage: Sacred Monuments, 100 BC-AD 250. In B. Stoler Miller (ed.) The Powers of Art. Oxford University Press: Oxford. ISBN 0-19-562842-X.
- Dehejia, Vidya. (1997). Indian Art. Phaidon: London. ISBN 0-7148-3496-3.
- Mitra, Debala. (1971). Buddhist Monuments. Sahitya Samsad: Calcutta. ISBN 0-89684-490-0
-  Source Documents and Texts in South Asian Studies
-  Sanchi.org
-  Official Web site of Sanchi University for Buddhist-Indic Studies http://sanchiuniv.org.in/index.htm
-  Sanchi Stupa—A World Heritage Site
- "Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh)", Jacques-Edouard Berger Foundation, World Art Treasures
- Monuments at Sanchi (UNESCO World Heritage)
- Photos of Sanchi
- Photographs of the Sanchi Stupa Part 1 and Part 2