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East Gateway and Railings - 2nd Century BCE - Red Sand Stone - Bharhut Stupa - Madhya Pradesh - Bharhut Gallery - West View - Indian Museum - Kolkata 2014-02-14 3312.JPG
East Gateway and Railings, Red Sand Stone, Bharhut Stupa, 2nd Century BCE.
Bharhut is located in India
Shown within India
Bharhut is located in Madhya Pradesh
Shown within India
Basic information
Location India
Geographic coordinates 24°26′N 80°52′E / 24.44°N 80.87°E / 24.44; 80.87Coordinates: 24°26′N 80°52′E / 24.44°N 80.87°E / 24.44; 80.87
Affiliation Buddhism
District Satna
State Madhya Pradesh
Region Vindhya Range
Year consecrated 200-300 B.C.
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Stupa ruins present
Status Artifacts Removed

Bharhut (Hindi: भरहुत) is a village located in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, central India. It is known for its famous relics from a Buddhist stupa. The Bharhut sculptures represent some of the earliest examples of Indian and Buddhist art.

Bharhut stupa[edit]

Excavations at Bharhut.
Local remains of the ruined Stupa.

The Bharhut stupa may have been first built by the Maurya king Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, but many works of art were apparently added during the Shunga period, with many friezes from the 2nd century BCE.[1] An epigraph on the gateway of the stupa mentions its erection "during the supremacy of the Shungas by Vatsiputra Dhanabhuti".[2]

In 1873, Alexander Cunningham visited Bharhut. The next year, he excavated the site.[3] J. D. Beglar, Cunningham's assistant, continued the excavation and recorded the work through numerous photographs.

The complex in Bharhut included a medieval temple (plate II), which contained a colossal figure of the Buddha, along with fragments of sculptures showing the Buddha with images of Brahma, Indra etc.[4] Beglar also photographed a 10th-century Buddhist Sanskrit inscription,[5] about which nothing is now known.

The ruined stupa—nothing but foundations of the main structure (see Gallery)—is still in Bharhut; however, the gateways and railings have been dismantled and reassembled at the Indian Museum, Kolkata.[2] They contain numerous birth stories of the Buddha's previous lives, or Jataka tales. Many of them are in the shape of large, round medallions. Two of the panels are at the Smithsonian.[6][not in citation given]

As representative of early Indian art[edit]

Relief of possible Indo-Greek, with flowing headband, tunic, and Buddhist triratana symbol on his sword. Bharhut, 2nd century BC. Indian Museum, Calcutta.[7]
Relief from Bharhut.

In conformity with the early aniconic phase of Buddhist art, the Buddha is only represented through symbols, such as the Dharma wheel, the Bodhi tree, an empty seat, footprints, or the triratana symbol.[6]

The style represents the earliest phase of Indian art, and all characters are depicted wearing the Indian dhoti, except for one foreigner thought to be an Indo-Greek soldier, with Buddhist symbolism.[8] The Bharhut carvings are slightly earlier than the Sanchi carvings and the earlier Ajanta frescos.

An unusual feature of the Bharhut panels is the inclusion of text in the narrative panels, often identifying the individuals.[9]


The inscriptions found at Bharhut are of considerable significance in tracing the history of early Indian Buddhism and Buddhist art. 136 inscriptions mention the donors. These include individuals from Vidisha, Purika (a town somewhere in the Vindhya mountains), Pataliputra (Bihar), Karhad (Maharashtra), Bhojakata (Vidarbha, eastern Maharashtra), Kosambi (Uttar Pradesh), and Nasik (Maharashtra). 82 inscriptions serve as labels for panels depicting the Jatakas, the life of the Buddha, former Manushi Buddhas, other stories and Yakshas and Yakshinis.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marshall, John (1918). "An Historical and Artistic Description of Sanchi (pp. 7-29)". A Guide to Sanchi. Calcutta: Superintendent, Government Printing. p. 11. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Bharhut Gallery". INC-ICOM Galleries. Indian National Committee of the International Council of Museums. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Cunningham, Sir Alexander (1879). The Stûpa of Bharhut: a Buddhist monument ornamented with numerous sculptures illustrative of Buddhist legend and history in the third century B.C. London: W. H. Allen. 
  4. ^ "General view of remains of Buddhist temple of later date than the Stupa, Bharhut". Online Gallery. British Library. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "Photograph of a slab with a Buddhist sanskrit inscription". Online Gallery. British Library. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "The Art of Buddhism". The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Smithsonian Institution. 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, John Boardman, 1993, p.112
  8. ^ "The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, John Boardman, 1993, p.112
  9. ^ a b Luders, H.; Waldschmidt, E.; Mehendale, M. A., eds. (1963). "Bharhut Inscriptions". Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum. II. Ootacamund: Archaeological Survey of India. 
  10. ^ D.N. Jha,"Early India: A Concise History"p.150, plate 17

External links[edit]