Sanchi

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Sanchi
Sanchi Stupa from Eastern gate, Madhya Pradesh.jpg
The Great Stupa at Sanchi
Sanchi is located in India
Sanchi
Sanchi is located in Madhya Pradesh
Sanchi
Sanchi
General information
Type Stupa and surrounding buildings
Architectural style Buddhist
Location Sanchi Town, Madhya Pradesh, India, Asia
Construction started 3rd century BCE
Height 16.46 m (54.0 ft) (dome of the Great Stupa)
Dimensions
Diameter 36.6 m (120 ft) (dome of the Great Stupa)
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Official name Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
Criteria Cultural: (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (vi) Edit this on Wikidata[1]
Reference 524
Inscription 1989 (13th Session)

Sanchi is a Buddhist complex, famous for its Great Stupa, on a hilltop at Sanchi Town in Raisen District of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is 46 kilometres (29 mi) north-east of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh. The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structure in India[2] and was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka 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 original construction work of this stupa was overseen by Ashoka, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant of nearby Vidisha. Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her and Ashoka's wedding. In the 1st century BCE, four elaborately carved toranas (ornamental gateways) and a balustrade encircling the entire structure were added. The Sanchi Stupa built during Mauryan period was made of bricks. The complex flourished until the 11th century.

Sanchi is the center of a region with a number of stupas including Satdhara (17 km from Sanchi, 40 stupas, the Relics of Sariputra and Mahamoggallana, now enshrined in the new Vihara, were unearthed there), Morel Khurd (on a fortified hilltop with 60 stupas), Andher (17 km NE of Vidisha), Mawas, Sonari etc. all within a few miles of Sanchi.[3] Sachin to Vidisha I

Maurya Period[edit]

Remains of a Pillar of Ashoka with four lions capital at Sanchi.

The 'Great Stupa' at Sanchi is the oldest structure and was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE.[4] Its nucleus was a hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha.[4][5] It was crowned by the chatra, a parasol-like structure symbolising high rank. The old stupa was later covered when it was expanded under the Shungas.

A pillar of finely polished sandstone was also erected on the side of the main Torana gateway. The bottom part of the pillar still stands. The upper parts of the pillar are at the nearby Sanchi Archaeological Museum. The pillar has an Ashokan inscription (Schism Edict)[6] and an inscription in the ornamental Sankha Lipi from the Gupta period.[4]

Shunga period[edit]

Constructions of the Shunga period: reinforcement of the stupa and balustrade.

On the basis of Ashokavadana, 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 Shunga emperor Pushyamitra Shunga 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.[7] The original brick stupa was covered with stone during the Shunga period.

During the later rule of the Shunga, 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 Shungas 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.

Satavahana period[edit]

Carved decoration of the Northern gateway to the Great Stupa of Sanchi. Torana Panels: Chhaddanta, Sujata's offering, Vessantara Jataka, East Columns: Shakra's visit, Royal procession, Bimbisara's visit, West Column: Foreigners, Monkeys, Kapilvastu.
Inscription of Satavahana Empire ruler Sri Satakarni on a relief of the Southern Gateway of Stupa No1. The inscription on the dome of the stupa in this relief reads: "Gift of Anamda, the son of Vasishthi, the foreman of the artisans of King Siri-Satakani"[8]

From the 1st century BCE, the gateways and the balustrade were built and colored, the work being apparently commissioned by the Satavahana.[4] The gateways and toranas are generally dated to the 1st century CE.[9]

The Siri-Satakani inscription records the gift of one of the top architraves of the Southern Gateway by the artisans of the Satavahana king Satakarni:

"L1: Rano Siri Satakarnisa
L2: avesanisa vasithiputasa
L3: Anamdasa danam"

"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 is true, then the dating of Sanchi gateway and balustrade belong to the much earlier period of 180-160 BCE, but the 1st century CE date is generally preferred.[9]

Satavahana decorations on a gateway at Sanchi. The Buddha is never directly represented, due to the early aniconism in Buddhism.

Material and carving technique[edit]

Although made of stone, the torana gateways were carved and constructed in the manner of wood and the gateways were covered with narrative sculptures. It has also been suggested that the stone reliefs were made by ivory carvers from nearby Vidisha, and an inscription on the Southern Gateway of the Great Stupa ("The Worship of the Bodhisattva's hair") was dedicated by the Guild of Ivory Carvers of Vidisha.[11][12] The inscription reads: 'Vedisehi dantakarehi rupadamam katam' meaning "The ivory-carvers from Vidisha have done the carving".[13] Some of the Begram ivories or the "Pompeii Lakshmi" give an indication of the kind of ivory works that could have influenced the carvings at Sanchi.

The reliefs show 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, due to aniconism in Buddhism. 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.

Main themes of the reliefs[edit]

Jatakas[edit]

Various Jatakas are illustrated. These are Buddhist moral tales relating edifying events of the former lives of the Buddha as he was still a Bodhisattva. Among the Jatakas being depicted are the Syama Jataka and the Mahakapi Jataka.

Miracles[edit]

Numerous miracles made by the Buddha are recorded. Among them:

Temptation of the Buddha[edit]

Numerous scene refer to the temptation of the Buddha, when he was confronted with the seductive daughters of Mara and with his army of demons. Having resisted the temptations of Mara, the Buddha finds enlightenement. Other similar scenes on the same subject:

Temptation of the Buddha, with the Buddha on the left (symbolized by his throne only) surrounded by rejoycing devotees, Mara and his daughters (center), and the demons of Mara fleeing (right).[16]

War over the Buddha's Relics[edit]

The southern gate of Stupa No1, thought to be oldest and main entrance to the stupa,[17] has several depictions of the story of the Buddha's relics, starting with the War over the Relics.

After the death of the Buddha, the Mallas of Kushinagar wanted to keep his ashes, but the other kingdoms also wanting their part went to war and besieged the city of Kushinagar. Finally, an agreement was reached, and the Buddha's cremation relics were divided among 8 royal families and his disciples.[18][19] This famous view shows warfare techniques at the time of the Satavahanas, as well as a view of the city of Kushinagar of the Mallas, which has been relied on for the understanding of ancient Indian cities.

Other narrative panels related to the War over the Buddha's Relics at Sanchi are:

War over the Buddha's Relics, kept by the city of Kushinagar, South Gate, Stupa no.1, Sanchi.[21]

Removal of the relics by Ashoka[edit]

According to Buddhist legend, a few centuries later, the relics would be removed from the eight guardian kingdoms by King Ashoka, and enshrined into 84,000 stupas.[22][19][23] Ashoka obtained the ashes from seven of the guardian kingdoms, but failed to take the ashes from the Nagas at Ramagrama who were too powerful, and were able to keep them. This scene is depicted in one of the transversal portions of the southern gateway of Stupa No1 at Sanchi. Ashoka is shown on the right in his charriot and his army, the stupa with the relics is in the center, and the Naga kings with their serpent hoods at the extreme left under the trees.[24]

King Ashoka visits Ramagrama, to take relics of the Buddha from the Nagas, but he failed, the Nagas being too powerful. Southern gateway, Stupa 1, Southern Gateway, Sanchi.

Building of the Bodh Gaya temple by Ashoka[edit]

Ashoka in grief, supported by his two queens, in a relief at Sanchi. Stupa 1, Southern gateway.
Bodhi tree temple depicted in Sanchi, Stupa 1, Southern gateway.

Ashoka went to Bodh Gaya to visit the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha had his enlightenment. However Ashoka was profoundly grieved when he discovered that the sacred pipal tree was not properly being taken care of and dying out due to the neglect of Queen Tyshyarakshita.[25]

As a consequence, Ashoka endeavoured to take care of the Bodhi Tree, and built a temple around it. This temple became the center of Bodh Gaya. A sculpture at Sanchi, southern gateway of Stupa No1, shows Ashoka in grief being supported by his two Queens. Then the relief above shows the Bodhi Tree prospering inside its new temple. Numerous other sculptures at Sanchi show scenes of devotion towards the Bodhi Tree, and the Bodhi Tree inside its temple at Bodh Gaya.[25]

Other versions of the relief depicting the temple for the Bodhi Tree are visible at Sanchi, such as the Temple for the Bodhi Tree (Eastern Gateway).

Foreign devotees[edit]

Foreign devotees and musicians on the Northern Gateway of Stupa I.
Foreign horseriders, Southern Gateway of Stupa 3.

Some of the friezes of Sanchi also show devotees in Greek attire. The men are depicted with short curly hair, often held together with a headband of the type commonly seen on Greek coins. The clothing too is Greek, complete with tunics, capes and sandals, typical of the Greek travelling costume. The musical instruments are also quite characteristic, such as the double flute called aulos. Also visible are carnyx-like horns. They are all celebrating at the entrance of the stupa. These men would be foreigners from north-west India visiting the Stupa, possibly Mallas (although known reliefs of the Mallas at Sanchi only show them with purely Indian dress, as in the Siege of the Mallas capital of Kusinagara), Sakas or Indo-Greeks .[26]

Three inscriptions are known from Yavana donors at Sanchi, the clearest of which reads "Setapathiyasa Yonasa danam" ("Gift of the Yona of Setapatha"), Setapatha being an uncertain city.[27]

Around 113 BCE, Heliodorus, an ambassador of the Indo-Greek ruler Antialcidas, is known to have dedicated a pillar, the Heliodorus pillar, around 5 miles from Sanchi, in the village of Vidisha.

Another rather similar foreigner is also depicted in Bharhut, the Bharhut Yavana, also wearing a tunic and a royal headband in the manner of a Greek king, and displaying a Budhist triratna on his sword.[28][29]

Aniconism[edit]

Aniconism in Miracle at Kapilavastu: King Suddhodana praying as his son the Buddha rises in the air, praised by celestial beings (but only his path is visible).[30]

In all these scenes, the Buddha is never represented, being absent altogether even from scenes of his life where he is playing a central role: in the Miracle of the Buddha walking on the river Nairanjana he is just represented by his path on the water;[31] in the Procession of king Suddhodana from Kapilavastu, he walks in the air at the end of the procession, but his presence is only suggested by people turning their heads upward.[32]

In one of the reliefs of the Miracle at Kapilavastu, King Suddhodana is seen praying as his son the Buddha rises in the air. The Buddha praised is praised by celestial beings, but only his path is visible in the form of a slab hanging in middle air, called a chankrama or "promenade".[33]

Otherwise, the presence of the Buddha is symbolized by an empty throne, as in the scene of Bimbisara with his royal cortege issuing from the city of Rajagriha to visit the Buddha.[34] Similar scenes would later appear in the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, but this time with representations of the Buddha. John Marshall detailed every panel in his seminal work "A Guide to Sanchi".[35]

The Gateways or Toranas[edit]

The gateways depict various scenes of the life of the Buddha, as well as events after his death, in particular the War of the Relics and the efforts of emperor Ashoka to spread the Buddhist faith.

Stupa 1 Southern Gateway[edit]

The Southern Gateway of Stupa No1 is thought to be oldest and main entrance to the stupa.[36] The narrative friezes of this gateway put great emphasis on the relics of the Buddha, and on the role of Ashoka in spreading the Buddhist faith.

Southern Gateway of "Great Stupa" No1, Sanchi
Sanchi (2).JPG The Southern Gateway of Stupa 1. The Southern Gateway of Stupa 1 is one of the four richly carved gateways or toranas, surrounding Stupa 1, the "Great Stupa". It is the main one as it was erected in front of the steps by which the terrace was ascended. The Southern Gateway was also the first to be erected. Then followed, in chronological order, the Northern, the Eastern and the Western, their succession in each case being demonstrated by the style of their carvings. It is probable, however, that not more than three or four decades intervened between the building of the Southern and Western gateways.

A few of the surfaces of the Southern Gateway are undecorated or lost. Like the other gateways, the Southern Gateway is composed of two square pillars surmounted by capitals, which in their turn support a superstructure of three architraves with volute ends.[37]

Architraves
013 King Asoka visits Ramagrama (33428090870).jpg

Front middle architrave

King Ashoka visits Ramagrama. King Ashoka visited Ramagrama, to take relics of the Buddha from the Nagas, but he failed, the Nagas being too powerful. The relics of the Buddha were originally divided into eight portions, and it is related that Asoka took seven of these portions, divided them up, and distributed them among 84,000 stupas, which he himself erected. He failed only to secure the relics of Ramagrama in the Nepal Tarai, in face of the resolute opposition of their devoted guardians, the Nagas.[38]

Here, in the centre of the architrave, is depicted a stupa, with an inscription on its dome recording that the architrave was the gift of one Balamitra, pupil of "Ayachuda (Arya-Kshudra), the preacher of the Law" Above the stupa are heavenly figures bearing garlands in their hands. To the right, the Emperor Asoka is approaching in his chariot, accompanied by a retinue of elephants, horsemen and footmen; and to the left, the Nagas and Nagis, in human form with serpent hoods, worshiping at the stupa, bringing offerings, or emerging from the waters of a lotus-pond. [38] On the projecting end of this architrave is an elephant in a lotus-pond with mahaut and females on its back, and a second female scrambling up behind; in the background, a pavilion with female figures looking out. To what particular incident this relief refers, is not known.[38]

022 Stupas and Bodhi Trees representing the Seven Buddhas (33772342726).jpg

Rear top architrave

The seven Buddhas: six Buddhas of the past and Gautama Buddha, with his Bodhi Tree at the extreme right.In the central section are three stupas alternating with four trees with thrones in front of them, adored by figures both human and divine. These represent the six Buddhas of the past (namely : Vipassi, Sikhi, Vessabhu, Kakusandha, Konagamana and Kaasapa) and Gautama Buddha. Three are symbolized by their stupas, and four by the trees under which each respectively attained enlightenment. The tree on the extreme right is the pipal tree of Gautama Buddha and the one next to it is the banyan tree of Kasyapa Buddha. The identification of the others is less certain. The inscription on the dome of the central stupa reads "L. 1. rano Siri Satakanisa/ L. 2. avesanisa vasithiputasa/ L. 3. Anamdasa danam" ("Gift of Anamda, the son of Vdsithi ( Vdsishthi ), the foreman of the artisans (avesanin) of rajan Siri-Satakani.[38] This inscription has been decisive in attributing the construction of the gateways to the time of the Satavahana Empire.

On each of the projecting ends of this lintel is a horse with attendants and royal umbrella, issuing from a city gate. Possibly it is Kanthaka, the horse of Gautama, when he was going forth from the city of Kapilavastu.[38]

War over the Buddha's Relics, South Gate, Stupa no. 1, Sanchi.jpg

Rear bottom architrave

War over the Buddha's Relics. This was the war which the chiefs of seven other clans waged against the Mallas of Kushinara for the possession of the Buddha's relics. In the centre of the architrave, the siege of Kushinara is in progress; to right and left, the victorious chiefs are departing in chariots and on elephants, with the relics borne on the heads of the latter.[38]

The scene is carried through on to the projecting ends of the architrave, and the seated elephants on the intervening false capitals are clearly intended to be part and parcel of the scene.[38] [39]

Pillar capitals
Left capital 018 Lions uphold the Pillar (33428081050).jpg The pillars of the Southern Gateway feature lions in the manner of the Pillars of Ashoka. They are the only pillar capitals of the Sanchi complex to do so.
Pillars
Left pillar, Front face
Top panel Ashoka with his two Queens visiting the Deer Park Sanchi Stupa 1 Southern Gateway.jpg Ashoka with his two Queens visiting the Deer Park. Sanchi Stupa 1 Southern Gateway. The motif of Ashoka with his Queens is repeated four times.[40]
2nd panel Procession of King Ashoka on his charriot Sanchi Stupa 1 Southern Gateway.jpg Procession of king Ashoka on his charriot.[41]
Left pillar, Inner face
Top panel Bodhi tree temple depicted in Sanchi Stupa 1 Southern gateway.jpg Bodhi tree temple of Bodh Gaya built by Ashoka.
2nd panel Sanchi King Ashoka with his Queens, South Gate, Stupa no. 1.jpg Ashoka in grief, supported by his two Queens, after seeing the poor state of preservation of the Bodhi Tree.
3rd panel Worship of the Bodhisattva's hair Sanchi Stupa 1 Southern Gateway.jpg Worship of the Bodhisattva's hair (the Buddha had cut his hair and removed his turban when renouncing princely life).[42] This particular relief was dedicated by the Guild of Ivory Carvers of Vidisha.[43]
Right pillar
Blank. All reliefs and inscriptions lost.

Stupa 1 Eastern Gateway[edit]

The Eastern Gateway describes historical events during the life of the Buddha, as well as several miracles performed by the Buddha.

Stupa 1 Western Gateway[edit]

Stupa 1 Northern Gateway[edit]

The Northern Gateway is the best preserved of all the gateways. The numerous panels relate various events of the life of the Buddha. Only one atypical panel (Right pillar, Inner face/ Top panel) shows Foreigners making a dedication at the Southern Gateway of Stupa No 1.

Northern Gateway of "Great Stupa" No1, Sanchi
North Gateway - Stupa 1 - Sanchi Hill 2013-02-21 4273.JPG The Northern Gateway of Stupa 1. The Northern Gateway of Stupa 1 is one of the four richly carved gateways or toranas, surrounding Stupa 1, the "Great Stupa". The Northern Gateway was the second to be erected. The first of the four to be erected was the one at the South Entrance, in front of the steps by which the terrace was ascended. Then followed, in chronological order, the Northern, the Eastern and the Western, their succession in each case being demonstrated by the style of their carvings. It is probable, however, that not more than three or four decades intervened between the building of the Southern and Western gateways.

The best preserved of all four gateways is the Northern one, which still retains most of its ornamental figures and gives a good idea of the original appearance of all the gateways. Like the other gateways, the Northern Gateway is composed of two square pillars surmounted by capitals, which in their turn support a superstructure of three architraves with volute ends.[37]

Architraves
Temptation of the Buddha with Mara and his daughters and the demons of Mara fleeing Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg

Rear central architrave

Temptation of the Buddha with Mara and his daughters, and the demons of Mara fleeing. Towards the left end of the panel is the pipal tree at Bodh Gaya with an umbrella and streamers above, and, in front, the diamond throne of the Buddha, whereon he sat when he withstood the temptations and threats of Mara, the Satan of Buddhism, and when he attained to Buddhahood. Human and celestial beings are adoring it. The figure to the left of it is perhaps Sujata, bringing the meal which she

prepared for Gautama before he began his last meditation prior to his enlightenment. Near the middle of the panel is Mara, seated on a throne with attendants around, and advancing from him towards the throne are his daughters, who sought by their blandishments to seduce Gautama from his purpose. On his other side, i.e., in the right half of the panel, are the hosts of Mara's demons, personifying the vices, the passions and the fears of mankind. The vigor and humor with which these fantastic beings are portrayed is very striking, and far more forceful than anything of the kind produced by the artists of the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara.[53]

Pillar capitals
Left capital Elephants on North Torana, Sanchi.jpg Elephants facing the four directions decorate the top of the gateway pillars and support the architraves. The capitals are flanked by a dancing Yakshini under some foliage.
Pillars
Left pillar, External face
Full length Left side Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg The external side of the left pillar (facing the east) doesn't have narrative reliefs, but only displays Buddhist symbols as well as intricate vegetal designs. The external face is separated vertically in three bands, the central band consisting in a superposition of numerous flame palmettes (nine in total), and the two external bands consisting in a superposition of hooks holdings garlands. The bottom of the pillar face has two footprints of the Buddha with a wheel of the Law on their sole. The pillar face is crowned by a decorated Shrivatsa symbol.[54]
Left pillar, Front face
Top panel Great Miracle at Savrasti (also called Miracle of the Mango Tree) Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Great Miracle at Sravasti (also called Mango Tree Miracle, when the Buddha walks in the air). In the center, a mango tree with the throne of the Buddha in front. Round the Buddha is a circle of his followers bringing garlands to the tree or in attitudes of adoration. It was beneath a mango tree that, according to the Pali texts, Buddha performed the great miracle at Sravasti, when he walked in the air, and flames broke from his feet and streams of water from his head. But here there is no definite indication of the miracle. [54]
2nd panel Jetavana of Sravasti Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Jetavana of Sravasti, showing the three preferred residences of the Buddha. The Jetavana at Sravasti, showing the three favourite residences of the Buddha: the Gandhakuti, the Kosambakuti and the Karorikuti, with the throne of the Buddha in the front of each. The Jetavana garden was presented to the Buddha by the rich banker Anathapindika, who purchased it for as many gold pieces as would cover the surface of the ground. Hence, the foreground of the relief is shown covered with ancient Indian coins ( karshapanas ), just as it is in the similar relief at Bharhut, where the details of the coins are more in evidence.[54]
3rd panel Aerial promenade of the Buddha Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Aerial promenade of the Buddha. Presumably, the long band on top of the heads of devotees is the promenade the Buddha is walking on. The long open pavilion (mandapa) calls to mind the one at Sravasti, which is portrayed in the Bharhut relief.[54]
4th panel Procession of Prasenajit of Kosala leaving Sravasti to meet the Buddha.jpg Procession of King Prasenajit of Kosala leaving Sravasti to meet the Buddha. A royal procession issuing from a city gate, probably Prasenajit of Kosala going forth from Sravasti to meet the Buddha.[54]
5th panel Paradise of Indra (nandana) Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern gateway.jpg Paradise of Indra (nandana). The meaning of this scene, which is analogous to several others on the gateways, is not clear. Perhaps, like the scene on the gateways of

Stupa No3, it may represent the Paradise of Indra (nandana), where pleasure and passion held sway.[54]

Left pillar, Inner face
Top panel Visit of Indra to the Buddha in the Indrasaila cave near Rajagriha Sanchi Stupa 1Northern Gateway.jpg Visit of Indra to the Buddha in the Indrasaila cave near Rajagriha. In the upper part of the panel is an artificial cave resembling in its facade many Buddhist shrines cut from the rocks of Western and Central India. In front of the door is the throne which marks the presence of the Buddha. The animals peering out from among the rocks serve to indicate the wildness of the spot. Below is the company of Indra in attitudes of worship, but which of these figures represents Indra and which his musician Panchasikha who accompanied him, it is not possible to determine.[54]
2nd panel Royal cortege leaving Rajagriha.jpg Royal cortege leaving Rajagriha. A king and his royal cortege issuing from a city. As the panel on this side of the pillar relates particularly to Rajagriha, it is probable that the King is either Bimbisara or Ajatasatru, on a visit to the Buddha at the Gridhrakuta Hill, and that the city is Rajagriha.[54]
3rd panel Bamboo garden (Venuvana) at Rajagriha, the visit of Bimbisara.jpg Bamboo garden (Venuvana) at Rajagriha, the visit of Bimbisara. The Bamboo garden (Venuvana ) at Rajagriha, with the throne of the Buddha in the center and devotees around. The identity of the spot is indicated by the bamboos on either side of the panel.[54] This event refers to a visit of King Bimbisara to the Buddha.[54]
4th panel Dvarapala Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Dvarapala guardian deity. Positioned as it is, in the inside panel of the gateway, the deity guards the left side of the entrance to the stupa. This Dvarapala is faced by another one on the right side.
Right pillar, Inner face
Top panel Foreigners making a dedication to Stupa 1at the Northern Gateway of Stupa 1 Sanchi.jpg Foreigners making a dedication to Southern Gateway of the Great Stupa. Probably the dedication of a stupa, but it might also refer to the death (parinirvana) of the Buddha. Among the crowds who are celebrating the occasion with music and dancing, some are wearing dresses and high boots suggestive of a cold climate. The individual and realistic features of the people can also be noticed.[55] The official notice at Sanchi reads "Foreigners worshiping Stupa". These have been called "Greek-looking foreigners"[56] wearing Greek clothing complete with tunics, capes and sandals, typical of the Greek travelling costume,[57] and using Greek and Central Asian musical instruments ( the double flute aulos, or the carnyx-like Cornu horns), possibly pointing to the Indo-Greeks. Another rather similar foreigner is also depicted in Bharhut, the Bharhut Yavana, also wearing a tunic and a royal headband in the manner of a Greek king, and displaying a Budhist triratna on his sword.[58][59] The top of the panel show celestial divinities celebrating the dedication of the Stupa.
2nd panel Offering of a bowl of honey to the Blessed One by a monkey Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Offering of a bowl of honey to the Blessed One by a monkey. The offering of a bowl of honey to the Blessed One by a monkey. The Buddha is here represented by his pipal tree and throne, to which devotees are doing obeisance. The figure of the monkey is twice repeated, first with the bowl and then with empty hands after the gift has been made. The incident is portrayed in much the same way on the reliefs of the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara.[55]
3rd panel Miracle at Kapilavastu Suddhodana praying as his son the Buddha rises in the air with only path visible Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Miracle at Kapilavastu. Suddhodana praying as his son the Buddha rises in the air, praised by celestial beings (only his path is visible). This panel is to be interpreted in conjunction with the corresponding panel adjoining it on the front face of the same pillar. When Buddha returned to his native city of Kapilavastu, his father Suddhodana came forth with a royal retinue to meet him, and a question of etiquette arose as to which should salute the other first: the father, who was king, or the son, who had become the Buddha. Thereupon the Buddha solved the difficulty by walking miraculously in mid-air. Here, in the panel on the inner face, we see a banyan tree, and, in front of it, the throne symbolizing the Buddha; while suspended in the air above it is the chahkrama or promenade on which the Buddha used to take his exercise and which here symbolises that he is walking in the air. Above it are celestial beings (yandharvas) with garlands in their hands. To the right of the tree is King Suddhodana with attendants, one of whom is holding the royal umbrella. The reason for the banyan tree (Ficus Indica, Skr : nyagrodha) is that King Suddhodana presented a park of banyan trees to his son on his return, and the tree, therefore, helps to localize the incident. In the corresponding scene on the front face the Buddha is probably represented in this park with disciples (but invisible due to aniconism) and followers around him.[55]
4th panel Dvarapala Sanchi Stupa 1Northern Gateway right pillar.jpg Dvarapala guardian deity. Positioned as it is, in the inside panel of the gateway, the deity guards the right side of the entrance to the stupa. This Dvarapala is faced by another one on the left side.
Right pillar, Front face
Top panel Descent of the Buddha from the Trayastrimsa Heaven Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Descent of the Buddha from the Trayastrimsa Heaven at Sankissa. The descent of the Buddha from the Trayastrimsa Heaven , where Maya, his mother, had been reborn and whither he himself ascended to preach the Law to her. This miracle is supposed to have taken place at Sankissa (Sankasya). In the center of the relief is the miraculous ladder by which the Buddha descended, attended by Brahma and Indra. At the top of the ladder is the tree and throne of the Buddha with the gods on either side in an attitude of adoration. Other devas attend on him as he descends, among whom the one to the right of the ladder holding a chauri and lotus may be Brahma. At the foot of the ladder the tree and throne are repeated with a trio of devotees on either side, indicating that the Buddha has returned again to earth.[60]
2nd panel Departure of the Buddha from Kapilavastu Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gate.jpg The Great Departure of the Buddha from Kapilavastu. A royal figure in a chariot drives forth from a city gate, with a horse in front. The scene is analogous to the scene of Buddha's departure from Kapilavastu on the East Gateway, but in that case there is no chariot, and in this case there is no umbrella above the horse to indicate the presence of the Buddha. However, a royal umbrella being held over an empty spot in the chariot would suggest the presence of the Buddha. The figure standing at its side with a water-pot (bhrihgara) in his hand indicates that a gift is being made. Altenatively, it could be King Suddhodana going forth from Kapilavastu to meet his son, the Buddha, on the occasion when he presented him with a park of mango trees.[60]
3rd panel Teaching the Sakyans Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Teaching the Sakyans: This panel may represent the Buddha teaching the Sakyans. It can also be interpreted in relation to the panel of the Miracle at Kapilavastu on the same pillar (Right pillar, Inner face,3rd panel). When Buddha returned to his native city of Kapilavastu, his father Suddhodana came forth with a royal retinue to meet him, and the Buddha performed his Miracle of the Walk in the Air. In this scene, on the front face of the pillar, the Buddha is probably represented in this very park with disciples and followers around him.[60]
4th panel Broken scene Sanchi Stupa 1 Northern Gateway.jpg Unidentified broken scene.

Later periods[edit]

Temple 17 at Sanchi: a Gupta period tetrastyle prostyle temple of Classical appearance, an example of Buddhist architecture. 5th century CE[61]
Temple 18 at Sanchi, an apsidal hall with Maurya foundations, rebuilt at the time of Harsha.

Further stupas and other religious Buddhist structures were added over the centuries until the 12th century AD. Temple 17 is probably one of the earliest Buddhist temples as it dates to the early Gupta period (5th century CE). 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 the mid to late 9th century.[62] Another point to be noted that at that 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 were left undisturbed and were in a good condition.

Western rediscovery[edit]

A Gate to the Stupa of Sanchi 1932
Mapping of the Great Stupa with measurements.

General Taylor who was a British officer in 1818, was the first known Western historian to document (in English) the existence of Sanchi Stupa. 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.[63]

Today, around fifty monuments remain on the hill of Sanchi, including three main stupas and several temples. The monuments have been listed among other famous monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1989.

Chetiyagiri Vihara and the Sacred Relics[edit]

Chetiyagiri Vihara

The bone relics (asthi avashesh) of Buddhist Masters along with the reliquaries, obtained by Maisey and Cunningham were divided and taken by them to England as personal trophies.[64] Maisey's family sold the objects to Victoria and Albert Museum where they stayed for a long time. The Buddhists in England, Sri Lanka and India, led by the Mahabodhi Society demanded that they be returned. Some of the relics of Sariputta and Moggallana were sent back to Sri Lanka, where they were publicly displayed in 1947.[65] It was such a grand event where the entire population of Sri Lanka came to visit them. However, they were later returned to India. But a new temple Chetiyagiri Vihara was constructed to house the relics, in 1952.[66] In a nationalistic sense, this marked the formal reestablishment of the Buddhist tradition in India. Some of the relics were obtained by Burma.[67]

Inscriptions[edit]

The last two letters to the right of this inscription in Brahmi form the word "dǎnam" (donation). This hypothesis permitted the decipherment of the Brahmi script by James Prinsep in 1837.

Sanchi, especially 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,.[68][69]

An analysis of the donation records [70] 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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/524.
  2. ^ Buddhist Art Frontline Magazine May 13–26, 1989
  3. ^ Buddhist Landscapes in Central India: Sanchi Hill and Archaeologies of Religious and Social Change, c. Third Century BC to Fifth Century AD, Julia Shaw, Routledge, Aug 12, 2016
  4. ^ a b c d World Heritage Monuments and Related Edifices in India, Volume 1 p.50 by Alī Jāvīd,Tabassum Javeed, Algora Publishing, New York [1]
  5. ^ The Butkara Stupa is an example of such an hemispherical stupa structure from the Maurya period, that was extensively documented through archaeological work
  6. ^ Buddhist Architecture by Huu Phuoc Le, 2010, p.155 [2]
  7. ^ "Who was responsible for the wanton destruction of the original brick stupa of Ashoka 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 Shunga kings (184-148 BC), 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).
  8. ^ "Rano Siri Satakanisa/ avesanisa vasithiputasa/ Anamdasa danam" Marshall p.48
  9. ^ a b Ornament in Indian Architecture, Margaret Prosser Allen, University of Delaware Press, 1991, p.18 [3]
  10. ^ John Marshall, "A guide to Sanchi", p.48
  11. ^ World Heritage Monuments and Related Edifices in India, Volume 1 by Alī Jāvīd, Tabassum Javeed, Algora Publishing, 2008p.51
  12. ^ In the Realm of Gods and Kings by Andrew Topsfield, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2014 p.250
  13. ^ Indian and Foreign Review - Volume 23 - Page 58, 1985
  14. ^ Marshall p.65
  15. ^ Marshall p.71
  16. ^ Marshall p.55
  17. ^ [A Guide To Sanchi, Marshall, John, 1918 https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.35740 p.37]
  18. ^ Lopez Jr., Donald S. "The Buddha's relics". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  19. ^ a b Strong 2007, pp. 136–37.
  20. ^ Marshall p.68-69
  21. ^ Asiatic Mythology by J. Hackin p.83ff
  22. ^ Lopez Jr., Donald S. "The Buddha's relics". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  23. ^ Asoka and the Buddha-Relics, T.W. Rhys Davids, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1901, pp. 397-410 [4]
  24. ^ Asiatic Mythology by J. Hackin p.84
  25. ^ a b Ashoka in Ancient India Nayanjot Lahiri, Harvard University Press, 2015 p.296
  26. ^ "A guide to Sanchi" John Marshall. These "Greek-looking foreigners" are also described in Susan Huntington, "The art of ancient India", p. 100
  27. ^ The Idea of Ancient India: Essays on Religion, Politics, and Archaeology, Sage Publications India, Upinder Singh, 2016 p.18
  28. ^ Faces of Power: Alexander's Image and Hellenistic Politics by Andrew Stewart p.180
  29. ^ "The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, John Boardman, 1993, p.112
  30. ^ Marshall p.58 Third Panel
  31. ^ Marshall p.64
  32. ^ Marshall p.64
  33. ^ Marshall p.58 Third Panel
  34. ^ A Guide to Sanchi, Marshall p.65
  35. ^ A Guide to Sanchi, John Marshall [5]
  36. ^ A Guide To Sanchi, Marshall, John, 1918 p.37
  37. ^ a b John Marshall, A Guide to Sanchi, 1918 p.37ff (Public Domain text)
  38. ^ a b c d e f g John Marshall, A Guide to Sanchi, 1918 p.46ff (Public Domain text)
  39. ^ Asiatic Mythology by J. Hackin p.83ff
  40. ^ A Guide to Sanchi, John Marshall p.50
  41. ^ A Guide to Sanchi, John Marshall p.50
  42. ^ Marshall p.51
  43. ^ World Heritage Monuments and Related Edifices in India, Volume 1 by Alī Jāvīd, Tabassum Javeed, Algora Publishing, 2008p.51
  44. ^ A Guide to Sanchi, Marshall p.65
  45. ^ Marshall p.64
  46. ^ Marshall p.65
  47. ^ Marshall p.68-69
  48. ^ Marshall p.71
  49. ^ Marshall p.73
  50. ^ Marshall p.73
  51. ^ Marshall p.70
  52. ^ Marshall [6]
  53. ^ Marshall p.55ff Public Domain text
  54. ^ a b c d e f g h i j John Marshall, A Guide to Sanchi, 1918 p.58ff (Public Domain text)
  55. ^ a b c John Marshall, A Guide to Sanchi, 1918 p.57ff (Public Domain text)
  56. ^ Susan Huntington, "The art of ancient India", p. 100
  57. ^ "The Greeks evidently introduced the himation and the chiton seen in the terracottas from Taxila and the short kilt worn by the soldier on the Sanchi relief." in Foreign influence on Indian culture: from c. 600 B.C. to 320 A.D., Manjari Ukil Originals, 2006, p.162
  58. ^ Faces of Power: Alexander's Image and Hellenistic Politics by Andrew Stewart p.180
  59. ^ "The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, John Boardman, 1993, p.112
  60. ^ a b c Marshall p.56
  61. ^ 2500 Years of Buddhism by P.V. Bapat, p.283
  62. ^ Reconstructing a Latina Temple Spire: Temple 45, Sanchi, Dissertation submitted to Cardiff University, Fiona Buckee, 2010
  63. ^ 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.
  64. ^ Brekke, Torkel, Bones of Contention: Buddhist Relics, Nationalism and the Politics of Archaeology, Numen, Volume 54, Number 3, 2007 , pp. 270-303(34)
  65. ^ Ceylon Allowed To Keep Sanchi Relics Till May 8, Indian Express – Apr 28, 1947.
  66. ^ BUDDHA DISCIPLES WILL BE REBURIED; Relics of Followers of Ancient Leader to Be Reinterred at Rites in India Saturday, THE NEW YORK TIMES, November 25, 1952
  67. ^ Sariputta and Moggallana in the Golden Land: The Relics of the Buddha's Chief Disciples at the Kaba Aye Pagoda, Jack Daulton, Journal of Burma Studies, Volume 4, 1999 pp. 101-128
  68. ^ Indian Epigraphy : A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages, Richard Salomon, Oxford University Press, 1998
  69. ^ Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor, Charles Allen, Little, Brown Book Group Limited, 2012
  70. ^ A study of inscribed reliefs within the context of donative inscriptions at Sanchi, Author: Milligan, Matthew David, Thesis, p.77

Literature[edit]

  • 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

External links[edit]