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Sanchi Tourism and Travel Guide

History of Sanchi

Sanchi is one of the famous pilgrimage centers for the Buddhist pilgrims. There are a number of reputed Buddhist centers in easternSanchi India and Nepal, but no other place boasts of a direct connection with the life of Lord Buddha, as Sanchi. If you are planning a tout to Sanchi, then it will help you immensely to know about the history of Sanchi.

Sanchi’s importance as a major pilgrimage center began to increase from the time when Ashoka the Mauryan Emperor tied the knot with a woman from Besnagar, a place situated close by. Ashoka then went on to construct a glazed stone pillar and a stupa built of brick and mortar. These constructions were a significant landmark in the history of Sanchi. They can be traced back to the 3rd century BC. The complex was refurbished and additions and alterations were made by the successive dynasties, but the waning of Buddhism brought in its wake the decline of Sanchi that lay abandoned for a considerable time, till it was brought to life in the year 1818 by General Taylor of the Bengali cavalry.

On flipping through the pages of the history of Sanchi, you would stumble upon a lot of interesting information on the historical background of Sanchi that would have otherwise remained under covers. Restoration activity in Sanchi gained a fillip during the 20th century which saw the reconstruction of the chief stupas. However the major restoration work was undertaken by archaeologist John Marshall and the Buddhist scholar Albert Foucher in 1912. Beautiful parks and museums also came up. Due to its strong association with Buddhism and the life of Lord Buddha, Sanchi was ascribed the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Buddhist pilgrimage site of Sanchi is a renowned destination in India. Lots of tourists who share interest in the origin and development of Buddhism in India find Sanchi a perfect destination.

But there is not much opportunity for shopping in Sanchi. In fact the little village that houses the remnants of ancient Stupas, Chaityas and Viharas, is not a typical shopping destination. Although the area draws a lot of tourists, very few go for shopping in Sanchi.

The nearest city from Sanchi is Bhopal, which is the capital city of Madhya Pradesh and a modern city. The region has a rich heritage of handicrafts that has earned worldwide renown.

Muslin is a traditional craft in Bhopal. The ace craftsmen of Bhopal weave some finest qualities of muslin, which are hot favorite with those who go for shopping in Bhopal. You may also choose to pick up the exquisite Zardozis, embroidered Indian garments, leather works and Jutis (shoes) while shopping in Bhopal.

There several numbers of shopping joints and bazaars in Bhopal that substitutes for the lack of shopping opportunity in Sanchi.

Some favorite shopping hotspots are the Chowk and the new market. There are numerous private shops as well as outlets of Mriganayani, the Government emporium.

Buddhist Monuments near Sanchi

Monuments. By on October 28, 2006

Sanchi Sanchi is the best place to head for those seeking beauty, spirituality, history and romance all rolled in one. Situated forty-six kilometers from Bhopal in central India, it sits upon a hill, and is a mute witness to a glorious era of Buddhism in India spanning its efflorescence to its decadence. It houses the best example of Buddhist art and architecture anywhere in the world and attracts common pilgrims as well as art aficionados from the world over.

Sanchi History

Sanchi is the location of several Buddhist monuments dating back to the 3rd century B.C. to the 13th century AD. The monuments include temples, stupas, pillars, and monasteries. Stupas are large hemispherical domes with central chambers where relics of The Buddha are placed. The Stupa is imbued with symbolic value. Its history starts with the great Emperor Ashoka Priyadasi who chose to build this complex in Sanchi after becoming a Buddhist convert.

Sanchi was a quiet meditative place near the prosperous town of Vidisa. The monks from Sanchi could fulfill their religious duty of begging easily due to this proximity. Also, only the rich mercantile community of Vidisa could finance the scale of beautiful monuments in Sanchi.

There is also a romantic tale associated with Sanchi. Emperor Asoka was approached by the merchants of Vidisa, who asked for the the land of Sanchi to be converted to a Buddhist center. Asoka agreed, and became actively involved in the project. During this period he fell in love with, and married, the daughter of a merchant. It is believed that she refused to move to Pataliputra, the Mauryan capital and instead drew the Emperor closer to Sanchi and Buddhism. In fact two of their children, Mahendra and Sanghamitra, are famous for spreading Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

History of the Buddhist Monuments

Asoka became one of the most famous Buddhist rulers of India. It is during his time that Buddhism became the predominant religion of India. He is especially connected to Sanchi for building several Stupas, pillars and sanctuaries. The foundation at Sanchi was laid when he erected Stupa One along with a monolithic pillar at that site. Asoka built a total of eight Stupas on the hilltop of Sanchi including Stupa One.

The Sunga Dynasty ruled central and eastern India after the fall of the Mauryan Empire. Several edifices were raised in Sanchi during the Sunga times. The Asokan Stupa was enlarged and faced with stones and decorated with balustrades, a staircase and a Harmika or parasol on top. Stupas Three and Four were also erected around the same time, as well as renovation of Temple Forty.

In the 1st century BC, the Andhra Sathavahanas who reached till Malwa, added to the elaborate carvings of the gateways to Stupa One. From 2nd to the 4th century AD, Sanchi and Vidisa came under the rule of the Kushanas and Kshatrapas and thereafter passed into the hands of the Gupta rule. The Guptas were responsible for construction of temples and sculptures, a far cry from the symbolism of the early Sanchi architecture.

After the 12th century, Sanchi and Buddhism in general went into decline faced with the revival of Hinduism in India and the Muslim invasions of Northern India. The site, which lay in dilapidated condition, mauled by invaders and looters, was discovered only much later in 1818 by a British Officer General Taylor and reconstructed to its former state by Sir John Marshall, who also known for his work on the Indus valley civllization, in 1919. Today it is a World Heritage site marked by UNESCO.

Some of the important monuments at the site are as follows: The Stupa The Stupa One or the Great Stupa is the most famous monument at Sanchi. It is the most characteristic Buddhist monument in India. Originally, Stupas were mounds housing the relics of The Buddha and his followers. The Buddha was represented through certain symbols: a lotus representing his birth, a tree symbolizing his enlightenment, and a wheel representing his Nirvana or salvation. The Stupa became a symbol of the Buddha’s final release or Parinirvana. The Stupa is also a cosmic symbol – the hemispheric world egg being covered by flat surface heaven. The ritual circumbalatory path around the monument adds to the cosmic symbolism.

The Greatb Stupa is surrounded by a railing with four gateways covering the four directions. Asoka commissioned it in the 3rd century BC. It is a semi-hemispheric dome housing the relics of The Buddha. It was rebuilt in the 1st century BC One of the notable features is that there are no images of The Buddha in human form. But there are stylized depictions of nature, birds, trees, flowers and vines in exquisite detail. It reveals the sculptor’s love of nature. The most common symbol is the lotus – of special value to the Buddhists as the model of a beauty arising from the dirt or mud of life. There are also male and female spirits depicted along with luscious fruits and flowering plants all symbolizing fertility.

Some of the later additions to the Great Stupa were the elaborately carved four gateways or Toranas. The gateways were erected in the order – South, North, East and West. Each of these gateways has pictures from The Buddha’s life carved on them in exquisite detail. Stupas Two and Three are simpler versions of the Great Stupa.

The last additions were during the Gupta rule, around 450 AD when effigies of The Buddha were permitted and four stone Buddha’s were placed against the walls of the Stupa One near the gate. The Gupta period is known to have ushered in a new epoch in temple architecture in India. Temple 17 stands as testimony to their finesse in architecture.

The Asoka Pillar The next attraction is the Asoka Pillar. It is one of the several pillars scattered around that area; some broken, some in order. It has a crown of the famous four lions standing back to back. This has been adopted as the national emblem of India. The Asoka pillar is an excellent symbol of Greco-Roman art.

Ticket Prices and Best Time to Visit

It is accepted that the structures at Sanchi are some of the best-known specimens of art and architecture in the world. Their construction techniques are on par with the best in the classical and medieval world. Sanchi, with its evocative Stupas, pillars, and temples, is surely one of the most attractive Buddhist sites in India. It is open on all days from sunrise to Sunset. For Indians above 15 years it is Rs 10 per head and for others above 15 years, US $5 or Rs 250 per head. Entry is free on Friday. Best time to visit would be November to February.


Air: Nearest airport is at Bhopal (46 km via Diwanganj and 78 km via Raisen) which is connected with Delhi, Mumbai,Gwalior and Indore.

Rail: Sanchi lies on the Jhansi-Itarsi section of the Central railways. However, the most convenient railhead is Vidisha.(10 km)

Road: Good, motorable roads connect Sanchi with Bhopal, Indore Sagar, Gwalior, Vidisha and Raisen, besides other places.

Best season: October to March.

Hotels In Sanchi

Grand Imperial