On a beautiful sunny day in December 2021on a official tour to Bhopal I could manage to visit The Great Stupa at Sanchi, India. The Great Stupa (also called stupa no. 1) was originally built in the 3rd century bce by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka and is believed to house ashes of the Buddha.
Stupa no.3 where relics of Buddha's two main disciple was found.
Stupa no 1
Sanchi, is a town located 49 kilometres from Bhopal, is famous throughout the world for its Buddhist stupas. These Buddhist monuments, dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 12th CE, are a place of great importance for Buddhist pilgrims only next to Bodhgaya in Bihar state of India.
The stupa as you can see is a dome shaped round structure and as per the tourist guide there is a chamber inside where the Buddha's relic was kept. Though now the relics are kept in the Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple, which is looked after by the Lankan Buddhist community at Sanchi. On a certain auspicious day they takeout the relics and perform the religious ceremonies, which is a major tourist attraction too it seems.
Lord Buddha inside the Sri Lankan Temple. Photography inside was prohibited, after requesting I could click two pics inside. It was beautiful, peaceful.
There are some 50 odd stupas scattered around. Small, big and half stupas. I enquired about the half stupas thinking it was incomplete but the guide told me the size and half finished stupa depicts about the stages of sort of intellectual accomplisments by the monks there.
A Greek style ruins of a conference hall.
The pillar of the gateways were exquisitely done with Jataka tales (Buddha's previous life). Lord Buddha is shown symbolically as an empty throne, feet, chhatra, stupas etc on the gate pillars with animals, people surrounding him. There were people with ringlet like hairs sort of paying respects. When I asked who they were, I was told they were the earliest Greek people who came to India and followed lord Buddha. Amazing stories, very alive natural looking mini sculpture work done on the gateway.
You get an idea about ancient Indian attire, hair style, jewelry etc going through all the stone art done by the craftsman. There was great influence of Greeks one can see actually.
The ancient monks living quarters.
The Great Stupa of Sanchi was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1989.
It's a beautiful place and need atleast more than one day to see everything. I could not explore the museum and other nearby Buddhist ancient places, maybe some day I will visit again.
Though Sanchi stupas is historically so important for Buddhist religion, lord Buddha never set his foot at Sanchi during his lifetime.
The ride from Bhopal is beautiful. Scenic and good straight road.