Sanchi Town it is located 46 km north-east of Bhopal, in Raisen District of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Sanchi, variously known as Kakanaya, Kakanava, Kakanadabota and Bota-Sriparvata in ancient times, has a singular distinction of having remarkable specimen of Buddhist art and architecture right from the early Mauryan period (c. third century BC to twelfth century AD). Sanchi is famous in the world for stupas, monolithic Asokan pillar, temples, monasteries and sculptural wealth.
It was Emperor Asoka who laid the foundations of a religious centre at Sanchi fascinated probably by the location of the hill or because of his Queen Devi, who was the daughter of a merchant of Vidisha. He erected the Great Stupa (Stupa 1) here after redistribution of mortal remains of Lord Buddha for erecting several stupas all over the country in order to spread Buddhism. This stupa was originally a low structure of brick, half the diameter of the present edifice hemispherical in shape with raised terraces at the base. It was enclosed by a wooden railing and a stone umbrella at the top. This Great Stupa served as a nucleus to the large Buddhist establishment during the later period.
During Sunga times, several edifices were raised at Sanchi and its surrounding hills. The Asokan stupa was enlarged and faced with stones and decorated with balustrades, staircases and a harmika on the top. In the first century BC the Andhra-Satavahanas, who had extended their sway over the eastern Malwa, caused the elaborately carved gateways to Stupa 1. The Great Stupa of Sanchi displays an austere grandeur and the exquisite carvings of the doorway depict in detail the significant episodes and miracles from Lord Buddha’s life and events depicted in the Buddhist Jataka stories.
Stupa 2 on western slope stands at the very edge of the hill with a stone balustrade that rings it. The balustrade at the ground level has four L-shaped entrances. The decoration on the surrounding wall is simple but quite imaginative. Animals, flowers and human forms of some mythological people are the decorative motifs on the balustrade.
Standing northeast of the Great stupa, it has only one gateway and is believed to be constructed soon after the completion of the Great Stupa in the 2 century BC. It is also similar in design to the stupa 1 though similar in size. The hemispherical dome is crowned as a mark of its special religious significance with an umbrella of polished stone. The relics of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, two of the Buddha’s earliest disciples are found in innermost chamber.
A number of pillars and remains of pillars are scattered around the site, of these the Ashoka Pillar (Pillar 10) close to the South Gateway of the Great Stupa is one of the finest example of exquisite structural balance. Only the stump of the pillar now stands and its capital is exhibited in a museum here. The capital consisting of a bell-shaped unfolded lotus supports the forefronts of four lions seated back to back. It bears the imprint of the precision Mauryan art. Other notable pillar is the Vajrapani Pillar (Pillar 35) dating the sunga period, its capital can also be seen in the museum.
Among the many remains the Temple 18 (built in 7 century), south of the Great Stupa has 9 towering pillars with architraves which resemble classical Greek columned buildings. The Temple plan consists of an apse, a central nave and side-aisles. Beside this is a small Temple 17 which resembles the Buddhist cave temple of west India. This flat roofed rectangular temple built of stone slab has a sanctuary and a pillared portico. It is remarkable piece of Gupta architecture, noted for its symmetry, Another Temple worth a look is Temple 31, near stupa 5.
Temple and Monastery 45 in the Eastern Area show a more developed design of Hindu Temples dating to 7-8 century AD. The monastery is built around a courtyard with a ruined temple. This Temple with a flat roof contains a Buddha image in the sanctum and its ceiling is ornamented with a lotus, supported by pilasters. Graceful figures of Ganga and Jamuna adorn the base of the doorjambs. A narrow circumambulatory passage encloses the sanctum on three sides. There are images of Buddha in bhumisparsa-mudra and the dhyana-mudra. This area also has Monasteries 46 and 47, of which the 47 is larger and has pillared verandah. The Southern Area has remains of several monasteries including Monastery 36,37 and 38. Dating to the 7 century they are built on the usual monastic plan of a square courtyard surrounded by cells with a pillared verandah in front.
The Archaeological Survey of India maintains a site museum at Sanchi near the entrance of the monument. The objects exhibited belongs to six cultural periods- Maurya, Sunga, Satvhana, Kushana, Gupta and post Gupta periods. Antiquities on display include the lion capital of the Ashoka Pillar and metal objects used by the monks discovered during excavations at Sanchi. The other notable exhibits include the colonial image of Nagaraja, Dhyani Buddha( 4 Century) and Bodhisattva padmapani( 5 century).
Within the 20 km radius, Sanchi is surrounded by Buddhist settlements of Andher, Murelkhurd, Sonari and Satdhara. However reaching these four sites involves some trekking up and down the low lying hills as there are no good motorable roads to these sites. So it is advisable that one takes the service of an experienced guide.
10 Km from Vidisha , 46 Km from Bhopal.
July to March.