The Buddhist monuments at Sanchi are a UNESCO world heritage site, located in Madhya Pradesh. These monuments have been a depiction of Buddhist art right from the 3rd century BC. These Buddhist monuments consist of the Ashokan pillar, monasteries, stupas and temples. The Ashokan pillar has been carved out of a single rock.
Emperor Ashoka built these monuments in Sanchi because he liked the location of the hill close to which these monuments are set up, or it could have been because of his wife, Devi, whose father was a resident of Vidisha, close to Sanchi. Ashoka wanted to spread Buddhism all over India, so he redistributed Lord Buddha’s belongings. Ashoka therefore set up the Great stupa at Sanchi. Originally, this stupa was a short structure made out of bricks and its size was also much smaller. It was hemispherical in shape, had a wooden railing and an umbrella at the apex. The Great stupa provided the centre for the Buddhist monuments at Sanchi.
Many buildings were added to these monuments during the Sunga times. The Ashokan stupa was also made bigger by adding stones and by decorating it.
The Ahdhar-Satavahanas became prominent during the 1st century BC. They were instrumental in building a doorway for the Great stupa. Many interesting stories and miracles from Buddha’s life are carved onto this doorway. These events and miracles are from the Buddhist Jataka stories. It seems like the reconstruction of temple 40 and the construction of stupa 2 and 3 was carried out at this time.
During the 4th century AD Sanchi came under the rule of the Guptas. During this time the Guptas added some sculptures and temples to this Buddhist site. These temples and sculptures reflect the classical simplicity of the art during the Gupta period. The Guptas also added statues of Buddha sitting under canopies, facing the 4 entrances of the Great stupa. Many temples and sculptures were added to these Buddhist monuments during the 7th to 12th centuries. Thus Sanchi is a projection of the peaceful co-existence between the Hindus and Buddhist at that time. These monuments give us a peek into the past.
From the 14th century, Sanchi remained unexplored and deserted till General Taylor rediscovered it in 1818. In 1919, Sir Marshall set up an archaeological museum in Sanchi, which later transformed into the present museum there.
This Buddhist site is located 10 km away from Sanchi and is being further developed.