The axis connecting heaven and earth is said to run through this Madhya Pradesh town. What better introduction to the holy centre of Buddhism?
Though never visited by Buddha, Sanchi houses the Great Stupa which was commissioned by Emperor Asoka in the third century BC. 2,300 years old, it is the most ancient Indian stone structure still standing, and more than deserves the UNESCO World Heritage status. The gateways of the Great Stupa, also known as toranas, face the four cardinal directions, and are adorned with elaborately carved panels, which depict the many lives of the Buddha. The monolithic pillar and monastery were built during Ashoka’s reign and were embellished and added on to by successive rulers until the 12th century AD. The parikrama around the stupa is also said to improve one’s karma.
Ashoka’s son Mahendra is said to have visited his mother at the Sanchi monastery before leaving to preach in Sri Lanka, from where Buddhism spread across southeast Asia. Sanchi holds importance for more than religious reasons: It was the Sanchi inscriptions that enabled James Princep to unlock the ancient Brahmi script.
When you’re visiting, make time for the Archaeological Museum. It’s displays provide a great introduction to the sculptures at the stupas and the later Hindu additions. The display includes tools, architectural elements, and photographs of the excavation.
Watch the video to find out more.