The Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The magnificent relics dedicated to Buddhist faith were rediscovered in ruins but its glory still shines through. Located in the North of Bhopal, on a small hilltop are some of the oldest and most interesting Buddhist sites in India.
History tells that when Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhism in 250 BC, he erected the Great Stupa here after redistribution of mortal remains of Lord Buddha for erecting several stupas all over the country in order to spread Buddhism. He built his first “stupa” at Sanchi and later several more, as well as other religious structures. These monolithic monuments were engraved with edicts and teachings of Lord Buddha. This Great Stupa served as a nucleus to the large Buddhist establishment during the later period.
Some centuries later, when Buddhism was slowly absorbed into Hinduism, the site was forgotten and not rediscovered. Since the fourteenth century Sanchi remained deserted and uncared for till 1818 when General Taylor rediscovered the site. Sir John Marshall established an archaeological museum in 1919, which was later transformed into the present site museum at Sanchi. Presently under an UNESCO project Sanchi and Satdhara, a Buddhist site, 10 km south-east of Sanchi, is being further excavated, conserved and environmentally developed.
What to See
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi are Stupas, monolithic Asokan pillar, temples, monasteries and sculptural wealth. There are a number of other Buddhist monuments at this sanctuary. Lush gardens surround the stupa. One can plan for a family picnic and spending quality time there. The surroundings are clean and well maintained.
The Stupas: Sanchi is home to numerous stupas. Built on the top of a hill, these stupas contains relics, mostly of the Buddha's disciples. The Great Stupa is the principal monument.
The Four Gateways: The four gateways, constructed in 35 BCE, are considered as the best Buddhist expression in the world. These gateways are covered with wonderful architectural carvings and depict the stories related to Buddha's life.
The Ashoka Pillar: The Ashoka pillar, which contains of four lions like that of Sarnath, is found in Sanchi as well. An excellent example of the Greco-Buddhist style, the pillar is also known for its exquisite construction and perfect structural balance.
The Sanchi Museum: The Sanchi museum, which is run under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India, houses the Ashoka pillar along with other items found from areas of Sanchi such as utensils and other items used by the monks at Sanchi.
How to Reach
By Air: To reach Sanchi by air, Bhopal is the destination to be reached. Bhopal has a domestic airport named Raja Bhoj Airport, and here you can find regular flights to various parts of the country. Sanchi lies 55 kilometers. From the airport regular taxis ply on the route covering the journey in an hour and half.
By Rail: The nearest railhead from Sanchi is located in Bhopal. It is an important junction of the West Central Railways. Various express trains and daily shuttles ply between Bhopal and important cities in the country. One can reach avail a bus or car from the railway station for reaching Sanchi.
By Road: Travelling to Sanchi by road is very convenient. The road networks that link the city to important landmarks in and around Madhya Pradesh are well laid. There are regular tourist buses (deluxe/ non deluxe) that ply on the route. Various tour operators also provide private taxis and cabs.