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The Grand Stupa built by Ashoka at Sanchi is focal point of a 91 –meter-high turf covered and tree-dotted hill and marks an important stage in the evolution of Indian architecture. The great Stupa is 36.5 meters in diameter and rises almost 16.5 meters high.A balustrade encircles the entire structure and provides incarnations as Bodhisattva have provided the principal inspiration for the artistes.
The intricately carved gateways hold the greatest fascination for visitors. Gateways, the four ornamented (torans) built at the cardinal points in front of the entrances were erected around 3.5 B.C by the Satvahana ruler, Satkarni. Each torans consists of two upright pillars nearly 34 feet high. The two richly carved pillars, rise to be crowned by carved lions-the famous Ashoka Lions, now the official seal of India –elephants and dwarfs.
What to see in Sanchi :
Great Sanchi Stupa No. 1 : The oldest stone structure in India, 36.5 m in diameter and 16.4 m high, and with a enormous hemispherical dome, the Stupa stands in perpetual splendor, the paved procession path around it worm smooth by centuries of pilgrims.
The Buddha, according to the tenets of early Buddhist art, is portrayed in symbols : The lotus representing his built, the tree his enlightenment, the wheel, derived from the title of his first sermon, the foot prints and throne symbolizing his presence. These have been carved with such inspired intensity and imagery that taken together with the surrounding figures, they are considered the finest of all Buddhist toranas, and counter-balance the massive solidity of the stupa they encircle.
Sanchi Stupa No. 2 : This Stupa stands at the very edge of the hill and its most striking feature is the stone balustrade that rings it.
Sanchi Stupa No. 3 : Situated close to the Great Stupa. The hemispherical dome is crowned, as a mark of its special religious siginificance, with an umbrella of polished stone. The relics of Sariputta and Mahamogallena, two of the Buddha’s earliest disciples, were found in its inmost chamber.
The Great Bowl : Carved out of a single block of stone, this mammoth bowl contained the food that was distributed among the monks of Sanchi.
The Gupta temple at Sanchi : This 5th century AD temple is one of the earliest known examples of temple architecture in India.
The Museum at Sanchi : The archeological survey of India maintains a site museum at Sanchi. Noteworthy antiquities on display include the lion capital of the Ashokan pillar and metal objects used by the monks, discovered during excavations at Sanchi.
The Four Gateways at Sanchi : These are Toranas that surround the Great Stupa. These are live example of early Buddhist art.
The Eastern Gateway : It depicts Buddha’s journey towards enlightenment. It shows the young prince Siddhartha Gautama , leaving his father’s Palace and setting off on his journey to enlightenment.
The Western Gateway : It depicts the seven incarnation of the Buddha.
The Northern Gateway : It is crowned by a wheel of law, illustrates the miracles associated with the Buddha as told in the Jatakas.
The Southern Gateway : It is the oldest and reveals the birth of Gautama in series of dramatically rich carvings. It also depicts the wheel of forth, the first sermon given by the Buddha at Sarnath.
Ashokan Pillar at Sanchi : Just to the right of the southern gateway lie the remains of Ashokan pillar erected by Ashoka in the 3rd century, displaying all the characteristics of such monoliths – exquisite proportion, brilliant polish, succinct instructions. Centuries of exposure to weather has not diminished its metallic glow.
Excursions from Sanchi In the area around Sanchi there are a number of site, some of which are Buddhist
Accommodation at Sanchi : There are couple of hotels in Sanchi. One can either stay at Sanchi or stay at Bhopal and do a same day excursion trip to Sanchi from Bhopal. . Tour Enquiry
Vidisha (10 kms from Sanchi) In the 5th-6th centuries BC Videsha was an important trade center of the Sunga dynasty where Ashoka was governor in the 3rd century BC. He married a local princess, establishing his contact with Sanchi. The ruins of Bijamandal Mosque and Gumbaz- Ka Makbara, both dating from the Muslim period with remains of votive pillars nearby. The museum at Vidisha contains some of Bbesnagar’s earliest antiquities.
Udaygiri caves (13 km) Udaygiri caves were produced during the regime of Chandraguta II (382-401). The caves have all distinct features that gave Gupta art its unique vitality, vigour and richness of expression. The beautifully molded capitals, the design of the entrance gateway and the system of continuing the architrave as a string course around the structure.
Besnagar (3 km) after crossing the Betwa river. The Heliodorus Pillar, A monolithic free standing column, similar to Asokan pillars but much smaller in size has been dated to 140BC. The inscription states that it was a Garuda pillar erected in owner of Vasudeva by Heliodorus, a resident of Taxila (now in Pak) who had been sent as an envoy to the court of Bhagabhadra . This is a part of the evidence, which shows that relations existed between the Greeks in the Punjab and the kings of this area and that Heliodorus had become a follower of lord Vishnu.
Udaypur (60 km from Udaygari). The colossal Neelkantheswara temple is the center- piece , an outstanding example of 11th century Paramara architecture.Its beauty lies in its well proportionate and gracefully designed Shikhar (spire) and the delicate carving adorning its sites. Some regard the spire as being unequalled. Built of red stand stone and standing on a high platform the temple consists of garbha-griha (shrine room) . A sabha mandap (Hall) and three parvesh mandaps (entrance porches). Tour Enquiry
Gyaraspur (40 km North East of Sanchi) :-Important place of the medieval period, now lies in ruins, where one can see temples called Athkhambha (Eight Pillars) and Chaukhamba (four pillars) belonging to the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. The 10th century MAHADEV temple on the hill above the village, is the most striking of the remains with the ruins of stupa. The ruins of an 8-pillared temple,”Athakhambe” and a 4 pillared “Chaukhamba” date fro m 9th and 10th centuries.
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