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Sanchi Stupa

  • Located in Madhya Pradesh, just north of Bhopal in the heart of India, Sanchi is one of the most scenic Buddhist pilgrimage spots in modern India. The site is over 2,000 years old and although the Buddha never visited the site, the great emperor Ashoka enshrined his relics in the 3rd century BC. Ashoka, a convert to Buddhism, erected a pillar here containing an Imperial Edict forbidding monks, nuns, and laymen from creating schism within the monastic order. Altogether, 51 monuments were eventually constructed here, many of which were temples, monasteries, and worship structures. The Great Stupa, a giant hemispherical mound of stone and bricks, is at the top of a large hill overlooking the region. Inside the stupa were once the relics of the Buddha. In ancient times and modern times, Buddhist pilgrims would come to Sanchi to worship the stupa. Pilgrims may worship by circumambulating clockwise around the stupa, and therefore the relics, by reciting mantras (holy hymns passed down since the Buddha’s time), and in meditation.


  • The British rediscovered Sanchi in the early 19th century. The British became enamored with the site’s beauty and eventually reconstructed the site to look like what they believed it did thousands of years ago. However, the British also removed holy objects, like reliquary vases, and ornate pieces of artwork. Since India achieved national independence, Sanchi and its vicinity has been the subject of many excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India who have discovered many other similar sites containing smaller stupas on other nearby hilltops.

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