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Tourist Places To Visit In Sanchi
Sanchi, in MP, is located about 46km to the north east of Bhopal which is the capital of MP. Sanchi is famous for its stone structure or the Great Stupa which was built in 3rd Century BC during the reign of Ashoka who had commissioned it. Today it is a UNESCO approved heritage site. The Stupa was built over Buddha’s relics as a mark of honour. This Stupa is a structure that was made of bricks and there were several other stupas built later on such as the Satdhara located about 17km away where there are forty stupas and Morel Khurd where there are 60 stupas. There are others at Andher, Sonari and Mawas and all of these are within just a few miles of Sanchi.
Sanchi is also famous because it was the place of birth of Devi, the wife of Ashoka besides being the place where Ashoka got married to Devi. There are several tourist places to visit in Sanchi and these are detailed below.
Vidisha with its ancient buildings is a very ancient town loaded with history that goes back to the 2nd Century AD. Located near Bhopal, the capital of MP, this is really a very small city that is known for its historical monuments and rich cultural heritage and which reflects the high standards of the Gupta Empire, the rulers of the region for very long. The place is very sought after by both lovers of art and true historians.
At one time in history this place, which is at the point where the rivers Betwa and Beas meet, was a flourishing centre for commerce during the period of the Nagas and Sungas besides the Satvahanas and the Gupta Dynasty. Do visit the Udaygiri Caves where you will find priceless inscriptions that go back to the period of the Gupta Dynasty. Here you will also see a monolithic pillar and the shrine of Lord Vishnu that were built during 5th, 6th centuries. There are ruins as well that prove the existence of a trade centre during Ashoka’s rule.
Sanchi Stupa, in MP, is located 46km away from Bhopal which is the capital of the state. It is important for visitors to understand the significance of the Stupa so that our heritage can be properly appreciated. The Stupa, like all other stupas, is a structure which has been made to protect Buddha’s relics or religious objects. This is used for meditation and is therefore considered most important for monks and others who are wedded to Buddhist philosophy. After the Kalinga war which had led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives, Ashoka repented for his senseless act. In order to spread Buddha’s teachings Ashoka constructed 84,000 stupas where Buddha’s relics were enshrined and preserved. The Sanchi Stupa was commissioned by Ashoka in the 3rd Century BC. Today this is a heritage property approved by the UNESCO.
When Sanchi was being excavated, the articles that were discovered were kept in a museum located on a hilltop by Sir John Marshall in 1919. Later, the ASI selected a college building which was at the foothills of Sanchi Stupa and thereafter shifted the exhibits to this new building in 1966. The museum extends to around 6.3 acres and consists of the main hall and 4 galleries besides some exhibits in the open courtyards and the verandah. Most of the exhibits are from Sanchi while some are also from Vidisha, Gulgaon and other places in the neighbourhood. The exhibits are dated from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD.
The Udaygiri Caves located near Vidisha in MP must not be confused with the caves of the same name located in Odisha. These caves number twenty caves cut from rocks during the earlier years of 5th Century BC. These caves contain some of the very ancient Hindu temples in our country. Managed by the ASI these caves contain iconography of diverse forms of Hinduism such as Shaktism and Vaishnavism besides Shaivism. There are sculptures of Vishnu as well. There are priceless inscriptions from the reigns of Chandragupta II and Kumaragupta covering the period between 375 BC and 455 BC. The complex consists of 1 cave which is dedicated to Jainism while the other 19 caves are devoted to Hinduism.
The Ashoka Pillar is among the most attractive sites when you visit Sanchi Stupa. Located near the southern gateway, this Ashoka Pillar was built in the 3rd Century BC. This Ashoka Pillar is admirable because of its great proportions and in many ways it resembles the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath near Varanasi. Very intricately carved, the polish of the pillar shines even today and is brilliant.
At the site of the Sanchi Stupa there are a number of Buddhist monuments in the form of palaces and temples, monolithic pillars and monasteries in different states of maintenance. Most of these monuments go back to the 2nd and 1st Centuries BC. This is easily the oldest among all the Buddhist sanctuaries in existence. It was also a major Buddhist centre in the country till 12th century AD. The Great Bowl which is carved out of one single block of stone was used for food which used to be distributed among all the monks at the monastery in Sanchi.
The Buddhist Vihara contains the mortal remains of two among the greatest disciples of Buddha, Mahamogalyayan and Sariputta. These remains were taken from Stupa 3 and had been taken to England from where these have now been recovered and placed at the Buddhist Vihara at Sanchi Hills for viewing by public only once every year. These two disciples were very dear to Buddha and they have contributed the most for the spread of Buddhism during Buddha’s times. The Vihara goes back to 7th century AD and consists of a sanctuary in the shape of a square which is surrounded on three sides by a passageway. The door has figures of amorous couples and river goddesses. The sanctuary has an image of Buddha in the seated posture.
The Gupta Temple of vintage 4th Century AD is now in ruins. But, in its hay days it was one of the earliest examples in India of temple architecture. Associated with Buddhism this reflected the true heritage of India’s religions and architecture since there are Buddhist Viharas and Chaityas besides Stupas and now one can see the Gupta Temple as well. The Sanchi Hill has three shelves or layers. These are the crowning, intermediate and lower shelves. The Gupta Temple is in the intermediate layer. Do see the Gupta Temple that has survived for so long.