The Hill of Sanchi in the state of Madhaya Pradesh, is globally renown for its many stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars dating from the 3rd century B.C. to the 21st century A.D.
Situated about 9 kilometers south-west of Vidisha District, a group of Buddhist monuments perched on the hill commands a grand view even from a distance.
The most famous amongst these, the Sanchi Stupa 1, was built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, the then governor of Ujjaini. His daughter and son, Sanghamitra and Mahindra, were sent to Sri Lanka where they converted the king, queen and the local people to Buddhism.
The hill is unique not only in its having the most perfect and well-preserved stupas but also in its offering a wide and educative field for the study of the birth, prosperity and decline of Buddhist art and architecture for a period of about thirteen hundred years, from the third century B.C. to the twelfth century, A.D., almost covering the whole range of Indian Buddhism.
The hill becoming a center of Buddhism is rather surprising, for Sanchi was not hallowed by any incident in Buddha’s life; not is it known to have been the focus of any significant event in the history of Buddhism.
A Chunar sandstone pillar fragment lies near the Sanchi Stupa 1, and caries the famous Ashoka edict warning against any kind of fracture in the Buddhist community.
The Ashoka pillar, lies close to the southern Gateway, and is renown for its incredible structural balance, and artistic design apart from the vital message that it carries.
Rising almost 16 meters high the Sanchi Stupa 1 is the oldest stone structure in Indian Buddhism and with a huge hemispherical dome it still retains its old grandeur.
The Sanchi Hill is divided in levels, with Stupa 2 on a lower level, while Stupa 1, Stupa 3, a 5th century Gupta temple No. 17, and a 7th century No. 18 lie at a middle level, and the apex of the hill is crowned by a later monastery.
The elaborate gateways of Stupa 1, built in the 1st century by Satavahanas, are the greatest instances of ancient classical art. Theses are carved with stories of the Buddha’s past and present lives and with anecdotes from the subsequent history of Buddhism. These in a way provided the inspiration for later Indian art.
The Gupta temple No. 17 is deemed as one of the most logically designed structures in Indian architecture.
Stupa No. 2 lies at the edge of the hill, and its most notable aspect is the stone balustrade that encircles it. Stupa No. 3 is placed near the Great Stupa No. 1. The Hemispherical dome is crowned with an umbrella of polished stone, which is religiously symbolic. The relics of Sarriputa and Mahamogallena, two of the Buddha’s earliest disciples, were discovered in its inner chamber.
Below the Sanchi Hill, the Archaeological Survey of India Museum houses invaluable antiquities, like the lion capital of the Ashoka pillar (with the heads of four lions which is the State Emblem of the Republic of India) and metal objects used by the monks and other ancient stone sculptures dating back to 3rd century B.C.
Entrance to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is approximately US$5 for visitors 15-years-old and above.