Sanchi Great Stupa
Sanchi is the place which is found synonymous with Buddhist monuments most of which were constructed during 3rd century BCE to twelfth century CE. Today, many pleasure tourists from across the world visit this city to relish the beauty of glorious monuments and museums in Sanchi. However, the one site which always features on top of their itinerary is Great Stupa, Sanchi. The Great Stupa in Sanchi, India was originally built by the ruler Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. The center of this stupa boasted of a plain hemispherical brick like structure. This structure was laid to over the remains of the Buddha.Sanchi Great Stupa also features an attractive and magnificent chhatra. This chhatra has a parasol-like structure. It symbolizes high rank. It is believed that this Chhatra was constructed to honor and shelter the remains.
In the middle of the 2nd century BCE, the Great Stupa, Sanchi was completely refurbished. During the process of refurbishment some additions were brought to this symbolic structure which comprised of a stone casing, a porch with a double flight of steps, balustrades, a processional path, an umbrella and railing. All these were built of sandstone. However in the 1st century BCE, 4 intricately carved gateways were made here.Before 450 AD, when the Great Stupa in Sanchi was undergoing the process of renovation that time four stone Buddhas were brought and set against the Stupa walls. They were set to face the gates. Today, on a close at these effigies you will get to see elaborate carvings that were done on the haloes of the effigies.
The stupa is the most characteristic monument of Buddhist India. Originally stupas were mounds covering the relics of the Buddha or his followers. In its earliest stages Buddhist art didn't represent the Buddha directly. Instead, his presence was alluded to through symbols such as the bo tree, the wheel of law or his footprint. The stupa also became a symbol of the Buddha. More exactly, it became a symbol of his final release from the cycle of birth and rebirth -- the Parinirvana or the "Final Dying."
In a larger sense the stupa is also a cosmic symbol. Its hemispherical shape represents the world egg. Stupas commonly rest on a square pedestal and are carefully aligned with the four cardinal points of the compass. This is a recurrence of the symbolism of the dome whereby Earth supports Heaven and Heaven covers Earth. The axis of the world is always represented in the stupa, rising above its summit. The so-called "parasols," set one above the other along the shaft emerging from its uppermost region, represent a heavenly hierarchy. The cosmic symbolism is completed by a ritual circumambulatory path around the monument. Stupas are large-scale memorials built in particularly holy places. Generally they enshrine relics of some sort. As a building type the stupa is the forerunner of the pagoda. However, the stupa has also come to be known, on a smaller scale, as the reliquary itself and can be made of crystal, gold, silver or other precious metals.
The Great Stupa of Sanchi underwent a complete reconstruction after wanton damage inflicted upon it in the middle of the second century BCE. The reconstruction consisted of a stone casing, a terrace with a double flight of steps, balustrades, a paved processional path and an umbrella and railing -- all built of sandstone. Four elaborately carved gateways were added in the first century BCE.The last addition took place during the rule of the Guptas, sometime before 450 AD. By now effigies of the Buddha were permitted and four stone Buddhas were placed against the walls of the stupa facing the gates. Their haloes are elaborately carved.