Sanchi: Stupa, Antiquity, Enlightenment

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

Sanchi Stupa  (1)

After spending a day in Vidisha, I set out for Sanchi the next morning for a date with Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Unlike Vidisha, the roads leading to Sanchi looked much better and occasional drizzle made the weather pleasant and the sky photogenic. I was also relieved to figure out that as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sanchi monuments are much better maintained compared to the Udaygiri Caves. The entire compound is immaculately crafted and complete with interactive audio guides (something I never use) and is situated atop a hill overlooking the area.
Sanchi Stupa  (17)

The Stupas

The monuments of Sanchi are some of the oldest surviving monuments in India. The history of the Sanchi Stupa dates back to aorund 2nd or 3rd century BC. Considering the fact that they were forgotten and devoured by jungles for many centuries before getting rediscovered by the British, they are in remarkably good shape. The heart of the entire site is the main Stupa which is surrounded by four intricately sculpted Toranas (gateways). Then there are a couple of smaller Stupas, temples and other constructions that one can imagine to be abodes of the monks (Viharas). While the main stupa was commissioned by Ashoka the Great, the remaining structures are believed to have been piled on over several centuries by the Mauryas, Shungas, Satavahanas and Guptas.

Sanchi Stupa  (26)

Sanchi Stupa  (18)

Sanchi Stupa  (19)

The Toranas

The most striking and enduring features at Sanchi obviously are the Toranas. These are the structure I still remember from my childhood (They were there either on some postage stamp or banknote). As mentioned earlier, the main stupa is surrounded by four Toranas on four sides. Each of them have different set of sculptures and they generally tell various stories related to the life of Buddha and the myths surrounding him.

Sanchi Stupa  (2)

Sanchi Stupa  (20)

Sanchi Stupa  (28)

Sanchi Stupa  (29)

Sanchi Stupa  (3)

Sanchi Stupa  (5)

Sanchi Stupa  (10)

Sanchi Stupa  (33)

Sanchi Stupa  (32)

Sanchi Stupa  (35)

Dear Shalbhanjika

I have always had an unhealthy obsession for classical Indian female figurines. The Eastern Torana has some of the most prominent ones of those. I tried to capture them from all possible angles as my alter ego romanced them.

Sanchi Stupa  (4)

Sanchi Stupa  (34)

Sanchi Stupa  (24)


Buddha is everywhere at Sanchi. Without him this monument would not exist in the first place. The stupas were originally built to preserve the relics of Buddha and some of his disciples. I am not sure if they are still there inside the stupas but nevertheless, one does get that overwhelming sense of a more evolved spirit looming large.

Sanchi Stupa  (14)

Sanchi Stupa  (15)

Sanchi Stupa  (27)

Sanchi Stupa  (25)

Lion Capital

The Ashokan Lion Capital is the national emblem of India. That is why we are all familiar with it. The most prominent one of its kind is there at Sarnath near Varanasi. But Sanchi also has a few of them. One of the Toranas boast of similar lion sculpture. There is one more inside the museum, but photography is not allowed there.

Sanchi Stupa  (21)

Sanchi Stupa  (30)

Sanchi Stupa  (7)

Apart from these, there are a few more pillars, temples and not exactly describable ruins inside the compound. If the place was not as crowded, I am sure it would have transformed into a different era. Nevertheless, it still offered a satisfactory dose of Indophilia.

Sanchi Stupa  (36)

Sanchi Stupa  (22)

Sanchi Stupa  (23)

Sanchi Stupa  (16)

Sanchi Stupa  (13)

Sanchi Travel FAQs

How to reach Sanchi

Sanchi is only around 40 Kms from Bhopal. If your are coming from south, that should be your base. On the other hand you will reach Vidisha first if you come from North. It is a smaller place but it is merely 10-12 KMs from Sanchi and there are other places to see at Vidisha. From Vidisha you can hire an auto rickshaw to reach Sanchi.

Where to Stay in Sanchi

I think there are luxury accommodations in Sanchi. But I think it is better to Stay in Bhopal or Vidisha to get better transportation options and other amenities.

What to see in Sanchi

The entire compound should take a few hours to cover. The main stupa is visible even from a distance. There are smaller stupas, ruins of temples and other structures and all of them are full with some of the finest craftsmanship you will ever see.


  • 2013/10/27 - 2:10 pm | Permalink

    this was a wonderful post with ample information and excellent pictures. very nice one and being a travel enthusiast I am happy that the stupas are still intact and ready to be explored anytime

  • 2013/10/27 - 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Excellent Jitu. Very good photographs.

  • 2013/10/27 - 3:19 pm | Permalink

    That’s a really nice place! I loved the pictures and I’m intrigued to visit it someday. :) Thank you!

  • 2013/10/27 - 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Great post ! Each of the pics have been wonderfully captured and excellent PP work.
    Its very informative, well written. I would say having visited Sanchi and Vidisha umpteen times, its best to make your base in Bhopal and travel using a cab/bike . Road to Sanchi passes through the Tropic of cancer line and is a mandatory stop over.

  • 2013/10/27 - 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Such a beautiful monument ! You have captured it amazingly :)

  • 2013/10/28 - 11:22 am | Permalink

    Great post Jita.

    I would love to visit Sanchi/ Vidisha someday. I can visualise the flickering on your eyes while writing about the ancient Indian female figurines 😛

    BTW, I have a question. What is the significance of those Toranas?



    • 2013/10/28 - 11:57 am | Permalink

      Thanks mate…
      I’m not sure but Toranas are staple structures in Buddhist constructions… decorative elements and I think they are considered auspicious…

      • 2013/10/28 - 2:35 pm | Permalink


        I tried doing some high level wiki but could not find anything specific about the toranas. Most probably, they act as gateways to the stupas.

  • 2013/10/28 - 3:53 pm | Permalink

    lovely images of sanchi….and brought back memories of my field trip to vidisha (for 15 days) and also to sanchi and udaygiri during my master’s studies!!

    vidisha has got some hidden jewels..a temple standing in the middle of a flowing river(betwa as fas as i remember)….

    • 2013/10/28 - 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Sushmita…
      I covered Vidisha too… yes it has a lot of things to see although they are not as well maintained as Sanchi…

  • 2013/10/28 - 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Nice work – keep it up !

  • 2013/10/28 - 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post on Sanchi.

  • 2013/11/02 - 5:26 am | Permalink

    Grrrr…eat pictures. This place looks so much more attractive than it did in my history book. :)
    I’m sure it was a great experience to be at a place of such historical importance. Long live these structures! I must say this again — those pictures are awesome.

    • 2013/11/02 - 10:53 am | Permalink

      Thankssss… this is place has been restored and maintained well… you need to see this once…

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  • 2014/04/02 - 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful clicks. Best for me is the one with curvy staircase. Sanchi is on my list. Was wondering if they have any classes in Buddhist Meditation in Sanchi?

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