Madhya Pradesh, a Buddhist shrine in Sanchi, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The glorious artifacts belonging to the Buddhist religion have been rediscovered in ruins, but their beauty still shines through. Located in the north of Bhopal, on a small hilltop, there are some of the oldest and most prominent Buddhist sites in India.
History tells us that when Emperor Ashoka adopted Buddhism in 250 BC, he erected the Great Stupa here after the redistribution of the mortal remains of Lord Buddha for the installation of several stupas throughout the country to spread Buddhism.
He built his first "stupa" in Sanchi, and later a few more, as well as other religious structures. Such monolithic temples have been inscribed with the edicts and teachings of Lord Buddha. This Great Stupa served as the center of the great Buddhist government in the later period.
Few centuries later, as Buddhism was gradually incorporated into Hinduism, the site was lost and not rediscovered. Sanchi remained abandoned and unused since the fourteenth century until 1818, when General Taylor rediscovered the site.
In 1919, Sir John Marshall founded an archeological museum, which was later converted into the present museum in Sanchi. Sanchi and Satdhara, a Buddhist site 10 km south-east of Sanchi, are currently being excavated, conserved and ecologically developed under the UNESCO plan.
What to See
Buddhist monuments in Sanchi include Stupas, the monolithic Asokan pillar, temples, monasteries and sculptural resources. There are a number of other Buddhist temples in this sanctuary. The stupa is surrounded by lush gardens. One can schedule a family picnic and spend quality time there. The surrounding area is clean and well maintained.
The Stupas: Sanchi is home to a lot of stupas. Built on the top of a hill, these stupas contain relics, mostly from the Buddha's disciples. The Great Stupa is the largest landmark.
The Four Gateways: The Four Gateways, built in 35 B.C., are considered to be the best Buddhist expression in the world. Such gateways are decorated with beautiful architectural sculptures and represent the stories of Buddha's life.
The Ashoka Pillar: the Ashoka Pillar, which includes four lions like the Sarnath Pillar, is also located in Sanchi. An outstanding example of the Greco-Buddhist theme, the pillar is also known for its beautiful architecture and great structural balance.
The Sanchi Museum: The Sanchi Museum, that is managed underneath the oversight of the Indian Archaeological Survey, homes the Ashoka Pillar at the side of different artifacts found in areas of Sanchi, such as utensils and other items used by the monks in Sanchi.
How to Reach
By Air: In order to reach Sanchi by air, Bhopal is the destination to be reached. Bhopal has a domestic airport called Raja Bhoj Airport, and here you can find regular flights to different parts of the country. Sanchi is 55 kilometers away. From the airport, regular taxis cover the journey in an hour and a half.
By Rail: the closest railway from Sanchi is in Bhopal. It is an important junction between the West Central Railways. Several express trains and regular shuttles operate between Bhopal and major cities in the country. A bus or car can be reached from the railway station to Sanchi.
By Road: it is very convenient to travel to Sanchi by road. The road networks connecting the city to important places in and around Madhya Pradesh are well laid out. There are regular tourist busses (deluxe / non-deluxe) on the route. Some tour operators also provide personal buses and taxis.