Sanchi – The Stupas of Peace
It is said that Emperor Ashoka chose Sanchi to bury Lord Buddha’s remains because it was such a peaceful location. And peaceful it still is. On top of a hill, the Stupas are a grand sight.
Sanchi is a small town on the highway from Vidisha to Bhopal. As we got down by the highway at Sanchi early in the morning, there was only one thing on our minds – food! Thankfully, the M.P tourism department has a restaurant right next to the highway and they were open too. As we gorged on Alu Paranthas, we got some more info from the employees. Apparently, tourists from Sri Lanka make a large part of the visitors here. They even have a temple built at the top of the hill now.
We went to the Stupas after breakfast and rented the audio guides here as well. The company that makes them is called AudioCompass.in in case you were curious. The biggest stupa is where remains of the Buddha are supposed to have been buried. It has four gates and the north facing gate is where you end up first.
North Gate of Stupa 1
Each of these gates have ornate carvings depicting the life of the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and stories from the Jataka tales. Apparently the Buddha used to be represented by the Bodhi tree or an umbrella until the 9th or 10th century. It is only after then that he started being represented in human form. But I am a little confused about this. In Ajanta, the Buddha is in human form and the caves there date earlier than 10th century. I haven’t researched much about this though.
So the first Stupa took the most time and the rest got done pretty quickly. I walked down to stupa 2 after the main stupa – it’s a short climb down. On the way to this stupa is a big begging bowl broken now. By big, I mean almost as big as a full grown child – for a begging bowl, it’s huge.
Jataka tales and symbolic carvings on one of the Gates
Next up was the temple and the last stupa. To be honest, after the temples at Khajuraho which we’d visited the previous day, the temple here wasn’t impressive. It is in quite bad shape too. But then it is not fair to compare both of them anyway.
After I got done with the audio tour, I went to the canteen – the reason I mention this so specifically is because of the grand views it affords. There even is a small view point next to the canteen. You don’t have a lot of choice of food though, just chips and soft drinks. But it was amazing to sit under a train listening to the breeze. This canteen is diametrically opposite to the stupa 2 which again is on the corner of the hill. It has a view of a train track. I love it when I can see far into the distance – I find it very relaxing.
View from the Canteen
After here, we walked back to the foothill and spent some time at the museum. We also chatted up an Australian tourist who was a repeat visitor to India. She was quite amused when we told her about what we were doing and also about all the running we usually do. Obsessed is the word she used, but I disagree – the word which I would use instead is passionate.
We grabbed a simple lunch in the town and got on our way to Bhopal in a bus. Somewhere on the way, we crossed the Tropic of Cancer where you could probably click a few pictures if you were in a hired vehicle.
With Sanchi checked from the list, we left for Bhopal, the city I had last been to 10 years earlier.