Sanchi Stupa, or “the Great Stupa at Sanchi” is a Buddhist shrine in a small town called Sanchi located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
The Great Stupa was built in the 3rd century BCE by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka who had converted to Buddhism, and is believed to house ashes of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
The structure was damaged at some point during the 2nd century BCE. It was rebuilt in the following years along with various other temple structures that were also built, till the rule of Gupta Empire period and later.
Due to these, Sanchi became the centre for most of the evolutions of ancient Indian architecture and ancient Buddhist architecture in India.
The original Sanchi Stupa’s nucleus was a hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. It has a raised terrace with its base, and a railing and stone umbrella on the top. The original Stupa only had about half the diameter of the one that stands at Sanchi today. It was earlier covered in brick, but now it is covered in stones.
A pillar made out of finely polished sandstone, which was one of the Pillars of Ashoka - a series of monolithic pillars built across the Indian subcontinent by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka during his reign, was also erected on the side of the main arched gateway of the shrine. Some restoration work on the main Stupa were attempted in the 19th century by the Britishers but found that the Stupa had suffered too much damage.
The bottom part of the pillar still stands but the upper parts which were demolished, are at the nearby Sanchi Archaeological Museum.
The Sanchi Stupa is open to public from 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM every day, while the Sanchi Archaeological Museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM. The fee to enter the Sanchi Stupa is INR 30 per head for Indian nationals and INR 500 per head for foreign nationals, and this fee also includes access to the museum.
The nearest big city to Sanchi Town is Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh. It is easy to hire a cab from Bhopal and get to the Sanchi Stupa complex, as this is the fastest and most recommended way of getting to Sanchi from Bhopal.
Bhopal city can be reached by flight (at Raja Bhoj International Airport) from other countries or train (at Bhopal Junction) or buses too from neighbouring cities.