SANCHI -A symbol of great victory of peace over war.
More than 20 centuries ago, young prince Ashoka had married a Vidisha merchant’s daughter when his royal carven on its way to an other town had camped here. Princes and merchant princes in those days had a great need to live in harmony. Eight years after Ashoka ascended the throne, he went to war with and conquered the state of Kalinga. It was a terrible war in which one hundred and fifty thousand persons
were carried away captive, one hundred thousand were slain and many times that the number perished. It was at this point of history that the peace began to win over mind and heart of the warriors. Walking across the bloodied field, Ashoka’s ears were assailed with the bellows of wounded horses, the moans of dying men and orphans searching hopelessly in the carnage.
The miracle had happened then is inscribed in rock Edit X111
" Thus arose his sacred majesty’s remorse for having conquered the Kalingas. Of all the people who were then slain, done to death or carried away captive in Kalinga ,if the hundredth of the thousandth part were to suffer the same fate, it would now be a matter of regret to his Majesty"
Emperor Ashoka, in a historical dramatic change of heart, renounced war, turned his back on conquest and embraced that most gentle of religions: Buddhism. From digvijaya, a conqueror of territories, he became a dhamma-vijaya, a conqueror of men’s hearts. And in his quest to proclaim his new faith for the entire world to see, he returned to Vidisha, the town of his loved wife. There, on a wooded knoll, at a short riding distance from the metropolis, he established a spiritual center that was to last for 1300 years. Never before and never since, has peace scored such a great victory over war as in the triumph we know as Sanchi.
The Grand Stupa built by Ashoka at Sanchi is focal point of a 91 –meter-high turf covered and tree-dotted hill and marks an important stage in the evolution of Indian architecture. The great Stupa is 36.5 meters in diameter and rises almost 16.5 meters high.A balustrade encircles the entire structure and provides incarnations as Bodhisattva have provided the principal inspiration for the artistes.
The intricately carved gateways hold the greatest fascination for visitors. Gateways, the four ornamented (torans) built at the cardinal points in front of the entrances were erected around 3.5 B.C by the Satvahana ruler, Satkarni. Each torans consists of two upright pillars nearly 34 feet high. The two richly carved pillars, rise to be crowned by carved lions-the famous Ashoka Lions, now the official seal of India –elephants and dwarfs.
The eastern gateway depicts Buddha’s journey towards enlightenment. It shows the young prince Siddhartha Gautama , leaving his father’s Palace and setting off on his journey to enlightenment.
The western gateway depicts the seven incarnation of the Buddha.
The northern gateway, crowned by a wheel of law, illustrates the miracles associated with the Buddha as told in the Jatakas.
The southern gateway is the oldest and reveals the birth of Gautama in series of dramatically rich carvings. It also depicts the wheel of forth, the first sermon given by the Buddha at Sarnath.
Ashokan Pillar Just to the right of the southern gateway lie the remains of Ashokan pillar erected by Ashoka in the 3rd century, displaying all the characteristics of such monoliths – exquisite proportion, brilliant polish, succinct instructions. Centuries of exposure to weather has not diminished its metallic glow.
Excursions from Sanchi In the area around Sanchi there are a number of site, some of which are Buddhist .
Vidisha In the 5th-6th centuries BC Videsha was an important trade center of the Sunga dynasty where Ashoka was governor in the 3rd century BC. He married a local princess, establishing his contact with Sanchi. The ruins of Bijamandal Mosque and Gumbaz- Ka Makbara, both dating from the Muslim period with remains of votive pillars nearby. The museum at Vidisha contains some of Bbesnagar’s earliest antiquities.
Udaygiri caves (13 km) Udaygiri caves were produced during the regime of Chandraguta II (382-401). The caves have all distinct features that gave Gupta art its unique vitality, vigour and richness of expression. The beautifully molded capitals, the design of the entrance gateway and the system of continuing the architrave as a string course around the structure.
Besnagar 3 km after crossing the Betwa river. The Heliodorus Pillar, A monolithic free standing column, similar to Asokan pillars but much smaller in size has been dated to 140BC. The inscription states that it was a Garuda pillar erected in owner of Vasudeva by Heliodorus, a resident of Taxila (now in Pak) who had been sent as an envoy to the court of Bhagabhadra . This is a part of the evidence, which shows that relations existed between the Greeks in the Punjab and the kings of this area and that Heliodorus had become a follower of lord Vishnu.
Udaypur 60 km from Udaygari. The colossal Neelkantheswara temple is the center- piece , an outstanding example of 11th century Paramara architecture.Its beauty lies in its well proportionate and gracefully designed Shikhar (spire) and the delicate carving adorning its sites. Some regard the spire as being unequalled. Built of red stand stone and standing on a high platform the temple consists of garbha-griha (shrine room) . A sabha mandap (Hall) and three parvesh mandaps (entrance porches)
Gyaraspur (40 km North East of Sanchi) :-Important place of the medieval period, now lies in ruins, where one can see temples called Athkhambha (Eight Pillars) and Chaukhamba (four pillars) belonging to the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. The 10th century MAHADEV temple on the hill above the village, is the most striking of the remains with the ruins of stupa. The ruins of an 8-pillared temple,"Athakhambe" and a 4 pillared "Chaukhamba" date fro m 9th and 10th centuries.