5 Buddhist sites in Madhya Pradesh
Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Gautama Buddha or simply known as Lord Buddha was born as a prince, Siddhartha Gauthama. Seeking the ultimate truth, the meaning of life -he left his wife and kingdom to become a Buddha. His teachings were passed on orally across generations for at least 400 years and later preserved by writing.
Focused on attaining the state of Nirvana, freedom from the cycle of rebirth, Buddhism is still closely associated with and highly visible in the State of Madhya Pradesh, dating back to the 3rd Century BC. The spread of Buddhism can be traced back to the time of Emperor Ashoka, who after the violence of the Kalinga War became a peaceful emperor and adopted and propagated Buddhism. The Buddhist community in Madhya Pradesh, although a silent one has a strong history.
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without”
1. The Sanchi Stupa The Sanchi Stupa is one of the most ancient and famous Buddhist monuments located at Sanchi town in Raisen District, located about 46 kilometers north-east of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh.
The Stupa has several chambers, which contain the relics of Buddha. The Sanchi Stupa was constructed in the honor of Lord Buddha by Emperor Ashoka in the 3 Century BC. The height of the Stupa is 54 feet. The last addition to the Stupa was done during the rule of the Guptas, prior to 450 AD. The Stupa at Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India, and is crowned by a chhatra,a parasol-like structure, intended to honor and protect the precious relics and is surrounded by four gateways that constitute various sequence from the life of Lord Buddha and Jatakas tales. The dome of the Stupa is a symbol of the Dharma, the wheel of the Law. Sanchi Stupa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the National Emblem of India, the Ashoka Chakra was inspired by the Ashoka Pillar of Sanchi.
Bharhut is a village located in Madhya Pradesh,in the district of Satna. Known for its prominent antique from a Buddhist stupa, it is believed to have been founded by the Bhoro people.
Bharhut was excavated by Major General Alexander Cunninghamin in 1873. The stupa’s various chiseled remains are now mainly protected in Kolkata and Allahabad, in the Indian museum and in the Municipal Museum, respectively.
The Bharhut sculptures portrays some of the oldest examples of Indian and Buddhist art, later than the art of Ashoka, and somewhat later than the early Sunga reliefs on railings at Sanchi Stupa No.2 Bharhut also has a much more developed iconography compared to Sanchi Stupa No.2.
3. Deorkothar (Deur Kothar) Deorkothar is a site of archaeological significance in Madhya Pradesh, Central India. It was brought to light in 1982 and is famous for its Buddhists stupas. These stupas are attributed to the Maryann emperor, Ashoka. Deokothar was founded in 1982 by P.K Mishra and Ajit Singh. It was declared a memorial of national importance in 1988 by the Government of India and is being preserved and conserved by Archaeological Survey of India, Bhopal. The site has four prominent stupas, out of which only two stupas - No.1 and 2 were excavated. There are surviving traces of 40 stupas, made of either stones or bricks. Near the site, some rocks with old rock paintings some inscriptions in Brahmi script. Remnants of terracotta toys, beads, ear stud and coins hints that the site was an active centre of trade. Interestingly, the ancient tradition of lime technology found in some Harappan and post-Harappan sites besides Kausambi has now been observed at Deorkothar.
4. The Stupa No. 2 The Stupa No.2 at Sanchi, also called Sanchi II, is one of the earliest surviving Buddhist stupas in India, and closely related to the Buddhist complex of Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh. It is of special importance as it has the oldest known important displays of decorative reliefs in India, probably previous to the reliefs at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, or the reliefs of Bharhut. The Stupa exhibits "the oldest extensive stupa decoration in existence" and is observed as the birthplace of Jataka illustrations, well known among them is the relief of the horse-headed ogress thought to be the first known representation of a Jataka (One of Lord Buddha’s previous lives) The Stupa contained a relic box with four small steatite caskets containing human bones. The Brahmi inscription on the relic box, implies that it contained "the relics of all teachers, including Kasapagota and Vachi-Suvijayita. 5. Sonari Sonari is the archaeological site of a former monastic complex of Buddhist stupas. The site, stationed on a hill, is located about 10km southwest of Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India. The stupas were dug up around 1850 by Alexander Cunningham, who located two boxes containing relics. One of the reliquaries, which is very elaborately decorated is now on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Excavation of Sonari’s Stupa no. 2 revealed three miniature reliquaries, while two of the reliquaries were in soapstone and one was in rock crystal. The main reliquary is shaped to resemble a lotus bud and the upper body is divided into eight rectangular compartments in each of which are an elephant, horse, deer or winged lion, patterns typical of the period of the Maurya Empire. Ancient India as the birthplace of Buddhism, has most of the holiest buddhist pilgrimage sites. From Lumbini - the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama now in southern Nepal to Bodh Gaya, - the place where he attained enlightenment under a bodhi tree in present day Bihar. From Sarnath where he gave his first sermon outside present day Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh to Kushinagar, the place of his death or Parinirvana, the state of nirvana after death.