Sanchi was an important Buddhist sanctuary said to be the oldest to still exist and with a range of ancient monuments, located in Madhya Pradesh, India.
History of Sanchi
It is believed the first buildings at Sanchi, including the Great Stupa and the intricately carved Asoka’s Column, were commissioned by the Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC. However, most of the sites at Sanchi were built in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.
A cultural hub, Sanchi would remain of vital importance for Buddhists, thriving as a city over the course of centuries, only finally being abandoned sometime in the 12th century. Lost for hundreds of years and only rediscovered in the 19th century by a British army officer, Sanchi has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1989.
Look out for the intricate carvings on gateways and monuments depicting the life of Buddha – note that he himself is never depicted. Some friezes even seem to depict what many believe to be Greeks who worshipped at Sanchi, and 3 inscriptions even pay testament to the fact that they even contributed financially to the building.
Today, visitors can see a variety of monuments dating back to Sanchi’s heyday, including palaces, monasteries and stupas. The most impressive of these is known as Stupa 1 or the Great Stupa and, like much of Sanchi, is resplendent with carvings.
There’s a small archaeological museum on site too.
Getting to Sanchi
Sanchi is about 40km north east of Bhopal – it’s possible to go on a day trip via public buses, trains or taxis, but if you choose the latter be sure to negotiate prices with your driver before setting out. There are accommodation options in Sanchi should you wish to stay, or be there for sunrise/sunset.