Sanchi’s Stupa 2 – Sunga dynasty (187-75 BC)

stupa 2

Sanchi, in Madhya Pradesh, is a very important place for Buddhism, especially with its several stupa. A stupa is a hemispherical monument which contains Buddha’s symbols and relics. According to the texts, Buddha’s relics were separated into eighths and distributed in different kingdoms. Later the king Ashoka redistributed them. A stupa also has a fence surrounding the hemispherical monument which is called vedika. This fence also delimits the circumambulation area for the faithful. The vedika is usually made of stone and has four chicane gates placed at the cardinals points, called torana.

The stupa 2 is the oldest one found. In the center of the hemispherical part, there is a space left vacant to be able to place texts or others symbols in a reliquary. Theoretically, it is impossible to access to the reliquary without breaking down the monument. The vedika is made of stone, and the upright members are carved to insert the cross member which is unnecessary here since they could have been piled up. The vedika is decorated by lotuses, wheels, and monument representations, all carved in a low relief. On the intermediary pillars, the goddess Shri is depicted. This goddess is part of buddhism and hinduism, symbolizing fortune and beauty, and is linked to the lotus.

This stupa is not the most magnificent, especially not in Sanchi. Indeed, stupa 1 (also known as Great Stupa) is better preserved and has more decorations on the vedika and the torana. The iconography is richer and more complex than this one. However the names we are using today were given by archeologists, so we should not forget that stupa 2 was built before stupa 1. It seemed important to start at the beginning. Also, to me, it was essential to introduce you to these complex principles and vocabulary through this example rather than jumping to stupa 1.

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