Sacred Sanchi

37.4 13 Jun 2024

  • Unesco world Heritage site 'Mahastupa' (Great Stupa) stands here
  • Home to the Gupta temple, one of the earliest examples of temple architecture
  • The evolution of temple architecture is seen in the Gupta temple in the Stupa premises that were built in 5th century
  • Houses 4 gateways that showcase Buddha's life through intricate carvings
  • The Lion Capital of Ashokan Pillar can be found at The Archeological Museum

Sacred Sanchi

Sanchi is a small town situated in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is renowned for its ancient Buddhist site, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist destination. Sanchi is located about 50 km northeast of Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, and is easily accessible by road or rail. 

The probable reason for the establishment of Buddhist monuments at Sanchi is the city of Vidisha. This erstwhile capital of ancient Eastern Malwa happened to be the populous and rich city of central India. The interest of the great Mauryan emperor Ashoka in Vidisha and around was because his wife Devi belonged to Vidisha. In addition to this fact, the Sanchi hilltop was an ideal place for the establishment of a monastery having a suitable atmosphere for meditation and other spiritual activities. 

The Great Stupa at Sanchi

The main attraction of Sanchi is the Great Stupa, believed to be the first monument to be erected in Sanchi in the third century BC. It is also one of the oldest stone structures in India and is considered one of the finest examples of Buddhist architecture and art, built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka. The stupa has a hemispherical dome that is surrounded by a railing and four gateways, each adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures depicting stories from the life of Buddha. The Stupa is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a must-visit for anyone interested in history and architecture. 

Apart from the Great Stupa, Sanchi also has several other stupas, temples, and monasteries that are worth visiting. Stupa No. 2 is also significant and is believed to have been built during the 2nd century B.C. Stupa No. 3, is another well-preserved Stupa at Sanchi hilltop which dates back to the middle of the second century B.C. The Ashoka Pillar is another must-visit structure at the site. It lies close to the Southern gateway of the Great Stupa and is known for its aesthetic proportions and exquisite structural balance. The figure of the four lions standing back to back at the crown of the Ashoka Pillar is also the National Emblem of India.

Apart from the historical and architectural attractions, Sanchi also offers serene landscapes for nature walks and hikes. Visitors can explore the nearby Udayagiri caves, which offer a glimpse into ancient Indian rock-cut architecture. The Bhojpur Temple, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Sanchi, is another prominent destination among tourists. 

In addition to these attractions, there are several other places to visit in and around Sanchi. Some of them are: 

Experiences in Sanchi

Buddha Jambudweep Park - it is a 17-acre theme park in Sanchi, dedicated to the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha and Emperor Ashoka. It has a garden with recreational activities, a maze for jigsaw puzzles, and a museum with digital games and paintings. Pavilions educate visitors on the four noble truths of Buddhism. The park offers a unique experience for those interested in religion or seeking spiritual guidance. 

Buddhist Vihara - Just a few km away from Sanchi, the Buddhist Vihara is a modern-day monastery that houses the revered relics of the Satdhara STupa. Enclosed in a glass casket, these sacred relics are enshrined on a platform in the inner sanctum of the monastery.

Archaeological Museum in Sanchi - The Archaeological Survey of India maintains a site museum at Sanchi. Noteworthy antiquities on display include the lion capital of the Ashokan pillar and metal objects used by the monks, discovered during excavations at Sanchi. 

Sound and Light Show - Enhance your experience of visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sanchi with a mesmerising Sound and Light show. Against the stunning backdrop of the Stupas, this unique show beautifully narrates the story of these ancient monuments while evoking the life of Gautam Buddha and Emperor Ashoka.

Places to visit around Sanchi

Vidisha - Located just 10 km from Sanchi, Vidisha is a quaint town that houses several ancient temples and monuments. The Hindola Toran, Char Khamba and Jain temple complex are some of the must-visit attractions here. 

Gyaraspur - 46 km from Sanchi, Gyaraspur is a mediaeval town that was once known for its annual fair. The town remains a treasure trove of ancient temples, including the Athkhamba, Chaukhamba and Mahadev temples that date back to the 9th and 10th centuries. 

Udaigiri - Located only 16 km away from Sanchi, the Udaigiri Caves offers a chance to witness stunning rock carvings. These 20 caves, consisting of 18 Hindu and 2 Jain caves, boast intricate religious iconography and sculpted stories dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries AD, created over several generations. 

Raisen - Located just 23 km from Sanchi on the way to Bhopal, Raisen boasts a massive sandstone fort atop a hill. The fort houses several temples, palaces, wells and tanks, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs. 

Satdhara - Located 14 km from Sanchi houses an ancient monastic complex of Buddhist Stupas, consisting of 8 stupas with the main stupa being almost as large as the Great Stupa of Sanchi. The ruins near the stupa include remains of the monastery and temple, known as siddh ka makaan, indicative of the once-enlightened monks who resided there. 

Sonari - Just 11 km from Sanchi, Sonari is a complex of Buddhist stupas, excavated in the 19th century by Alexander Cunningham, who discovered two boxes containing relics. Stupa No. 1 is the largest and made of dry masonry, while Stupa No. 2 contains miniature reliquaries and inscriptions in Brahmi. There are also smaller stupas nearby and the remains of a monastery. The site is accessible only by foot, with a three km walk over two hills and across one stream from Sonari village. 

Bhopal - The capital city of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal is known for its rich history, culture and architecture. The city has several monuments, lakes, markets and museums that are worth visiting. 

Bhimbetka - Located about 100 km from Sanchi, Bhimbetka is an archaeological site that houses several prehistoric rock shelters and cave paintings. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Pachmarhi - Located about 200 km from Sanchi, Pachmarhi is a scenic hill station surrounded by lush green forests, waterfalls, and valleys. It is a popular destination for trekking, camping, and nature walks. 

In conclusion, Sanchi is a fascinating destination that offers a perfect blend of history, architecture, and nature. Visitors can explore the ancient stupas, temples, and monasteries and enjoy nature walks. The nearby towns and cities like Vidisha, Bhopal, Bhimbetka and Pachmarhi offer several other attractions that make Sanchi a perfect getaway for a short holiday or a weekend trip.

How to reach Sanchi

By Air: Nearest airport is at Bhopal (49 km) that connects Sanchi with other major cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Gwalior and Indore. 

By Rail: Sanchi lies on the Jhansi-Itarsi section of the Central Railways. However the most convenient railheads are Vidisha (10 km) and Bhopal (49 km).

By Road: Sanchi is well connected with Bhopal, Indore, Sagar, Gwalior, Vidisha, Raisen and many more by road. 

Best time to visit Sanchi

You can plan a visit to Sanchi, anytime between July/October to March to enjoy the pleasant weather and explore the ancient wonders of Buddhism. If you happen to be here in November, don't miss the grand celebration of Chethiyagiri Vihara festival, where you can witness the display of relics belonging to Gautam Buddha's disciples as a part of the festivities. There are a lot of accommodation options as well, catering to all budgets and needs. 

Rural Life Experiences Around Sanchi

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Best Places to visit

The Great Stupa

Chaitya, Vihar/ The Buddhist Vihar

Gupta temple

Sanchi Stupa 2

The ASI museum

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MPT Gateway Retreat, Sanchi

Price: INR 300 - 3590 Phone: (07482) 266723

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Nearby destinations

Begum's Bhopal (48 KM)

Split by a pair of lakes, Bhopal is two cities within a city. Two starkly contrasting cityscapes. Towards the North you have the old city, a fascinating area of mosques, serpentine alleys, chowks



Amazing Bhimbetka (89 KM)

Cave paintings dating back to approximately 30,000 years. Rock shelters that were home to humans, millennia ago. And a rich flora and fauna surrounding these, indeed, make Bhimbetka a gift to us



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