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This answers explores many aspects that are inherited in structure of Stupa. Starting from the word
stupa itself, signify the vibrancy of variations in its meaning across the culture, implying existence of the
erection of a mound or stupa existed before spread of Buddhism in one form or the another,and even
beyond the subcontinent. The resultant structure is amalgamation of pre Buddhist ideas whether it is
Brahmanical or non Brahmanical, which later on culminated into Buddhist monument. Thus, its
emergence should be attribute to changing social and economic conditions of that time that made
Buddhism popular, especially among urbane or vaisya population, who in turn witnessed the prosperity
due to increasing agricultural and trade prosperity. Apart from this, detailed analysis of reliefs gives the
information in evolution of architecture, attires, jewelry while some historians like Seema Bawa, tries to
engender the reliefs This show how can art could interpreted in different levels. Inscriptions also renders
the information over the various profession existed during that time and also deterioration of Buddhist
nuns. At metaphysical level, each and every part and space becomes the sacred and imbibes with cosmic
energy, which in turn ,makes the structure worthy for reverence among the people.

Stupa is Sanskrit word, translated as a ‘knot or tuft of hair , the upper part of the head, crest, top or
summit. The Rig Veda stupa means tree’s stem. In the Atharva veda, the Taittirya Samhita, and the
Satapatha Brahmana, ‘stupa’ word refers to a ‘bunch of wool’ or ‘raised look of hairs’, or ‘forepart of the
head’. Though, the Pali word ‘thupa’ is the nearest equivalent to the term Stupa. ‘Thupa’ means a
‘conical heap’, ‘a pile’ or a ‘mound’ or ‘conical bell or bell shaped shrine’, containing a relic. While the
Anglo Indians and some of the scholars belonging to the Anglo-Saxon race, like A. Cunningham and F.C.
Maisey refer to the Stupa as ‘Tope’. Also , it may be said that the word Stupa might have derived from
the Sanskrit root ‘Stu’, meaning ‘to worship’ or ‘to praise’, hence, the term could be related to the
ritualistic, and commemorative aspects of social life.

The root stup and noun stupa was a living tradition as evidenced by its derivations in several languages
distributed over a vast area from Afghanistan to Lahandi in the eastern most region of India. Stupa is
also a ‘pile up of a clay’ supported by its Hindi derivative. This is confirmed by Chinese traveler I- Tsing
who visited in the 7th century A.D. The word stupa can also meant ‘to raise up well’ , ‘raise aloft’ or ‘to
elevate’. The word is also attested in Greek ‘stupos’, ‘stem’, ‘stump’, ‘block’. All these words are
comparable in Latin words like ‘stipes’, ‘stipa’, ‘stupeo’ and in Luthanian – ‘stup’, ‘stupe’. In Icelandic
stupa is tower. We can catch the glimpse of the very beginning of stupa as an element of agricultural
economy of early man. In its earliest stages it was ‘tethering post’ for an animal made out of a wooden
stump to keep the animal in place. The animal was the symbol of wealth, Latin pecuma, money originally
property in the form of ‘cattle. With the growth of Buddhism in the course of time, the early structural
model of stupa underwent gradual architectural transformation in various regions of India and
elsewhere. Penetration of Buddhism in Sri Lanka (Dagoba) , Central Asian, South East Asian and East
Asian countries besides Nepal (Caitya), Burma (Pagoda) and Tibet (Chod-rten) was followed by
transmission of the religio-cultural traditions, concept and form of Buddhist architecture including the
stupa from their birth place to these foreign lands, where these were preserved adapted and developed
in accordance with local requirements, believes and tastes.

It gives the indication towards the unanimity in the etymological and philological origin of the word, so
in modern general from the Mormier Williams in Sanskrit- English Dictionary, stupa implies a, ‘Buddhist
monument’ , ‘dagoba’ (generally a pyramidical or dome like form created over sacred relics of a
historical Buddha ( 563-478 B.C.E. )or on spots consecrated as the scenes of his acts; a relics shrine or
relics casket. The stupa was originally a top knot of hair desingnating the upper part of the head but
subsequently became used as an architectural term indicating a monument of a dome- shaped form
over the relics of the Buddha or venerated person. A dome –shaped monument, used to have Buddhist
relics to commemorate significant facts of Buddhism or Jainism not only funeral remains.

As far as architectural and philosophical dimension of Stupa is concerned ,apart from stupa themselves,
Buddhist texts, like the Mahaparinibbana, Sutta, Bahiya Sutta, Stupavadana, Mhavamsa, Dipvamsa and
the Jatakas like Sujata, though provide some architectural details of the Stupa, they give some give us an
insight into the possible origin, purpose and functional character of the Stupa. The Mahayanist texts
also mention the architectural details, but more than that, it throws light on the changing character of
Buddhism, and hence, of the Buddhist art influencing and sharing with Brahmanical and Hindu art. By
some art historians it is believed that anthromorphic representation of Boddhistava and then Buddha (
Mahayana) had great impact over the Brahmanical art emerging since 2nd century A.D.

Origin of the Stupa

Origin of Stupa is quite debatable issue among the historians. On the basis of extant Stupa architectures,
which are the products of a long process of evolution both in field of concept as well as structure, and
other archeological finding showing architectural resemblance with the Stupa architecture, scholars and
the archaeologists, both Indian and foreigners have tried to formulate certain theories regarding
architectural origin of the Stupa. Scholars like, V.S. Agrawala, are of the opinion that the vedic Yupa ( it
denotes lithic column raised as memorials to the performances of sacrifices by particular individual) , at
a subsequent period, and with the process of architectural development might have assumed the form
Stupa. But , the erection of pillar in front of the Buddhist Stupa architecture and its separate mentioning
in Buddhist text (Mahavamsa) suggest that the Yupa tradition though assimilated and accepted by the
Buddhists yet regarded it as distinct from the Stupa architectural tradition. Structurally, also Yupa as a
solid post could not enshrine any object within it. So, to trace the origin of the relic chamber i.e. the
stupa from the Yupa seems to be unacceptable. A.K. Commaraswamy believes that the stupa was a
funeral mound and a symbol of the last great event of the Buddha’s life, i.e. Parinirvana. Thus, stupa has
been identified with the last rites of the departed soul. It has an object of reverence and a reminder to
the people, in general, of the impermanence of the material body. Hermann Goetz also considers Stupa
a ‘relic shrine’ and a tumulus. Agreeing with Coomarsaswamy, E.B. Havell, further suggests that the
existing solid structure of the brick and stone, probably originated from the ‘domical hut’ built of
bamboos and wooden ribs. Thus, the earliest Stupa may have been Aryan chieftains’ hut or tent,
imitated or reproduced in Vedic funeral rites as a temporary abode for the spirit of the deceased. B.M.
Barua, G.C. Pande and James Fergusson subscribe to hut theory, hence, correlating the origin of stupa
with funeral practices of the Brahmanical period and it is likely that the hemispherical shape of the stupa
is the refined form of the burial mound. Stella Kramrisch is of the view that the stupa architecture is the
resultant of the combination of ‘Vedic-altar’ and ‘Cairn’ of the ancient time. She alludes to the Vedic
altar- a raised platform meant for worship and a symbol of reminiscences and to orient practice of
erecting of Cairn over the ashes of the dead and assimilation of these Brahmanical practices with the
primitive tribal tradition by the Jainas and the Buddhists which gave rise to the Stupa. O.C. Gangoly
maintains that the Buddhist Stupas might have its origin in the rock cut tombs, discovered at
Mennapuram (Kerla) which, Gangoly prefers to call ‘hallow Stupas’ that is to say ‘hemispherical in stone
of a very early hemispherical hut’.

But, so far, it is the term ‘Caitya’ and practice in relation to it, aligned closest to the meaning of Stupa.
Coomaraswamy is also of the opinion that the ‘the general meaning of the word ‘Caitya (from √ci) is
something built or piled up, the relative derivative ‘citya’ referring to the altar or fire altar. Hence, the
usual application of funeral mounds, built in honour of heroes, teachers, or prophets of which the
Buddhist and Jaina Stupas a familiar example. Thus, Coomaraswamy seems to accept the thesis that the
Buddhist Stupa might have some relation with the earlier practices of raising funeral mounds or fire
altars at holy places. He, therefore, views that Caitya might have been the early form of the Stupa,
meant for commemoration and worship. V.S. Agrawala is of the opinion that the word Caitya has been
derived from the word ‘Cita’ meaning funeral pyre. The pre-Buddhist practice, it seems, was to burn the
dead and after it to collect the remains and ashes and either to plant a tree or to raise an earthern
mound or install a wooden post at the burial ground (Caitya-Vartan). The wooden post was also known
as Caitya- Yupa. On the basis of archaeological findings at Lauriya –Nandangarh, Agrawala opines that
here is true Vedic tradition the Caitya existed. Thus, it might be said that Buddhist Caitya-Stupa could be
modified and magnified form of the Vedic Yupa. In addition to this, even there is reference of ‘stupa’ in
Jaina philosophy. Abhyadeva’s commentary on the Jaina texts does not confirm that the stupa is a
funeral structure. Nevertheless, the Acaranga Sutra strictly prohibits the Jaina monks to ease themselves
on the site of funeral Caityas or funeral Stupas. This means that both the Caitya and Stupa concepts of
the Jaina period were related to funeral rites. Both of these seem to non-Aryan and non-Vedic in
concept because it does not venerates the dead remains like in Vedic concept. It also make difference
between the Caityas and stupa. Besides, it seems that in the Jaina era the Caitya were mostly built to
honour the tirthankaras. They were also not built at the place of sacrifice as it was negation of Jaina
philosophy of Ahimsa i.e. Sacrifice. It is, therefore, probable that the Buddhism accepted and assimilated
these traditions, such as, by accepting the age old tradition of the Brahmanical Caitya as modified and
secularized by the Jainas. It also accepted the Jaina Stupa concept as a symbol of commemoration and
worship. Probably in the later period, due to deep desire of the common mass to worship the lord for
the sake of salvation, Stupa acquired its votive character as well. Caitya vrksa, an older traditional shrine
where tree is enclosed within square wooden railing, might have contributed to the formulation of
revering idea for stupa. According to U.P Shah, Stupa building or Caitya structure existed in the pre-
Buddhist period and only during the Buddhist period they acquired greater significance, partly because
of the social and economic condition of the time

Philosphical Dimensions of Stupa

According to Robert Thurman, Stupa demonstrates the triumph of enlightenment and wisdom over
suffering and ignorance. They are memorials to the possibility of freedom from suffering for all beings.
They signal the triumph reality of a nature that enables beings to evolve to the experience the ultimate
fulfillment of perfect bliss , beyond death and satisfying life. Stupa stands eloquently testimony to the
higher purpose of life beyond competing or struggling, getting or spending. Consciously or subliminally,
they help turn people’s mind away from their frustrating obsessions and towards their own higher
potential. Whereas , in Sushila Pant’ view, in Buddhism, stupa architecture occupies a very significant
place. Probably, in no other religion, except Buddhism, a particular structure has been recommended by
its founder either for worship or for commemoration or as a means for salvation. This is equally evident
from the Mahaparinibbana Sutta where the Buddha himself referred to the erection of ‘thupa’ implying
stupa over the remains of the Mahapurusa or Tathagata. It is, therefore, not only religion but it
symbolizes the presence of the Lord, though without any icon. It epitomizes the essence of Buddhism
and suggests the path of Nirvana. According to B.M.Barua (1934), Stupa architecture can be compared
with different stages of man’s life. He observes “ putting of the relics in covered casket indicated stage
of conception; putting of casket in a stone box indicates birth; covering of the box by a brick structure as
infancy; the rise of the structure above the ground (medhi) as childhood; oval shaped (anda) that of
adolescence; the chatravali and in compassing it by a stone railing keeping guard that of youth and
coronation; the lion statues guarding the approaches are that of manhood; erection of ornamental
archways and completion of sculptural representations that of maturity and victory; the addition ofan
outer railing and construction of the flights of steps that of decline and old age.

The metaphysical aspects, further, embroils the components of the Stupa. It could be seen as an
expression of the five elements – Earth, which spreads out in foundation, provides the solid basis. The
dome is the garbha (womb), primordial, creative water, formless potentiality. It is also called the ‘anda’
or the egg, ‘Literally It signifies “the womb of the Tathagata’ that is to say, there treasure or store in
which the essence of the Buddhahood remains concealed. Placing of the relics under the earth is like
returning to the prenatal place of the womb, so it could signify inter communion of soul with the
universal truth. It could also reminiscent to the conical spire which is Fire which always rises upwards. It
represents the wisdom which burns ignorance. And also dome also find affinity to the crescent moon
that is Air, expansive , waxing and waning. The architecture is space , wholeness , totality with no end
or beginning. The other component of the Stupa structure is harmika, surrounded by the railings in the
middle of which is Yashti fitted with parasol. It could also be explained as ‘house of God’ means heaven.
In the opinion of Hermane Goetz, the Yashti or post and the Chatravalis or the umbrellas symbolize
succession of the higher heavens losing themselves in the transcendental or could also meant world
axis. Traditionally, parasols were used by royals similarly it meant reverence and social status demanded
by the structure. Finally, It also be seen as jewel above the circle , which represent a higher state of
reality which is beyond the five elements. It is the Ushnisha, present on the crowns of the Buddhas,
revealing their perfect and enlightened state. This ascent to perfection is laid out with precision in an
Enlightenment stupa. Pradiksna path could signify the open air altar made for the sake of worship[ or
could be traced to old practice of direction of course towards the sun ( brahamical ritual) or around the
components of heaven as in the case of Stupa. The Four gateways at the four cardinal points
‘corresponding to the four season’ or gateways could be the copies of the ‘victory gate ways’ of the past
as both were erected to welcome the victorious king, the latter to welcome the Tathagata who has
obtained victory over the cycle of birth and rebirth and thereby attained Nibbana. Finally, one of the
other component is stairways, may be conceived as of the ladder leading to the human soul from his
earthly abode to the heaven

The Great Stupa at Sanchi


India is home to one of the most symbolic and oldest stone structure known to man. The Great stupa at
Sanch is one of the most sophisticated and well known monuments of all the time; the marvelous icon is
considered to be a cornerstone of Buddhist architecture and religion. It stands tall and holds a powerful
presence that is very symptomatic of its historical context The astonishing marvel was appointed to be
built around 3rd century B.C.E. by one of the most powerful and influential rulers of Ancient Indian
Emperors. One of the most popular among them is Asoka, grandson of Chandragupta, who was the king
of the Mauryan Dynasty and ruled the Indian subcontinent from ca. 269 B.C.E to 232 B.C.E. and during
his reign Asoka converted to Buddhism and spread his Buddhist teachings throughout India as well as
believed to have the great stupa erected to glorify and harbor the sacred Buddhist relics. Relatively,
From the same time, apart from great Stupa, Ashokan pillar (12 km high ) with its projecting pillar of
lion inspired by Achaeminid art was also erected along with other oldest Stupa II. Sanchi’s role as an
intermediary for the spread of cultures and their peripheral outs throughout the Maurya Empire and
later in India of the Sunga, Satavahana, Kushana, and Gupta dynasties was confirmed. Sanch is the
oldest extant Buddhist sanctuary. Although Buddha never visited the site during any of his former life or
during his earthly existence, the religious nature of this shrine is obvious. The chamber of relics of Stupa
contained the remains of Shariputra, a disciple of Shakyamuni who died six months ago before his
master. Venerated by the followers of Hinayana sect or small vehicle, Sanch remined the principle
centre of the Buddhism in medieval India following the spread of Hinduism. Sanchi also bears unique
witness as a major Buddhist sanctuary from the 3rd century B.C.E. to the 1st century A.D. When Sanchi
was discovered in 1818 by General Taylor, it had lain abandoned for 600 years. The site 45 km from
Bhopal was overrun with vegetation. Excavation began in somewhat disorganized fashion until the
Archaeological Survey of India stepped in and took control. Gradually, as the hill was cleared, the ruins
of about 50 monuments were uncovered revealing one of the most remarkable archaeological
complexes in India.

Architectural Features of Sanchi Stupa

Stupa I is the largest stupa at Sanchi, a fact that has rightly earned it its popular designation, the great
Stupa. Its core is believed to date from the time of Asoka, although it was enlarged to its present
diameter of approximately thirty six meters during the Sunga perod, at which time it was also given its
final stone casing and vedika. Although it is not known by inscription whose relics were contained within
the monument, it is highly likely that so major a monument at such an early date could only have
contained a portion of the relics of Sakyamuni, which were distributed by Asoka after their original
division into eight portions.
Except for the addition of the tornas and large scale, the Great Stupa is similar to Stupa II at Sanchi. In
bth cases, the vedika and four entranceways form a svastika plan and there is berm (medhi) level
attached the stupa for circumambulation. At the Great Stupa, however, this upper passageway is
guarded by a stone railing (vedika), which as lacking in the smaller monument. In addition, the crowning
elements of the Great Stupa are preserved, revealing much of the basic symbolism inherent in all such
monuments. Above the dome, a smaller railing (harmika) encloses the most important symbolic element
of the Stupa, the pole (yasti) which represents the world axis, and is thus conceptually similar to free
standing pillars, like those of Asoka. The use of the railing around the central axis is part of the early
caitya tradition, for such a device was used to enclose a sacred tree, pole, burial mound, or other caitya
in pre-Buddhist times. Above the central axis of the stupa is a series of chattras (umbrellas), in this case,
three, that are honorific elements symbolizing protection of the object below or ascendancy in the
attainment in degree of spirituality. In Buddhist art, they appear over Stupas, and later above figures,
including Buddhas, with identical meaning.

The south torna is believed to be the oldest of the four gateways of the Great Stupa, not only on stylistic
ground, but also because it is placed at the principal entrance to the sacred compound, where both the
Asokan pillar and staircase leading up to the berm are located. Thus, it is likely that this would have been
the first entrance to be adorned with a stone gateway. Each torna consists of two upright pillars that
are square in shape and support a super structure of three architraves with volute ends. Like rolled-up
picture scrolls, these volutes seem to unfurl the Buddhist subjects pictured in the architraves, as well as
the various faces of the upright pillars, are sculpted, and it is possible that a fairly unified iconographic
program was intended. The railing is almost devoid of carving, and the tornas are the primary depiction
of the religious subject. Between the upright pillars and the superstructure are capitallike elements
consisting of very three dimensionally carved elephants on both north and east tornas ; more fleshy and
ornamented dwarves on the west gateway, holding their arms above their heads in the manner of
atlantids, appearing to uphold a stylized step-pyramid design, probably symbolizing mountain forms,
and, interestingly each dwarf is individualized both in costume and facial expression ; while on south
gateway, we see addorsed lions, perhaps in emulation of the Asokan pillar.

Above the top architrave, auspicious emblems including the Buddhist triratna appear, along with cauri
bearers, while between the outer ends of the architraves and serving as brackets between the lower
cross bars and vertical pillars are representations of vrksadevatas grasping onto different types of trees.
The most celebrated of these is a figure on the east torana shown seductively grasping a mango tree. A
considerable stylistic change has occurred since the creations at Bharhut, for the suggestion of
sensuousness seen in the earlier example here erupts into full voluptuous as the scantily clad woman
hangs languidly on the tree. The depiction is more sculptural and three dimensional than the Bharhut
example, for not only it is carved in the round, but the individual forms of the body are also more deeply
cut, and less emphasis is placed on linear patterns in the treatment of hair, jewelry, and other details.
Although the specific vrksadevata is not identified, it may be inferred that her association with the
fruiting mango tree suggests the notion of abundance and fruitfulness as well as general auspiciousness.
Seema Bawa describes her as Salabhanjika who is connected to the fertility cult
An important feature of the gateways is the presence originally of pairs of male figures on the inner
faces of the pairs of male figures on the inner faces of the uprights of each torna. Susan Hatington views
them as a prototype of Bodhisattvas, thus, raise an issue –does it right to call Hinayana structure purely,
because Bodhisattvas are characteristics of Mahayana Buddhism. The one on north was dressed in indic
wear and another is in foreigner attire. Usually, these pairs of figures are identified as dvarpala, but
neither of them wearing armour. Moreover, like Bodhisattvas in later art, they seem to be princely
individuals wearing jewelry and turbans or other headgear, a convention that conforms to the
representations of the attendants remaining of the original eight flanking the entrances to the Great
Stupa. They are even individualized to some extent by the objects ( mango in hand of male on north
gateway) they hold in their in hands, which attributes comparable to those held by bodhisattvas as
symbols of their iconological meaning as known from established bodhisattva imagery. Further parallels
with conventional bodhisattvas iconography include the arrangement of the figures in pairs and in
alignment with the cardinal directions, for paired bodhisattvas often serve as attendants to the
directional Buddha. But, such identification is questionable according to V. Dehejia, because other
evidences do not support it. Each of the four toranas carries an imprecatory inscription which stresses
the personage of the arhat, a being of prime importance to Hinayana worshippers but largely
discredited by early Mahayana schools in favor of the bodhisattvas.

Modes of Narration: Jatakas and Scenes from Buddha’s Life

The relief sculptures of the Sanchi tornas include numerous jatakas as well as other Buddhist subjects.
In contrast to Bharhut stupa, however, these reliefs are not identified by inscription, suggesting that the
subjects had become well enough known to devotees that label were not required. According to Vidiya
Dehejia, these jatakas could be analyzed as various visual narratives to the devotees. There are various
mode of narrations as specified by her in book Disourse in Early Buddhist Art. Sanch artists adopted
one of three modes-static monoscenic, synoptic, or continuous. Continuous narrative, which was in a
nascent form at Bharhut, comes into its own at Sanchi, being used extensively for the decoration of the
architraves of the gateway

The extensive use of the static monoscenic mode at Sanchi resulted in panel after panel in which the
centralized figure of the Buddha is surrounded by worshipers either listening to him preach, adoring him
after he has performed a miracle or gathered around him in worship. Figures are generally are crowded
and arranged in linear terms, which ultimately give prominence to much larger iconic or indexical
symbol of Buddha. By so doing, the artists created a repetitive and persistent impression of the pre-
eminence of the Buddha. For instance, in one of the Indrasalaguha Jataka’s representation in the front
face of the south pillar of the western gateway, in which Indra and the gods worshiped the Buddha
while he was seated within a cave in a mountain retreat. Here, artist’s concern was not with narrating
the events that culminated in Indra’s visit ( even Indra is indistinguishable from the other gods) ; rather
he was interested in emphasizing the supremacy of the Buddha to whom all the gods including Indra
paid homage. Other such representation includes the jatakas in sanchi stupa are Adyeshana incident,
Buddha preaching in Kapilavastu, Sravasti miracle, incident showing Buddha perfoming the feat of
walking in the air.

Second in popularity at Sanchi is the synoptic mode of narration in which multiple episodes of a story
arranged within a single unified space, using variety of pattern like Mahakapi jataka, in contrast to the
more simplified example from Bharhut, this relief is more crowded with elements that are not always
essential to the communication of the story, which also diminishes the visual importance of the main
incidents of the story such as monkey the main protagonist is reduced to upper end. However, a certain
logic of space and time has also been introduced in that the events may be read in a consistent order,
beginning at the lower left, where the king and his attendants enter, to the top right view of the wildlife
and then to the left where the monkeys are crossing the river and the monkey and human kings
converse beneath the tree. Other Jataka relief in synoptic mode consists of Syama Jataka and portrayal
of the enlightenment on the central architrave of the northern gateway. It is interesting to note here
that this has been engendered by Seema Bawa as Mara and his army on right portion of the narrative
are represented as grotesque, distorted , ugly and bestial, since their instruments of the evil are brute
force and their purpose is to frighten and to inspire the fear of death. This is in contrast to the
representation evil daughters of Mara, who are shown beautiful emphasizing the conventional
stereotyping of feminine beauty as dangerous is reiterated. Female beauty is considered an obstacle to
the path of salvation.

At Sanchi continuous narration vies in popularity with the synoptic mode and is evident in two
architraves –The Great Departure on the central architrave of the eastern gateway, and the Vessantara
jataka which unravels in a series of twenty one scenes on both faces of the lowest architrave of the
north gateway. In later, as continuous narrative demands, in which viewer unravels the story of the
protagonist Chaddanta elephant to the next. In case of Great Departure, main protagonist Buddha
whose symbolizes with parasol and on horse is repeated four times as story progress and Buddha’s
departure final leave is indicated by pair of footprint and horse without the parasol. Susan Hatington
thinks it is a recreation of the event as form of festival or drama at a later time because male figures that
accompanied the horse are not devas mentioned in the texts who supposedly held aloft the hoofs of
the horse at the time of Sakyamubi’s secret departure. Instead, they are indistinguishable from the male
figures generally depicted in the Sanchi reliefs in terms of their appearance and costume and it may be
suggested that these men are not devas but actors in a pageant which recreates the aspects of the
event of Sakyamuni’s departure. The worship of a pair of Buddhapada at the right of composition and
the presence of a sacred tree in the center suggest that the horse is being led to sites which were
already sacred, implying that the events are taking place after Sakyamuni’s departure itself.

Hatington also bring to our notice a relief on north torana, showing a devotion to a stupa, in which
group of foreigners are shown identified by their tight curls on the hair of the figures and the headbands
are reminiscent of Greek type figures and the pointed caps are similar to Parthian type who were
prominent in the north western part of the south Asian subcontinent around the time the toranas were
made. Possibly, converts are paying homage at a stupa in this relief. In this, stupa is flanked by heavenly
beings of half birds, half human that are bringing garlands.
Decorative themes

In decorative theme, apart from analyzing the jatakas and architectural dimension, there are rich and
diiferent pattern of floral designs, delineation of forests, animals, other supernatural beings, but most
importantly detailed analysis give deep insight to the attires, jewelry and last not the least, architectural
designs. To this, A. Coomaraswamy highlights the glimpse of wooden architectural settings and
delineations that might have preceded the stone architecture through designs witnessed in Indian art,
for instance, torna is itself a wooden prototype in a stone. Not only its architectural form, but method of
its joinery indicates towards the imitation of wooden tradition. Designs of railings in the various relief
shows horizontal shafts inserted into vertical standing shafts, must be a wooden delineation. Apart from
this, one can also see urban setting in the sculptural program like, in representation of Vessantara
jataka, episode on war of relics, there are bridges city walls, palisaded city wall, gate towers, (attalakas),
bridge and moat, gate house; and prasada with floors supported by pillars ( Seven heavens, east torna,
north pillar) and lattice windows. A relief on the north tornas shows two rows of male devotees at a rock
cut cave of which façade shows arch shaped gateway.

Sanchi reveals an emphasis on the historic life of the Buddha and a move away from Jataka tales of the
previous life, presumably this reflects a shift in the priorities of Sanchi donors in particular and, perhaps
of central Indian Buddhism in general as there are only four varieties of Jatakas are rendered other are
on the Buddha’s supremacy driven incidents. No coherent sculptural program emerges, either
temporally or topographically, from a study of the carvings of the four gateways and their architraves.

Analysis of Inscriptions

Sanchi stupa, rather commissioned by royal patronage, it is the result of both communal and royal
patronage, evident from the inscription. These inscriptions throw light on the other social and religious
dimensions. With the exception of four imprecation, one on each gateway, the 631 inscriptions to be
found on the pillars, crossbars, and coping stones of the railing that encloses the circumambulatory path
around stupa at ground level. But interestingly, some of them are inscribed away from the centre of the
slabs spanning the circumambulatory path, so that, donors could be guaranteed that his gift would be
inscribed upon the piece donated, and perhaps given the assurance that he could view the inscription
upon his next visit to the site. It would appear that the monastic community who wished to embellish
their stupa toured nearby towns and villages, soliciting donations and receiving cash that would pay for
a paving slab, a railing pillar, a cross bar, or a length of coping. An analysis of these inscriptions shows
that these were given by members of the same town or even same family like entire range of adjacent
paving slabs were gifts from the inhabitants of Kurara.

Apparently, careful accounts were kept of donations, and prepared units were engraved with the names
of the donors. Gifts were made after all, not merely for the benefit of the monastic community, but in
order that the donor might accumulate religious ray. The intact 527 epigraphs reveal that the largest
single group of donors, 163 in number, were Buddhist ecclesiastics themselves. The remaining gifts of
people of varying occupations, and a number of joint gifts too are in evidence. Female donors, both
nuns and laywomen, constitute just under fifty percent of the total. It has been demonstrated by
Kumkum Roy and Upinder singh , through a study of epigraphs from early Buddhist monument that
there was reduction in patronage extended by nuns from Bharhut (three fourth )to Sanchi stupa (lesser
than half). This might suggest the deteriorating positions of nuns in Buddhism. Another royal patronage
was extended by Satavahana ruler Sri Satkarni, who gifted the top architrave of the of the south torna.
Buddhism is patronized on large scale by traders, craftsmen, merchants who are lumped together in
category of Vaisya , were placed lower in Brahmanical ritual ranking.

These inscription shows the variety of crafts that existed like ivory carvers of Vidisha gifted, and
themselves carved a pillar at the south torna. According to H.P. Ray, in return to gifts to monastic
institution, layman got enhancement of social status at the beginning, which was not possible in
Brahamanical order. Importantly, most of the Buddhist sites like Sanchi, Mathura, Bodh Gaya were
located near strategic location of trade routes.

From the above discussed answer, one can conclude that each and every component of Stupa could be
delineated in paradigm of history of architecture, economic and social aspects, It does not only give
information of royal patronages but notes the contribution of laymen. It is not a stagnant structure but
grow with absorbing cultural tradition as Buddhism was growing. From the mud and wooden structure
containing the relics, it developed into a brick and stone structure of moderate height with a
hemispherical dome and circular base followed by further elongation of each of the components of the
structure or a square or rectangular base. Most, importantly it gives deep insight into the relationship of
religion to the society, polity, economy and arts.


1. Stupa Architecture in India by Sushila Pant

2. Ananda Coomarswamay- Essay in Early Indian Architecture edited by Michael W. Meister
3. The Art of Ancient India by Susan Hatington
4. Discourse on Early Buddhist Art by Vidiya Dehejia
5. Gods, Men and Women by Seema Bawa
6. Class notes