Sanchi Stupa and Torana

Sanchi Stupa, situated in Madhya Pradesh showcases the early narrative Buddhist Art. The main structure of the Stupa, Torana and the vedika is dated between 50 B.C to AD 150. The relief sculptures on the stone gateways illustrates episodes from the life and worship of the Buddha along with the inscriptions of the donors and thereby provide a glimpse onto the life, belief and structure of the period. These inscriptions inform us that traders, householders, craftsmen, guilds, queens, ministers, nuns and monks- ordinary and great men and women contributed to the construction of this monument.

The Buddhist Stupa formalizes the burial mound in a uniquely transcendent manner. originally built to house portions of the Buddha’s cremated body , they constitute a symbolic perfection of the cosmos, wrapped around a relic of the enlightened one laid along the axis mundi.The Sanchi Stupa is surrounded by a railing which symbolically represents the walk around the cosmos, surrounded by Toranas, Gates , at each of the four cardinal directions.

The Stupa is surrounded by four Toranas, Gates on it east, west, north and south phase.. Each of the four gate, represents the Buddha’s world, with scenes from his life, Stupas, the wheel of dharma, animal, including the elephant which represents plentitude as well as the rain clouds of the monsoon. Of particular interest are the bracket figures at the bottom of each three tiered gates ; these yakshis, voluptuous and sensual, are said to represent, as well as the life force, the Buddha’s mother, Maya holding onto the Banayan tree during the pangs of birth. He finally emerged painlessly from her side.

In the Toranas one can find continuous narratives about episodes from the life of Buddha particularly the birth,the great Renunciation, Enlightenment, the first Sermon at Sarnath and the Parinirvana or death depicted on its panels, where the main character  of the story is generally placed in the center of the panel with subsidiary figures on either side. The human figures are placed in a frontal pose , and profile is very rare. On the east gateway the story of Buddha leaving his place has been depicted. The carvings on the Toranas are done in a very realistic manner.

It is a complete open air museum delivering an understanding of Buddhism in a wide space, very promptly and clearly where visitors gets a chance to appreciate and learn the aesthetic and sacred sense of Buddhist Art and Architecture.

compiled from: Art of Early Southeast Asia and Indian Sculpture- Seema Bawa