Stupa no. 3, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

high-definition creative commons photographs of the Stupa no. 3, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, which includes a finely decorated gate (torana), together with some further information.

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General Views of Stūpa, Gate and Stairway


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Gate from the Front

Gate from the Side

Gate from the Back


Visitors Standing at the Gate


Description from John Marshall, A Guide to Sanchi [1]

(slightly re-edited)

About 50 yards north-east of the Great Stūpa and at the edge of the level plateau is another monument of the same character and design but of smaller proportions (the diameter of this stūpa is 49'6", its height 27'). This is the stūpa in which General Cunningham discovered the relics of Śāriputra and Mahāmogalāna, the two famous disciples of the Buddha, and which in old days must have been invested with peculiar sanctity.

The chamber in which the relics were found was set in the centre of the structure and on a level with the top of the terrace. It was covered by a large slab upwards of five feet in length, and on it were two stone boxes, each of which bore a short inscription on the lid. On the one to the south was inscribed the name Sāriputasa "of Sāriputa," and on the one to the north Mahāmogalānasa "of Mahāmogalāna." Each box was a cube of 1' 6" with a lid 6" in thickness. In Śāriputra's box was a fiat casket of white steatite covered by a thin saucer of black earthenware and by its side two pieces of sandal wood (Gen Cunningham suggests that the two fragments of sandal wood may have been taken from the funeral pile). Within the casket was a small fragment of bone and several beads of pearl, garnet, lapis lazuli, crystal and amethyst. In the box of Mahāmogalāna was another steatite casket containing two small fragments of bone.

Apart from its size, the only essential points in which this stūpa differed from the Great Stūpa were the possession of one instead of four gateways, the decoration of its ground balustrade, and the more hemispherical contour of its dome, which was of a slightly later and more developed type. The ground balustrade has almost entirely disappeared, having been removed in ancient days for the construction of other buildings, but a few fragments of it were found in situ and others have been recovered from the foundations of Temple 45. They show that it was nearly eight feet in height and adorned with conventionalized but boldly executed lotus designs, varied on each pillar according to the fancy of the sculptor.

The stairway and terrace balustrades are similar in design and style to those of the Great Stūpa. On the corner pillar on the landing of the berm opposite the gateway, the visitor should observe the interesting relief which is probably intended to depict this particular stūpa and which shows clearly the manner in which the railing and umbrella at the top were disposed. The stūpa, with the stairway, berm and harmikā balustrades, dates from the middle of the second century BC, i. e. it is approximately contemporary with the rebuilding of the Great Stūpa.

The ground balustrade and the richly carved torana on the south, which was the latest of all the five toranas on the site, were added probably about the beginning of the Christian era. By the time they were erected, some soil had collected in and around the processional path and the ground level had risen between one and two feet, thus concealing the original path and hiding from view the lowest steps of the ascending stairways. In order to expose the latter, it was necessary to remove this ancient accumulation of soil, but the digging was stopped short near the foot of the steps, so as to avoid endangering in any way the foundations of the gateway.

This gateway stands 17 feet high, and is adorned with reliefs in the same style as, but somewhat more decadent than, those on the gateways of the Great Stūpa. Indeed, the majority of these reliefs are mere repetitions of the subjects and scenes portrayed on the larger gateways, and need not be described again.

The only scene which differs materially from those on the gateways of the Great Stūpa is the one delineated on the front face of the lowest architrave, which appears to represent the Heaven of Indra (Nandanavana). In the centre is the pavilion of the god, with Indra himself seated on a throne surrounded by women attendants and with his harpist, Pañchāsikha, on his left. In the foreground is the river Mandākinī, which bounds the heaven of Indra, and to right and left of the pavilion are mountains and jungles forming a pleasance for the gods and demigods who are taking their ease therein.

On the left is a horse-headed fairy, apparently detaining a man against his will. She may be the Yakshinī Aśvamukhī of Jāt. 432, of whom the Bodhisattva was once born. In the corners next to the false capitals, are nāga kings seated, with their attendants, on the folds of seven-hooded ridges, whose coils mingled with the waters of the river are carried through to the ends of the architrave, and go to form the spirals adorning its extremities. The sea monsters (makaras) and the heroes wrestling with them, which are portrayed on the false capitals of this architrave, are particularly appropriate in this position, where their coils combine effectively with those of the nāgas.


Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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