Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sanchi - The end of suffering

Suffering, sadness, struggle and heartburn may arise from any quarter. They don’t tell us in advance that they are coming. There is no preparedness we can ever have for them.

For an Emperor fighting his battle of Kalinga, Ashoka would have never imagined that he would undergo such a change of heart, when he saw the battle field strewn with the renascence of bloody bodies. It was a moment of awakening that gave rise to his conversion to Buddhism and the building of Sanchi, which today is a world heritage site.

Sanchi, known as Kakanaya, Kakanava, Kakanadabota and Bota Sri Parvata in ancient times, has Buddhist art and architecture right from the early Mauryan period (circa 3rd century BC) to 12th century AD.

Emperor Ashoka (circa 273 -236 BC) created a few of the monuments here, like Mahastupa, the monolithic pillar with the characteristic polish and a monastery atop the hill at the insistence of his queen who was from Vidisha. During the Sunga times, many edifices were raised in the surrounding hills as well. In the 1st century B.C, the Andhra-Satavahanas, who had extended their sway over the eastern Malwa, built elaborately the gateways to the stupas. From 2nd to 4th century AD, Sanchi and Vidisha were under the Kushanas and Kshatrapas and subsequently passed on to the Guptas. From 14th century onwards Sanchi remained forgotten till in 1818, General Taylor rediscovered the site.

It is a few great Englishmen, Captain Johnson (1822), General A. Cunningham and Captain F C Maisay (1851), Major Cole (1881) and Sir John Marshall (1912 – 1919) who explored and excavated and conserved the monuments. Thanks to these few brave and dedicated men, we as Indians see and rejoice in what might be called - a symbol of the end of suffering for Emperor Ashoka and his turning to Buddhism.

This post will never be complete without reference to what Buddha said with regard to suffering:

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Getting there:

Sanchi is in Raisen district 45kms northeast of Bhopal. Vidisha which was the capital of ancient Akara region is about 10km northeast of Sanchi
Single auto: Rs 100 from Vidisha but you can get off at Sanchi station and walk right out and take an Autorickshaw at Rs 30 to the Stupa.
You can reach Vidisha from Bhopal by train ( Rs 33 for general compartment which I strongly dissuade travelers. Book your ticket in advance with reservation to avoid being crushed by fellow homo-sapiens.

Return the same way or even by bus Rs 25

Entry: Indians: Rs 10; non-Indians: Rs 100

Where to stay:

MP Tourism Gateway Cafeteria Tel: 07482-266743, 266906 Tariff: Rs 200 per bed per person. Rs 400 for full room. The beds are bunks, one below and one on top. The rooms have an attached bath. Meals, veg and non-veg are available on request and can range from Rs 50 – 300

Maha Bodhi Society of Srilanka
Tel 07482-266699, 266739 Website: Tariff: Rs 100 – 1500.

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