If what you seek are peace and spiritual bliss, then Sanchi is truly the place that should be on the top of your travel bucket list. Located in Madhya Pradesh, this silent and calm town is famous for the many Buddhist monuments and monasteries that it is home to, like Sanchi Great Stupa.
Being sacred to the followers of Buddhism, this is also where the miracles of Buddha, like walking on water and the miracle of fire and wood, were recorded.
Many people also choose to migrate to Sanchi in their later years to learn the monk way of life and give up on worldly pleasures. What this essentially means is that, unlike many other towns and cities in India, Sanchi has a culture that can be categorized not as vibrant and lively, but as simple and calm.
Instead of food that is teeming with spices, you will find simpler and blander meals. Instead of hustling and bustling marketplaces where you can barely hear your own voice, you will find quite little shops that seem like a place of retreat in themselves.
Most importantly, instead of huge, grand palaces, you will find Buddhist monuments with great religious and historical significance, which will help you develop a different perspective on life. The fact that visit Sanchi and the Sanchi Great Stupa can have such an impact on a person is definitely what makes it one of the best tourist destinations in India.
The history of Sanchi is extremely interesting as it is tied closely with Sanchi Great Stupa and Ashoka the Great, an emperor who is famous for having given up war and embracing Buddhism.
Sanchi is known as the birthplace of his wife, Devi, whom he is known to have immensely loved. Sanchi is also the place where Ashoka and Devi officially got married, and today that site is one of the most popular places to visit in Sanchi.
The history of Sanchi is also so revered because of the Sanchi Great Stupa being known as one of the oldest monuments in India since Ashoka is said to have commissioned it in the 3rd century BCE.
Today, the many Buddhist monuments that have become the most revered places to visit in Sanchi are witness to its great history. These constructions include contributions from the Mauryan Empire in the 3rd Century BCE and the Gupta Empire in the 5th Century CE, and the constructions ended around 12 century CE. Thus, any architecture, archaeology, or history enthusiast would absolutely love to visit this city.
Monuments In Sanchi
Sanchi Great Stupa
There are so many answers to ‘Why is Sanchi Stupa famous?” The Sanchi Great Stupa is also known as Stupa no. 1 in some records. Commissioned originally by Ashoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire in the 3rd century BCE, it has a great religious and historical significance.
Later it was expanded using slabs almost twice its size under the rule of Shunga. Thus, the present structure actually has the previous structure made of bricks and mud inside it! The dome was also flattened.The interesting thing is that because Sanchi Great Stupa is the oldest construction, the railing does not have artistic images, and are instead plain slabs. However, some inscriptions can be dated back to the year 150 CE. The Sanchi Great Stupa also has the Wheel of Dharma, which illustrated the Buddhist way of life.
The importance of Sanchi Stupa is also indicated by the fact that this monument also contains several chambers that contain the relics of Buddha. The Sanchi Great Stupa is one of the most popular places to visit in Sanchi because it is also a UNESCO heritage site. Sir John Marshall, an Englishman heading the archaeological survey of India, had headed restoration work for the Sanchi Great Stupa between 1912 and 1919. The Ashoka pillar is also located here, as are the four effigies of Buddha that face the four gateways.
Sanchi Great Stupa no.2
Though these stupas were naturally built after the Sanchi Great Stupa, as is indicated by their names, they still have a great historical and archaeological significance, though some would assume that the importance of Sanchi Stupa overshadows all others.
Sanchi Great Stupa no.3
meanwhile, is most famous for being the place where the relics of Buddha’s disciples, Sariputra and Mahhamogallana, are housed. Unlike the other structure, this one is said to have been built under the Satavahanas.
The Ashoka pillar is not one pillar in itself, but a collection of many pillars. These are another example of extremely old structures that are said to have been built by Ashoka the Great himself. This is probably what puts it at the top of the list for places to visit in Sanchi in central India tour packages.
Toranas of Sanchi
The Toranas add to the Sanchi Stupa architecture but are revered as monuments of their own and regarded as important places to visit in Sanchi because of how detailed and significant their architecture is.
An interesting part of the history of the construction of this part of Sanchi Stupa architecture is that these gateways actually received no royal patronage, and were built from the donations of the devotees, who it is said also had the power to choose which incidences get depicted on them through carvings.
These incidences or stories are directly from the life and journey of the Buddha. This makes them extremely important because they were supposed to be a tool to help people not only understand the Buddhist way of life but to get to know the Great man himself. Structurally, each of the Toranas consists of two pillars upholding up to three large bars going across them. This structure is also completely made out of stone.
Located very near to the sites where the artifacts that are exhibited here were recovered, the Sanchi museum is known to have great historical and archaeological significance.
The great bowl is revered for reflecting the spiritual teachings of Buddhism. As a matter of fact, this monument is considered as a symbol of the Buddhist Renaissance because the mention of this location has been noted in many famous Buddhist scriptures and inscriptions.
Other Popular Tourist Attractions
Constructed during the Gupta Dynasty in 5th Century CE, this architectural wonder is absolutely beautiful as it stands as a testimony to the unique style of temple architecture that developed during the Gupta rule.
Under the protection of the Archeological Survey of India in the present day, the Udayagiri caves are located near Vidisha and said to be centuries old. The iconography inside the caves pays tribute to many Hindu gods and Goddesses like Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti.
Samrat Ashoka Marriage Location
As the name suggests, this is said to be the location where Ashoka the Great tied the knot with his wife Devi, a merchant’s daughter who was born in Sanchi.
Kamapaar Hanuman Mandir
This temple is dedicated to the Hindu monkey-God Hanuman, who was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hanuman is also said to be an avatar of Lord Shiva. This temple is about 65 years old, and the idol and temple grounds are kept in excellent condition. The real mark of this temple’s popularity is the hoard of devotees from a nearby village that make sure to visit it and pray here.
Located just 4 kilometers away from the main town of Sanchi, this temple is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Durga. Though a regular Aarti is held here every day, it especially comes alive during the nine-day festival of Navratri.
Said to have been built under Empress Devi in 3rd Century BCE, this is the monastery that housed many monks in yesteryears. The Great bowl is located right in front of it, indicating that the monks spent their entire lives here and receive necessary sustenance within the walls themselves.
Things to Do in Sanchi
Visit the Sir John Marshall memorial
Sir John Marshall was the archaeologist under whom the Sanchi Great Stupa was restored between 1912 and 1919. he was the director of the Archaeological Survey of India and stayed in Sanchi between 1912 and 1913.
Eat at the Gateway Retreat Restaurant
Hotel Ajay Palace is actually a small establishment run by a family on the way to Fatehpur Sikri Agra. Even though there is a limited menu, tourists love to stop here for the great taste and the personal attention that is offered by the staff.
Attend the Chethiyagiri Vihara Festival
Celebrated in November, this festival has devotees from all over the world come to Sanchi to pay tribute to the two disciples of Buddha, Sariputra, and Mahhamogallana, whose relics have been recovered from Stupa no. 3 and are put on display during the festival. You should consider planning your trip around the festivals in India so that you can witness them.
Have a coffee at the gateway cafeteria
Gateway cafeteria is maintained by Madhya Pradesh Tourism and is praised by tourists from all over for how clean and sanitary the place is. Though the menu here is limited to Indian food and coffee, those looking for a simple break from a heavy day of exploring Sanchi frequently take breaks here.
Shopping in Sanchi
Unlike many other popular destinations that may fall under a central India tour package, Sanchi is a place that is calm and simple. Therefore, if you are looking to shop for the most exquisite of things, this may not be the destination where you get to do that. However, you can definitely look forward to bringing back souvenirs that are sold by street vendors and are open to bargaining, and shopping for books at a store near the museum that tell you all about the rich culture and history of the place.
- Make sure that you do not travel by your private car or a hired cab during the monsoon as there is a very probable chance of landslides.
- Consider reading up on Buddha, Ashoka the great, and the Sanchi Stupa before your trip so that you are able to get the most out of your experience.
- Since there are so many Buddhist monuments and other places to visit in Sanchi, including it in one of the central India tour packages is recommended since there are many other sites in Madhya Pradesh that you simply cannot miss.
- Book a cab or bus earlier from the Bhopal railway station or airport instead of sourcing one once you arrive, as the drivers may charge tourists higher rates at such short notice.
- Remember to be respectful of the fact that even though this is one of the top tourist destinations in India, it is still a place of holy significance to those residing in the monasteries, and you must ensure that you do not end up making them uncomfortable.
Best Time to Visit
Since the peaceful town of Sanchi is located in Madhya Pradesh, it stays quite hot throughout the year. While the monsoon is not extreme at all and thus actually adds to the beauty of the location, there is a high risk of landslides in the area. Meanwhile, the maximum temperature recorded in the summer has actually been known to go up to 45 degrees Celsius, so it would be best not to plan your visit between April and June. If you must visit during that time, please make sure to carry sunscreen, a water bottle, and wear practical shoes. Thus, the most comfortable and safe time to visit Sanchi is actually the winter. Though it may get cold at night, the morning is pleasant, and you can easily tour all the monuments without feeling too tired. Moreover, winter is also the time when you can attend the Chethiyagiri Vihara Festival!
How to Reach Sanchi
Located in Madhya Pradesh, Sanchi is well-connected to the capital city and is extremely easy to reach if you know how to plan well. While there isn’t a railway station or an airport in Sanchi itself, you can easily reach it by arriving at the nearest one. There are many ways to get to Sanchi-
The nearest airport to Sanchi is at Bhopal, which is the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Sanchi is located 46 kilometres away from it, so you can easily hire a bus or a cab to reach your destination. Also, consider contacting your hotel or getting one of the central India tour packages booked to experience seamless travel.
The nearest railway station to Sanchi is also, in fact, located at Bhopal. Once you arrive at the railway station, taking a cab or a bus is extremely easy as many tourists travel from Bhopal to Sanchi, since it is one of the best tourist destinations in India.
As far as roads go, Sanchi is well connected to most parts of Madhya Pradesh, and you can easily rent a car or get your own. If you choose to travel by road, you must remember that the best tour agency in India would recommend not driving in the Monsoon as the area is prone to landslides.