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“Southern Gate of Sanchi”
Review of Southern Gate

Southern Gate
Ranked #11 of 13 things to do in Sanchi
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Recommended length of visit: <1 hour
Reviewed December 13, 2014

Sanchi is one of the most sacred pilgrimage spot for Buddhists. It is commonly known as the ‘stupa village’. It is situated at about 45 km from Bhopal. There is world famous Buddhist stupa. The stupa is on a hill of about 300 ft height. On the mount of hill one can see the luxuriously standing stupa. One may listen to the chanting the hymn "Buddham Sharnam Gachhami" while walking through the passage to the stupa.

There are four gates around the stupa at four directions namely east, west north and south. These gates were constructed somewhere in 35 BC and subsequently. These gates are called Toranas. (In Kannada language torana means bunting made out of green mango leaves to decorate the doors during festival days by Hindus.) Each gate tells certain episodes of the life of Buddha. The excellent type of Buddhist religion is well portrayed in these four gateways.

The South Gate is the main entrance to the stupa. Some of its decorative portions had fallen down and they are preserved in the museum situated close by, where one can see them also. The architraves namely the main beam is resting across the top of columns in this classical architecture. It is a moulded frame work around the main doorway and window are carried on lion caryatids in other words the stone carving of a draped female figure is used as pillar to support the building.

The life of Ashoka and Buddha's are well represented in this gate. The scene of the Great Departure is attractive. This is said to be the oldest among the four gates. One will appreciate the extremely rich carvings on it. The worship of Lakshmi, the royal visit of Ashoka to the stupa and other scenes are worth collected by clicking one’s camera.

It is a fact that Sanchi is not connected with events in the life of Buddha directly. Even then it became pilgrimage spot for Buddhists. It is recognised by UNESCO as a ‘World Heritage Site’ in 1989.

Bhopal is at about 45 kms from Sanchi. One can reach Sanchi by Air from Bhopal airport. The nearest Railway station is at Bhopal. There are number of buses plying from and to Bhopal from all cities. The place for one’s stay and food is not a problem.

Thank Profvns
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed January 4, 2014

The south Torana was the main entrance in the ancient times as this was the earliest Torana built as evident from the Ashoka pillar it . It was a custom, in the ancient times, to install a pillar at the site where a stupa needs to be constructed.

The pillar capitals have four lions, seated back to back and supporting the square abacus above their heads on which architraves are supported. This gateway was reconstructed by Major Cole in 1882-83 in which the whole jamb of the left pillar and half of the right pillar was replaced with new along with all uprights and ends of lowest and middle architrave. During this reconstruction the architraves were put in opposite direction that more important sculptures now face the stupa rather than facing outwards.

The top panel on the front ( south ) face of the west pillar represents the first sermon of Buddha delivered in Mrigadava (Deer Park) at Sarnath. A tapered pillar supports a dharma-chakra (wheel of law), the emblem of Buddha’s first sermon, having 32 spokes and same number of tri-ratna symbols. Deer near the base of this pillar provide hint in indentifying the panel with the first sermon of Buddha.

The middle panel illustrates Ashoka’s visit to a stupa. It shows a chariot driven by two horses and followed by a retinue. An elephant is also seen behind the chariot.
The panel below shows many figures including those of Shakra and Shachi riding an elephant while on an adjacent elephant another female is riding with a child. There are other elephants with riders as well. There is a horse rider below with many dwarfs of the army of Mara.

The top panel on the east face of the west pillar shows a shrine with a vaulted roof with chaitya windows in front. The shrine has six pillars, three on each side, with an empty throne in middle. The throne has three tri-ranta motifs on top. A tree emerges from the roof of this shrine. Above the tree is an umbrella with two chhatras. The whole shrine is enclosed within a vedica rail. The panel represents the temple constructed by Ashoka around a scared tree in Bodh-Gaya.
The lower panel shows the king Asoka stands with his two queens. As per a story in Divyavadana, Tishyarakshita, a queen of Ashoka, was jealous of a Bodhi-tree which was much beloved of Asoka . Due to this jealousy, the tree started to wither . Ashoka was very sad on seeing this but the tree blossomed again with the care taken byAshoka . Ashoka built a shrine near that tree later. The peculiar attitude of Ashoka can be explained as he was fainted seeing the withering tree which he loved the most.

The panel below has many figures depicted in it. There is a chaitya shrine, with vaulted roof and a chaitya window in front, under which many people are shown assembled. It represents the Traystrimisha heaven , the Heaven of Thirty-three Gods , where Shakra lives with rest of the gods . They worship Buddha hair and his chuda (headdress) . As per a story in Buddhist tradition , Gautama discarded all his princely garments and cut off his hair with his sword casting both his hair and dress in air . The gods of this heaven kept his hair and headdress for worship in their abode . In the panel, there is some object placed inside a basket . An umbrella on top of that basket suggests that this object is of reverence.

The topof the front architrave depicts a nativity scene representing the birth of Buddha . As per a legend , Buddha was bathed by two nagas in sky , one pouring hot and another cold water . As Buddha cannot be shown in his anthropomorphic form hence his mother Maya is shown . She is shown standing over a lotus and holding a lotus stalk in her hand . However instead of naga we see here two elephants which makes it tempting to identify with Gajalakshmi motif of the Hindu pantheon . The square block between the top and the middle architrave have animal riders ,and both at left and right are shown stupas worshipped by people around it.

The middle architrave presented by Balamitra depicts the story of Ashoka’s visit to Ramagrama stupa. It is said that Ashoka opened up the seven of the original eight stupas which contained the relics of Buddha . Stupa of Ramagrama was the last stupa which Ashoka wanted to open as his mission was to collect all the relics and distribute among many stupas , 84000 in number as per a tradition , which he planned to construct . However the stupa of Ramagrama was jealously guarded by the naga inhabitants of that city . Ashoka is shown coming from left on his chariot while his retinue is following him . Stupa is shown in middle . Nagas of Ramagrama are shown on right , the males having five hoods and females having single one . Few naga females are engaged in worshipping the stupa . Two naga couples are shown inside water . It is said that Ashoka failed to get relics from this stupa because of the resolute opposition of its devoid guardians , the nagas .

The lowest architrave depicts a very common Buddhist theme , dwarfs with garlands and flower creepers . Creepers are emerging out of mouths of these dwarfs . The square blocks have animal riders .

The top architrave on reverse side shows three stupa and four trees , representing seven Manushi Buddhas . These trees are Shirisha of Krakuchchhanda , Udumbara of Kanakamuni , Nyagrodha of Kashyapa and Pipal of Shakyamuni . On the extreme terminal panels is shown the Great Departure of Buddha when he left the city of Kapilvastu in search of the eternal truth . He left the city with his horse , Kanthaka , and his attendant , Chandhaka . After passing Anoma , he sent back Chandaka with the horse . On left terminal the horse is shown leaving the city with an umbrella on top while on the right end the horse is shown coming back without any umbrella on top.

The middle architrave depicts the story of Chhadanta Jataka . On the extreme left , Chhadanta is shown swimming with his two wives . Other elephants are shown holding umbrella on top of him suggesting his royal status . On further left he is shown sporting in a forest . Further left he is shown wounded and a hunter is seen hiding behind rocks . The square blocks have animal riders as a regular theme observed on all the Toranas .

The lowest architrave represents the siege of Kushinagar . After the Mahaparinirvana (death) of Buddha , the Mallas , rulers of Kushinagar , took possession of Buddha’s body relics after his cremation . However there were seven other claimants of these relics . These were, 1) Ajatashatru of Rajagriha , 2) the Shakyas of Kapilvastu , 3) the Bulis of Alakappa , 4) the Koliyas of Ramagrama , 5) the Mallas of Pava , 6) the Lichchhavis of Vaisahli and 7) a Brahmana of Vethadvipa . A wise brahmana , Drona , pacified all and divided the share into eight equal parts. All the eight claimants took their part and erected stupas in their cities .
The fortified city of Kushinagar is depicted in middle with a trench around it . The city is under siege as a large army can be seen standing outside the city . This army has horses , elephants , foot-soldiers etc equipped with various arms and flags . Archers can be seen on the upper stories of the buildings inside the city . Graphical details of this panel surpass all other similar themes found in India. As per an inscription on it, it was carved by the ivory carvers of Vidisha.

1  Thank Dilip S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 11, 2016
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 29, 2015
Google Translation

This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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