(17) Visit the Great Stupa of Saanchi World Heritage Site - The largest and oldest existing stupa in India and magnificent sculptures!

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Travels to Buddhist sites in India and Sri Lanka (17)
Visit the Great Stupa of Saanchi, the flower of Buddhist art - the largest and oldest existing stupa in India and magnificent sculptures!

After my stay in Khajuraho, I headed to my next destination, Saanchi.

Great Stupa of SaanchiWikipedia.

Saanchi is a World Heritage Site famous for the largest and oldest existing stupa, and is considered a very important site in the history of Buddhism.

The word "stupa" is not a familiar word to us Japanese, but to put it very simply, it is "a tomb containing the remains of Buddha or his disciples. It is also the origin of the word "stupa" in Japan.

(24) Buddha's Passing Away in Kushinagara: Buddha's final journey with his follower Anan, ending his 80-year life.As I mentioned briefly in the article "The Buddha's Remains," after the Buddha's death, the cremated remains were divided into eight parts and administered by the kings of each country. It is said that King Ashoka (reigned around 268-232 BC) further divided the remains into 84,000 pieces and built stupas throughout India to enshrine them.

Few of these stupas remain today, having been destroyed by the Islamic invasions that began in earnest in the 12th century.

However, Saanchi has miraculously escaped destruction and retains its former appearance. The reason why Saanchi was spared from destruction is explained in the previous article(16) Why have India's Buddhist sites been buried in the ground and forgotten?I told you about it in the previous section. This place was also built in a remote location and was covered with trees, so it could not be seen from a distance.

These photos may give you an idea of what the ruins looked like buried in the trees and soil.

I first traveled by train from Khajuraho to Bhopal, a city near Saanchi. This was my first train ride in India. I had heard that Indian railroads are chaotic, so I felt nervous. It is true that I don't want to come here alone. I was glad that I had a guide.

I boarded the second car from the left in this photo.

I boarded an air-conditioned car, which was more comfortable than I had imagined. Moreover, I was surprised that the train departed on time, exactly at 4:30 p.m. This was much better than the trains in Europe. This was much better than the trains in Europe, where I had been repeatedly beaten up in Germany during my visit in 2022.

It takes about 6.5 hours from here to Bhopal, our destination. We will spend a relaxing time while viewing the Indian countryside.

But I had a sincere concern.

I really did not want to go to the bathroom.

Toilets in India, especially those on the railroads, are beyond words.

I was determined never to go even small.

But it was a long trip, six and a half hours. As someone who usually has to go to the bathroom quite frequently, this was an uphill battle for me. I tried not to drink any water that day, but I still dreaded what would happen if I had to go to the bathroom.

But what do you think? A miracle happened! Perhaps my spirit overcame my body, and I did not even feel the need to use the restroom, let alone hold it in. It was around midnight when we arrived at the inn in Vaupearl. It was here that I finally went to the bathroom.

This made me wonder if my body was OK, but there was nothing I could do about it. It is a wonder of the human body.

The next morning, we departed from downtown Vaupearl for Saanchi. This is indeed a big city. Everywhere we went, there were huge crowds. We drove toward the suburbs in the hustle and bustle that is typical of India.

Saanchi is about an hour and a half from Vaupearl. The scenery changes to empty plains as you go to the outskirts of the city.

We came very close to Saanchi. The Great Stupa is slightly visible on the small hill on the right of the photo. The moment I saw this hill from afar, I was excited! Stupas and monasteries were built in places like this!

We came to the entrance gate of Saanchi.

As soon as I entered, I saw the stupa just out of sight. The contrast with the beautifully maintained lawn is also beautiful. From this vantage point, the stupa's majestic appearance is calming.

But as I got closer step by step, I could no longer hide my surprise. It was bigger than I had imagined!

When I came up to it, I was overwhelmed by its enormity and power! I had no idea it was this big!

I had seen pictures of Saanchi in reference books, but most of them were small in size. I had imagined Saanchi based on the images in those small photos.

I was amazed at the enormity of the torii-like torana (pagoda gate) in front, but I was also amazed at the bun-shaped stupa surrounding it.screenrandom order(I was struck by the presence of the stone wall. If you compare it to the people in front of you, you will understand its size. The columnar rocks seem to draw a circle around the stupa, giving a sense of dynamic power.

And here is the Buddhist art on the pagoda gate. This is where the legend of Buddha andhawk or falcon (esp. the common hawk, Accipiter gularis)Buddhist discourses are depicted. The Buddha is said to have died around 383 B.C., but nearly 200 years later, around the 2nd century B.C., such Buddhist art began to emerge.

A characteristic of this early period of Buddhist art is that it does not directly depict the figure of Buddha. This can be easily seen in the photo on the left. In the lower part of the photo, a monkey is making an offering to a platform-like object, but there is no image of Buddha on it. It was awe-inspiring to depict the Buddha, who is so precious. In this period, it was common to depict a pedestal or a bodhi tree like the one in this photo as a symbol of Buddha. It was not until the first century A.D. that Buddhist statues began to be made.

When I entered the Randate from the pagoda gate, I felt a unique atmosphere of being cut off from the outside world. The power of this randate is still tremendous. I felt the pressure as if it were closing in on me.

The one we saw earlier was the north gate, but this is the east gate. The stupa has four gates: east, west, south, north, and south. The east gate is decorated with a famous sculpture. It is shown here.

This is a statue of the goddess Yakshi, a highly acclaimed work in the history of Indian art. It is always mentioned in reference books on Indian art. It is interesting to see beautiful female sculptures in Buddhist monuments as well as in Khajuraho.

Incidentally, this is a photo taken from directly behind. I was able to see it from this angle only because I was there.

But still, they are very detailed. All of Saanchi's sculptures are carved with such exquisite precision that it is hard to imagine the high level of artistry of the time. It shows the high level of art at that time.

This is the third stupa, located near the Great Stupa. This is the stupa where the remains of Sāriputta and Moggallāna, two of Buddha's disciples, were enshrined. Thus, after King Asoka, stupas of the Buddha and his disciples were built in various places in India, and they were the object of worship.

I was still amazed at the enormity and power of this great stupa. As I walked around the site, I thought back to the following words of Buddhist scholar Gen Nakamura.

The bowl-shaped (or nearly hemispherical) stupa is thought to be unique to Indian Buddhism. (While Western structures such as pyramids and obelisks are sharp and pointed, the stupa gives the impression of being amicable, calm, and peaceful. (omitted).

The gentle hemispherical shape of the earthen bun evokes feelings of peace and tranquility in the viewer. It easily evokes the ideal of harmony. There is a sense of stability. It does not arouse anger or a desire to fight. It calms the mind in tranquility and serenity. Buddhist art is by no means unrelated to the Buddhist ideal.

Shunju-sha, Nakamura HajimeNakamura, Hajime Selection Collection [Definitive Edition], Vol. 23: Ideals in Buddhist Art.P53-54

It is really easy to visualize when explained in comparison with Western pyramids and obelisks.

And the following words are hard to forget.

The stupa was probably the largest and most important of all the structures of the Mauryan period. From a productive and economic point of view, they are of no use. While the great ruins of Kuchma were built from a worldly, utilitarian, or pleasure-oriented perspective, those of King Ashoka's time were of spiritual and religious significance. Here we find a characteristic of Indian civilization.

Shunju-sha, Nakamura Gen, Nakamura Gen Selected Works [Definitive Edition] Vol. 23: Ideals Living in Buddhist Art, p. 94-95

I will never forget the first time I read this commentary.

That being said, I am touring the ruins of ancient Rome in 2022. Among them, especially in the suburbs of Rome.Aqueduct on Appian WayI was strongly impressed by the

Here's the guide.Both the Greeks and the Egyptians built huge structures. But in the Roman civilization, everything is practical. The Colosseum, roads, aqueducts, all of them are directly related to people's lives. The Greek temples and pyramids are large, but who are they for? But who are they for? What are they good for? Rome is different. The great thing about Rome is that civilization is combined with practicality."I was strongly impressed by what he taught me.

At that time I said to myself, "I see! The greatness of ancient Rome lay in its thorough search for practicality! I was amazed.

However, after listening to Gen Nakamura's words, I realized once again the depth of the stupa, which was created purely for spiritual and religious purposes. The Indian people completely disregarded practicality and pursued only spiritual and religious things. I felt once again that this was a great thing.

My visit to Saanchi reinforced this feeling. The energy of this stupa is not just a stupa.

The stupa at Saanchi is of great significance in understanding the development of the Buddhist cult and the beliefs of the people. Originally, I would like to explain the significance of the stupa and the process of its establishment, but that would require an enormous amount of explanation, so I will refrain from going into further detail at this time.

Edited by Yasuaki Nara and Masahiro Shimoda, for those interested.A History of Buddhism in New Asia 02 India II: The Formation and Development of Buddhism.andWritten by Gen NakamuraNakamura, Hajime Selection Collection [Definitive Edition], Vol. 23: Ideals in Buddhist Art.Reference books such as "Essays on Asian Buddhist Art: South Asia I, Maurya Dynasty to Gupta Dynasty," edited by Haruaki Miyazaki and Yasuko Fukuyama, are recommended.

I think these will make it clear how significant the stupas of Saanchi are in the history of Buddhism. In particularA History of Buddhism in New Asia 02 India II: The Formation and Development of Buddhism.explains what Buddhism was like at that time through this stupa faith. I highly recommend this book, which reflects the results of recent research. It is truly an eye-opener. Why don't you pick up a copy?

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