- The stupa is a Sanskrit word that means a heap.
- It originated as a simple semi-circular mound of earth, which was later called Anda. Gradually with time and the addition of artwork it evolved and got transformed into a more complex structure.
- Stupas were built at places that were regarded as sacred. Sacred because these places were related to Buddha’s life. Relics of the Buddha such as his bodily remains or objects used by him were buried under these mounds and these mounds are known as a stupa.
- The tradition of erecting stupas may have been pre-Buddhist, but they came to be associated with Buddhism.
Important Places of Buddha’s life – Gradually, each of these places came to be regarded as sacred.
- where he was born –Lumbini
- where he attained enlightenment –Bodh Gaya
- where he gave his first sermon –Sarnath
- where he attained Nibbana –Kushinagar.
Why were Stupa Built?
- The Stupas were built at places that were considered as sacred, because of their relation to Buddha’s Life.
- Relics of the Buddha-like his bodily remains and objects used by him were buried in these stupas.
- The tradition of making stupa may have been pre-Buddhist, but they came to be linked with Buddhism because of the use of Stupa by the Buddhism sect. As they contained relics which is regarded as sacred, the entire stupa came to be venerated as a symbol of both the Buddha and Buddhism.
- The Buddhist text Ashokavadana, mentions that the Great Asoka distributed portions of the Buddha’s relics to every important town and ordered for the construction of stupa over them. By the second century BCE, numerous stupas had been built, including those at Bharhut, Sanchi and Sarnath.
How were stupa built?
- The Inscriptions on the railings and pillars of these stupas shows that donations were made for building and decorating them.
- Some donations were made by kings such as the Satavahanas;
- Some donations were made by guilds, such as that of the ivory workers who financed part of one of the gateways at Sanchi.
- Donations were made by Hundreds of women and men whose names were also mentioned on these Inscriptions, sometimes with the name of the place from where they came, as well as their occupations and names of their relatives.
- Bhikkhus and bhikkhunis also donated towards building these stupas.
The structure of the stupa
- The stupa began as a simple semi-circular mound of earth. And gradually, it evolved into a more complex structure.
- The simple semi-circular mound of earth is called Anda, above this anda is the harmika, a structure resembling a balcony it represents the abode of the gods.
- Rising above from the harmika is a mast called the Yashti, often surmounted by a chhatri or umbrella. Around the mound is a railing known as Vedika.
- The Circumbulatory path between the railing and the Anda is known as Pradakshina.
- The Entrance gate is called Torana.
Worshippers enter the Stupa through the eastern gateway and walk around the mound or Anda in a clockwise direction on the Pradakshina Path, keeping the mound on the right, imitating the sun’s course through the sky.
Stupas in India
Some of the most prominent Stupas in India are:
|1||Papriwaha Stupa||Lumbini, Oldest of all|
|2||Sanchi, Sarnath, Soneri and Sasaram||These were built during the Mauryan Times|
|3||Baruhath Stupa||Sunga Dynasty|
|4||Amravati Stupa||Most important of South India.|
|5||Nagarjunaconda Stupa||South India|
This was the brief about Stupa and Stupas in India.
Refer CCRT for more information on Stupa in India