Buddhist Stupa – UPSC GS1

The Buddhist Stupas were built at places where Buddha’s remains were preserved and at the major sites where important events in Buddha’s life took place. Stupas were built of huge mounds of mud, enclosed in carefully burnt small standard bricks.
  • The Buddhist Stupa is a form of architecture, comprising a hemispherical dome, a solid structure into which one cannot enter.
  • The stupa is a glorified, beautified, enlarged funerary mound: what was once the resting place of the bones and ashes of a holy man.
  • Tradition has it that after the great demise of Lord Buddha, Emperor Ashoka decided to construct a large number of stupas throughout his dominion in memory of the Master and enshrine in them relics such as pieces of bones, teeth, hair etc., over which the Stupas were constructed.

  • Originally the stupa was made of bricks and surrounded by a wooden railing.
  • The existing stupa at Sanchi encloses the original stupa and has been enlarged and enclosed within the stone railing or balustrade, when stone was adopted in the place of wood.
  • To the stupa which consisted of a domical structure, a base, sometimes circular, sometimes square, was added in the 1st century B.C., a circumambulatory path as well as the stone railing with four elegantly carved gateways in the four cardinal directions.
  • In place of the original wooden umbrella, which was put up to signify the stupa represented and was built over the ashes of the Lord or his immediate disciples, a sign of royalty and dignity, developed in the course of time an interesting composition on top of the dome, the Harmika; a square Buddhist railing from which rises the shaft that holds the imperial umbrella, sometimes single and later on multiplied to three or even more, diminishing in size as they go upwards.
  • The Sanchi Stupa has a diameter of 120′ and a height of 54′. About these gateways one thing stands that most of early Indian architecture was of wood and timber and that these are true imitations in stone of early wooden construction.
  • One was built at his birthplace Lumbini; the second at Gaya where he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, the third at Sarnath where he gave his first sermon and the fourth at Kushinagar where he passed away attaining Mahaparinirvana at the age of eighty.
Related Questions:
  1. Early Buddhist Stupa-art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives, successfully expounds Buddhist ideals. Elucidate. (UPSC Mains 2016)

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