Discuss how and why were the stupas built.

a. Stupas were mounds that were regarded as sacred because of the relics of the Buddha such as his bodily remains or the objects used by him were buried there.

b. The tradition of erecting the stupas probably may have been pre-Buddhist but they came to be associated with Buddhism.

c. They became venerated as an emblem of both the Buddha and Buddhism due to the fact that they contained relics which were regarded as sacred.

d. According to a Buddhist text called Ashok Vandana, Ashoka distributed portions of the relics of the Buddha to every important town and ordered the construction of stupas over them.

e. By the second century BCE, many stupas were constructed in Sarnath, Sanchi, and Bharhut.

The building of stupas is explained below:

a. The inscriptions found on the railings and pillars of the stupas recorded donations made for buildings and decorating them.

b. Some of them where made by kings such as the satavahanas.

c. Others were made by the guilds such as that of the Ivory workers who financed part of one of the gateways at Sanchi.

d. Many donations were made by men and women who mention their names.

e. A few of them also added the name of the place they came from, their occupation and the name of their relatives.

f. A significant contribution was also made by Bhikkus and Bhikkunis.

Next Question

Explain the structural and sculptural features of the Sanchi stupa.

(view answer)