Explain the structural and sculptural features of the Sanchi stupa.
The Sanchi Stupa was built in the second century BCE and was discovered in 1888. It is one of the most important stupas in India. Its structural features are explained below:
a. It originated as a simple semi-circular mound of earth which was later called anda.
b. Above the anda, was a harmika which was a balcony like structure that represented the Abode of the Gods.
c. Arising from the harmika, was a mast called yashti.
d. It was surrounded by an umbrella.
e. Around the mound, there was railing that separated the sacred space from the outer world.
f. There were stone railings and the gateways which had richly card and installed at the four cardinal points.
g. The elevation of it provided a vertical perspective.
The sculptural features of the Sanchi Stupa are explained below:
a. The art historian identified the scene depicted at the gateways as a scene from the base Vesatanra Jataka.
b. They tried to understand the meaning of the sculpture by comparing it with textual evidence.
c. Many symbols were used to indicate the different teachings of Buddhism.
d. The empty seat indicated the meditation of the Buddha.
e. The Stupa indicated the mahaparinibbana.
f. The wheel was a symbol that stood for the First Sermon of the Buddha delivered at Sarnath.
g. Other sculptures were not directly inspired by Buddhism.
h. For example, the figure of a beautiful woman swinging from the edge of the Gateway holding onto a tree-like Shalabhanjika was a woman whose touch caused trees to flower and bear fruit.
i. The depiction of animals like elephants, horses, please and cattle be used as a symbol of the human attributes.
j. For example, an elephant was a symbol of strength and wisdom.
k. Another motif is of a woman surrounded by lotuses and elephant's which seems to be sprinkling water on her as if performing Abhisheka or consecration.
l. Some historian identifies her as the mother of Buddha and others identify her as a goddess of good fortune called Gajalakshmi.