Exploring Sanchi: Its History and Wildlife

I happened to visit Sanchi unexpectedly. While travelling to Bhopal which is a capital of Madhya Pradesh, a state in Central India,on 5th of June, I had a spare day in hand and since I had nothing better to do, I decided to pay Sanchi a visit. Sanchi is roughly 43 km from the city of Bhopal and is well-connected by frequent buses and trains. An hour’s journey and you reach Sanchi.

Welcome to Sanchi!

Welcome to Sanchi!

Sanchi has the oldest and most well preserves stupas in India. Not only stupas but there are temples, pillars and other monuments which record the origin, rise and the fall of Buddhist art and architecture in India from the period of third century BC to twelfth century AD, spanning the period of thirteen hundred years.

Sanchi is supposedly the birth place of Buddhism in India. The first stupa at Sanchi was built by the Maurya emperor Ashoka during his reign in 3rd Century BC. It was a simple structure at first, later in First century BC four ornamental torans (gateways) were added to it.

A beautiful view

A beautiful view

Stupa 1: The main stupa. It has 4 torans (gateways)

Stupa 1: The main stupa. It has 4 torans (gateways)

Backside of one of the torans (gateways)

Backside of one of the torans (gateways)

Toran of Stupa 1

Toran of Stupa 1

Stupa 1 and 3 have staircases to climb up for circumabulation  (pradakshina)

Stupa 1 and 3 have staircases to climb up for circumabulation (pradakshina)

carvings on one of the entrance of stupa 1

carvings on one of the entrance of stupa 1

Buddha statue in Stupa 1

Buddha statue in Stupa 1

Stupa 1 seen from the back side

Stupa 1 seen from the back side

Over the period of time, many more structures were added. Today at Sanchi, we can see 27 monuments which include stupas, temples, pillars, begging bowl, monasteries, shrines, etc.

Remains of a monastery

Remains of a monastery

Pillars

Pillars

One of the temples

One of the temples

Stupa 3 and its toran

Stupa 3 and its toran

Sanchi is nested on a hill top of Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh. Being protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, wildlife flourishes here. I saw a variety of insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals during my visit to Sanchi. In birds, most notable sighting was of Crested bunting male and female feeding on the lawn in front of the Stupa 1, Brown rock chats on the stone structures, woodpeckers pecking on the grounds, sunbirds, tailor birds, Brahminy myna, Black drongo and Indian and Oriental Magpie robins. Common garden lizards were strutting in the lawns, on trees and on sheltered rocks. Butterflies like lemon pansy, blue pansy, yellows, blues, tailed jays were fluttering around and were a delight to watch. But my most cherished sighting was so unexpected that I almost squealed in delight enough to startle the animal.

A terrible picture of Crested bunting as a record shot

A terrible picture of Crested bunting as a record shot

Chilled out Brown rock chats who let me come so close to them that I could take good picture even with my mobile!

Chilled out Brown rock chats who let me come so close to them that I could take good picture even with my mobile!

Honeycomb

Honeycomb

While walking from the stupa 1 to Stupa 2, one has to climb down to a lower altitude. The stairs are made of stones surrounded by huge rocks and shrubbery. At the stupa 2, there is an artificial pond from where the pipelines carry the water to stupa 1. One of the pipelines was leaking a little and water was dripping out where many birds had come to drink water which had accumulated on the ground. I, being severely dehydrated from the hot summer of central India and temperatures flaring to 43 degrees and giving the feel of 47 degrees, went to this water and gave myself a good splash on face. Here is when I saw a movement and saw something like a mongoose hiding and watching me, equally surprised at my presence. I almost passed it thinking it was a common mongoose, but had to almost jump in excitement after putting back my spectacles on seeing that it was a ruddy mongoose! I had read a lot about ruddy mongoose and seen it in pictures and always wanted to see one myself, but this encounter took me by a complete surprise. I saw the mongoose a lot of times during my climb down to the stupa 2, but unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying my camera with me and mobile camera’s zoom wasn’t enough for the mongoose. But the sight of that beautiful mongoose with its tail tip pointing to sky as if an antenna will remain etched in my memory forever.

The habitat where I spotted Ruddy mongoose

The habitat where I spotted Ruddy mongoose

A view from stupa 2 showing the path that leads to it and the greenery nearby

A view from stupa 2 showing the path that leads to it and the greenery nearby

Path leading to Stupa 2

Path leading to Stupa 2

After climbing down to stupa 2, I dipped my feet in the pond, sat there observing many damselflies, dragonflies and skittering frogs that inhabited the pond and the lush green vegetation around it provided the much need cool air. That was the last monument to be seen at the place and after having a nice hot and strong coffee, I said good bye to Sanchi.

Stupa 2

Stupa 2

On the entrance of stupa 2

On the entrance of stupa 2

Stupa 2

Stupa 2

A view from where I was sitting

A view from where I was sitting

A stray dog cooling himself in the pond water

A stray dog cooling himself in the pond water

Enjoying the activity of dragonflies near the pond

Enjoying the activity of dragonflies near the pond

Buddhism speaks a lot about non-violence, conserving environment and wildlife and about not harming the animals. The unplanned visit brought much-needed peace to my mind and the sightings of wildlife made one of the best ‘World Environment Day’s I had!

Mango trees are done fruiting by now. New leaves are budding as monsoon is on the horizon. There is a story of magical mango tree in buddhism. I saw this one in what looked like a mango orchard outside the stupa campus.

Mango trees are done fruiting by now. New leaves are budding as monsoon is on the horizon.
There is a story of magical mango tree in buddhism. I saw this one in what looked like a mango orchard outside the stupa campus.

Good bye Sanchi. Going back to Bhopal

Good bye Sanchi. Going back to Bhopal

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s