I do feel fortunate that work has given me many opportunities to visit places of interest! And whereas during the years I was working, time was a constraint, this has become less so after retirement – and for this I am indeed grateful. An assignment took me to Bhopal – in fact on the week end following the Champaner trip!! The meeting was for Friday and half day Saturday and I decided to spend an extra day to take in a couple of nearby sights – the first being, Sanchi. Unlike in the previous week end, I was not alone – I had the company of 3 fellow physicians and the 12 year old daughter of one of them.
Sanchi was only an hour away from where we were at Bhopal, and the roads were as good as those in Gujarat. It is one of the best preserved and oldest Buddhist sites in the country andon reaching the site, I realized that it was not my first sighting of the monuments. These lie close to the main trunk rail route running north-south, and in our childhood we could site this monument on the second day of our journeys from Delhi to Madras.
These group of monuments date from 3rd century BCE, through the Gupta period to 12th century CE, spanning the whole period of Buddhism in India. This has been a matter of considerable interest to scholars, since the site (unlike most Buddhist sites) is not hallowed by any event from the Buddha’s life.
The story goes that Asoka (273-236 BCE), before he became Emperor, married Devi, the daughter of a trader of Vidisa (modern Vidisha) on his way to Ujjain. It is recorded that Asoka’s son,Mahendra, visited Queen Devi and she took him to the monastry she had built at Bedisagiri. Asoka is believed had built the stupa and a monolith pillar at the site, and this continued to be a center of Buddhism for many centuries. There was continuous additions to the structure, the grand gates having been added during the Gupta period.
The site is well maintained with clean, well manicured lawns and gardens. The audio guide (available in multiple languages, including Japanese) was useful, interesting and informative. The cafetaria was basic and provided the much needed cup of tea as we were wandering out of the complex, close to sunset – an afternoon well spent at the 17th site on the list!!