Plan, elevation and section of large stupa with notes, Sanchi
Artist: Maisey, Frederick Charles (1825-1892)
Medium: Pen and ink on paper
Pen and ink and wash drawing by Frederick Charles Maisey of the plan, elevation and section of the great stupa of Sanchi with notes, dated 1847-1854.
The Buddhist site of Sanchi is of outstanding importance for the number and variety of its monuments and sculptures as it has preserved numerous Buddhist structures, mostly stupas, built between the third century BC and the sixth to seventh centuries AD. Stupas are Buddhist monuments consisting of a domed-shaped mound often containing sacred relics. Situated in a peaceful and meditative site crowning a hilltop, Sanchi was ideally located in close proximity to the prosperous city of Vidisha. The foundations of this monastic centre were laid by the emperor Ashoka (reigned circa 269-232 BC.) who built the original stupa (Stupa1) and erected a monolithic pillar in the third century BC. The stupa was later enlarged and encased in stone around the1st century BC under the Shungas and four magnificently carved gateways called toranas were added at the cardinal points. These consist of square posts supporting three curved architraves with scrolled ends. They are completely covered with relief sculptures depicting Jatakas (stories of the Buddha's earlier incarnations), scenes from the life of the historical Buddha and Buddhist symbols. In the earliest stages Buddhist art was aniconic and therefore Buddha was never represented in human form. His presence was alluded through emblems such as a riderless horse, an empty throne beneath a bodhi tree, a wheel or a trident. The stupa consists of a large hemispherical dome crowned with a triple stone umbrella surrounded by a square railing or harmika. A stone-paved processional path at the ground level is enclosed by a balustrade is accessed through the four toranas. A second higher terrace, also enclosed by a railing, is approached by a double staircase. With the decline of Buddhism the site decayed until it was rediscovered in the19th century and the stupa was completely reconstructed at the beginning of the 20th century. Lieutenant Maisey spent the cold seasons of 1849-50 and 1850-51 at Sanchi to prepare an illustrated Govenment report of the antiquities of the site. He was joined by Major Alexander Cunningham in 1851. The result of his work was published in 'Sanchi and its remains' of 1892, illustrated by reproductions of his own drawings. The drawing in this view is reproduced in that book as Plate II.