Elevations of six stupas from sculptures on the East, West and South gates, Sanchi, working drawing of details
Artist: Maisey, Frederick Charles (1825-1892)
Medium: Pencil on paper
Pencil drawing by Frederick Charles Maisey, dated 1847-1854, of details of the elevations of six stupas from sculptures carved on the East, West and South gateways of the Stupa of Sanchi. This is a working drawing for part of the final plate XXVIII published in Maisey's 'Sanchi and its Remains' of 1892. Lieutenant Maisey spent the cool 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 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 (Stupa 1) and erected a monolithic pillar in the third century BC. The stupa was later enlarged and encased in stone around the 1st 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, such as the parasoled stupa seen in this drawing. 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 other structures located on the hilltop consist of basements of smaller stupas, apsidal-ended shrines, structural temples and monasteries. With the decline of Buddhism the site decayed until it was rediscovered in the19th century and the restoration activities started at the beginning of the 20th century.