Rear view of northern gate of Sanchi Tope
Photographer: Dayal, Deen
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the rear view of the northern gateway of Sanchi stupa in Madhya Pradesh, taken by Deen Dayal in 1882, from the Lee-Warner Collection: 'Scenes and Sculptures of Central India, Photographed by Lala Deen Diyal, Indore.' The great stupa of Sanchi is the finest example of monumental architecture of the Shunga era (c.185-75 BC). It consists of a large hemispherical dome which was built over an already existing stupa ascribed to the 3rd century BC from the time of the Buddhist emperor Ashoka Maurya (reigned c.269-232 BC). The stupa was later enlarged around the1st century BC under the Shungas and four elaborately carved gateways or toranas were added at the cardinal points. The northern gateway consists of two square posts crowned with a group of four elephants with female figures, salabhanjikas, grasping the branch of a tree. The elephants support a triple architrave with scrolled ends. The gateway is completely covered with sculptures depicting various episodes of the life of Buddha Shakyamuni represented aniconically. The sculptures on the architraves represent from top to bottom, the Chhaddanta Jataka - an elephant incarnation of the Buddha in which an elephant sacrifices his tusk to a hunter, the Temptation of Mara and a scene from the Vessantara Jataka in which king Vessantara, an incarnation of Buddha practices the virtue of generosity.