Culture – The Architecture of Stupas

This post covers the architecture of ‘Stupas’ in detail from the Civil Services Examination point of view. What are Stupas?

  • Stupas are the Buddhist monasteries built on top of relics, like the ashes of Buddhist monks.
  • It is the symbol of “Mahapari Nirvana”  of Lord Buddha (one of the Pancha maha kalyanas) and thus very sacred for the Buddhists.
  • Asoka (of Mauryans) had built several thousands of Stupas across the country according to the Tibetan Buddhist monk book – “Divya Vadana”. Some of them are:
    • Sanchi Stupa
    • Bharhut Stupa
    • Takshasila Stupa
    • Amaravati Stupa

Structure of a Stupa:

Search for Structure of Stupa


Important Stupas in India:

  • Bharhut Stupa, MP:
    • Carvings depict the scenes from ‘Jatakas’ – the Buddhist mythological stories.
    • Buddha can be seen both in ‘symbol’ (Heenayanism) form as well as in ‘human’ (Mahayanism) form.
    • Inscriptions describing the scenes, a narrative practice which was abandoned later, can be seen.
  • Sanchi Stupa:
    • Gateways (Toranas) are remarkably carved with several ornamental features.
    • Carvings depict scenes from Jatakas and life events of Buddha.
    • Life events of Asoka are also depicted.
    • The scenes depict monkeys, animals, birds, forests and musicians playing various instruments.
  • Amaravati Stupa: Belongs to the ‘Amaravati’ school of art.
    • Jatakas and life events of Buddha are depicted.
    • Buddha was first time shown as a divine power – with his disciples offering him the prayers.
    • Ayakapatas – scenes carved on white marble slates.
    • 5 life incidents of Buddha (Pancha Maha Kalyanas) on the 5 pillars of the stupa.
    • Kings, palaces are present as part of narration (unlike Mathura school of art where the special focus is laid on the Kings).
    • Nagarjunakonda Stupa also belongs to this school.

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