The Toranas (Gateways) of Sanchi reflect remarkable architectural dexterity and are a must see for any tourist. You will in all likelihood be impressed by these fine examples of Buddhist art in India. These structures mark the entrance to the Stupas.
History of Toranas (Gateways) of Sanchi :
The Toranas (Gateways) of Sanchi were built during the rule of the Satavahanas after 70 B.C. These are among those rare pieces of architecture that did not receive any direct royal patronage. The money was contributed by the local devotees. In fact they also had the liberty to choose the incident which they would like to see carved out on the Toranas (Gateways).
Description of Gateways of Sanchi :
Two pillars carrying two or three transverse beams constitute the structure of the Toranas (Gateways) of Sanchi . They are made of stones but remind us of wooden construction. They are covered with exquisite narrative sculptures. The stories are related to the life of Buddha and the main purpose behind it was to familiarize the on lookers with this great man and facilitate an easier understanding of his teachings. Tales from the Jataka also find expression in rich sculpture. Interestingly in none of the carvings is Buddha represented as a human being. The artists have carved the horse on which he left his home or the Bodhi tree under which he sat and became the enlightened one or his footprints. The lotus symbolized his birth and the wheel his first sermon. The story of Prince Vessantara is inscribed on the Toranas of Sanchi. He was such a compassionate prince that along with his riches, he did not even hesitate to give away his wife and children for the greater benefit of mankind.
Of all the gateways, the Southern Gateway is the oldest. The birth of Buddha and the life of Ashoka are depicted in this gateway. It marks the entrance of the Stupa. However the best preserved is the Northern Gateway. The wheel of law is there on top of it. The seven incarnations of Buddha are inscribed in the Western Gateway while the scenes of his departure are there in the Eastern gateway.
How to reach Toranas of Sanchi :
The nearest airport to Sanchi is Bhopal. There is a railway station at Sanchi but for those who intend to travel by train a far better option is to first come to Vidisha because it is better connected by rail to the important cities of the country. Many trains halt at this station. Vidisha and Bhopal are well connected by roads to Sanchi. You can avail of buses or autos or hire a car to reach Sanchi from any of these two places. Buses ply between Sanchi and other important towns of Madhya Pradesh as well.