Buddhist Stupas in India – The earliest Buddhist buildings
Religious buildings in the form of the Buddhist stupa, a dome shaped monument, started to be used in India as commemorative monuments associated with storing sacred relics of the Buddha.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Origin of Buddhist Stupas in India
- 2 - List of Buddhist Stupas in India
- 2.1 - Chandavaram Buddhist site
- 2.2 - Sanchi
- 2.3 - Bharhut
- 2.4 - Pavurallakonda
- 2.5 - Saru Maru
- 2.6 - Guntupalli Group of Buddhist Monuments
- 2.7 - Ratnagiri – Odisha
- 2.8 - Parinirvana Stupa
- 2.9 - Lalitgiri
- 2.10 - Bojjannakonda
- 2.11 - Lenyadri
- 2.12 - Udayagiri – Odisha
- 2.13 - Kumashpur
- 2.14 - Dhauli
- 2.15 - Kesaria stupa
- 2.16 - Amaravati Stupa
- 2.17 - Kushinagar
- 2.18 - Nagarjunakonda
- 2.19 - Salugara Monastery
- 2.20 - Pushpagiri Vihara
- 2.21 - Kesaria
- 2.22 - Dhamek Stupa
- 2.23 - Sanchi Stupa No. 2
- 2.24 - Chaneti Buddhist Stupa
- 2.25 - Sonari Stupas
- 2.26 - Sugh Ancient Mound
- 2.27 - Bodh Stupa
- 2.28 - Assandh
- 2.29 - Deekshabhoomi
- 2.30 - Salihundam
- 2.31 - Satdhara
- 2.32 - Shanti Stupa – Ladakh
- 2.33 - Sujata Stupa
- 2.34 - Tarapur – Odisha
- 2.35 - Thotlakonda
- 2.36 - Adurru
- 2.37 - Peace Pagoda – Darjeeling
- 2.38 - Chaitya Bhoomi
- 2.39 - Andher Stupas
- 2.40 - Bavikonda
- 2.41 - Bhojpur Stupas
- 2.42 - Buddha Samyak Darshan Museum and Memorial Stupa
- 2.43 - Buddha Smriti Park
- 2.44 - Buddha Vihar – Kalaburagi
- 2.45 - Chaukhandi Stupa
- 2.46 - Kotturu Dhanadibbalu
- 2.47 - Clement Town
- 2.48 - Deur Kothar
- 2.49 - Devni Mori
- 2.50 - Do-drul Chorten
- 2.51 - Gudiwada Dibba – Vizianagaram
- 2.52 - Kanaganahalli
- 2.53 - Vishwa Shanti Stupa – Rajgir
Origin of Buddhist Stupas in India
After the parinirvana of the Buddha, his remains were cremated and the ashes divided and buried under eight mounds with two further mounds encasing the urn and the embers.
The relics of the Buddha were spread between eight stupas, in Rajagriha, Vaishali, Kapilavastu, Allakappa, Ramagrama, Pava, Kushinagar, and Vethapida.
The Piprahwa stupa also seems to have been one of the first to be built.
The Vaisali relic stupa and Nigali Sagar stupa are likely the earliest archaeologically known stupas.
Guard rails —consisting of posts, crossbars, and a coping— became a feature of safety surrounding a stupa.
The Buddha had left instructions about how to pay homage to the stupas: “And whoever lays wreaths or puts sweet perfumes and colors there with a devout heart, will reap benefits for a long time”.
This practice would lead to the decoration of the stupas with stone sculptures of flower garlands in the Classical period.
Emperor Ashoka (rule: 273—232 BCE) recovered the relics of the Buddha from the earlier stupas (except from the Ramagrama stupa), and erected 84,000 stupas to distribute the relics across India.
List of Buddhist Stupas in India
This is a list of well-known Buddhist Stupas in India.
Chandavaram Buddhist site
Chandavaram Buddhist site is an ancient Buddhist site in Chandavaram village in Prakasam district in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
In 1985, a project called the “Buddha Poornima Project” was proposed.
Under this project, the world’s tallest standing monolith statue of Buddha was to be erected on the site. Made out of granite, the statue was carved by 200 sculptors in two years and on completion it weighed 440 tonnes with an overall height of 17 metres (56 ft).
However, the Buddha statue was transported to city of Hyderabad in 1988 instead, where it was erected in 1992 in the Hussain sagar lake and stands today.
Sanchi Stupa is a Buddhist complex, famous for its Great Stupa, on a hilltop at Sanchi Town in Raisen District of the State of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is located in 46 kilometres (29 mi) north-east of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh. The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India, and an important monument of Indian Architecture. It was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. It was crowned by the chhatri, a parasol-like structure symbolising high rank, which was intended to honour and shelter the relics. The original construction work of this stupa was overseen by Ashoka, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant of nearby Vidisha. Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her and Ashoka’s wedding. In the 1st century BCE, four elaborately carved toranas and a balustrade encircling the entire structure were added. The Sanchi Stupa built during Mauryan period was made of bricks. The composite flourished until the 11th century.
Bharhut is a village located in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, central India. It is known for its famous relics from a Buddhist stupa.
Pavurallakonda or Pavurallabodu is the local name of a hill, popularly known as Narasimhaswamy Konda, near Bheemunipatnam about 25 km towards north of Visakhapatnam, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It is located at a height of about 150 meters above mean sea level.
Saru Maru is the archaeological site of an ancient monastic complex and Buddhist caves.
The site contains a number of stupas as well as natural caves for monks.
In the caves many Buddhist graffiti have been found (swastika, triratna, kalasa …).
In the main cave were found two inscriptions of Ashoka: a version of the Minor Rock Edict n°1, one of the Edicts of Ashoka, and another inscription mentioning the visit of Piyadasi (honorific name used by Ashoka in his inscriptions) as Maharahakumara (Prince).
Guntupalli Group of Buddhist Monuments
The Guntupalle or Guntupalli Group of Buddhist Monuments is located near Kamavarapukota, West Godavari district, in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. It is around 40 km away from Eluru. The rock-cut part of the site has two Buddhist caves, a chaitya hall and a large group of stupas. The chaitya hall has a rare carved stone entrance replicating wooden architecture, a simpler version of that at the Lomas Rishi Cave.
Ratnagiri – Odisha
Ratnagiri was once the site of a mahavihara, or major Buddhist monastery, in the Brahmani and Birupa river valley in Jajpur district of Odisha, India. It is close to other Buddhist sites in the area, including Pushpagiri, Lalitagiri and Udayagiri.
Parinirvana Stupa is a Buddhist temple in Kushinagar, India which is said to be the death place of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Alexander Cunningham gains the most attention for his work in the area, because he conclusively proved that Gautama Buddha had died in the area. The present temple was built by the Indian Government in 1956 as part of the commemoration of the 2,500th year of the Mahaparinivana or 2500 BE. Inside this temple, there is Reclinging Buddha image lying on its right side with the head to the north. The statue is 6.1 m long and rests on a stone couch.
Lalitagiri is a major Buddhist complex in the Indian state of Odisha comprising major stupas, ‘esoteric’ Buddha images, and monasteries (viharas), one of the oldest sites in the region. Together with the Ratnagiri and Udayagiri sites, Lalitagiri is part of Puspagiri University located on top of hills of the same names. The three complexes are known as the “Diamond Triangle”. Significant finds at this complex include Buddha’s relics. Tantric Buddhism was practiced at this site.
Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda are two Buddhist rock-cut caves on adjacent hillocks, situated near a village called Sankaram, which is a few kilometres away from Anakapalle, Vishakhapatnam in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The sites are believed to date between 4th and 9th Century A.D, when the 3 phases of Buddhism flourished at Sankaram. The real name of Bojjannakonda was actually Buddina Konda but the people can’t pronounce it properly by telling the name repeatedly so it was changed to Bojjannakonda
Lenyadri, sometimes called Ganesa Lena, Ganesh Pahar Caves, or Suleman Caves, represents a series of about 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves, located about 5km north of Junnar in Pune district in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Other caves surrounding the city of Junnar are: Manmodi Caves, Shivneri Caves and Tulja Caves.
Udayagiri – Odisha
Udayagiri (ଉଦୟଗିରି) is the largest Buddhist complex in the Indian state of Odisha. It is composed of major stupas and monasteries (viharas). Together with the nearby complexes of Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri, it is part of Puspagiri University. The heritage sites are also known collectively as the “Diamond Triangle” of the “Ratnagiri-Udayagiri-Lalitgiri” complex. Per epigraphical artifacts found at the site, its historical name was “Madhavapura Mahavihara.” This Buddhist complex, preceded by the Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri sites, with their monasteries, is believed to have been active between the 7th and the 12th centuries.
Kumashpur, also spelled Kumaspur and Kumaspura, is a village within Municipal Corporation of Sonipat in Sonipat district of Haryana. It is 11 km from Sonipat Junction railway station, 45 km from Maharana Pratap Inter State Bus Terminus at Kashmiri Gate, Delhi, and 190 km from Chandigarh on NH1 Grand Trunk Road.
Dhauli or Dhauligiri is a hill located on the banks of the river Daya, 8 km south of Bhubaneswar in Odisha. It’s known for “Dhauli Santi Stupa”, a peace pagoda monument which witnesses the great Kalinga War built by Japan Budhha Sangha and Kalinga Nippon Budhha Sangha.
Kesariya Stupa is a Buddhist stupa in Kesariya, located at a distance of 110 kilometres (68 mi) from Patna, in the Champaran (east) district of Bihar, India. The first construction of the Stupa is dated to the 3rd century BCE. Kesariya Stupa has a circumference of almost 400 feet (120 m) and raises to a height of about 104 feet (32 m).
The Amarāvati Stupa, popularly known as the great stūpa at Amarāvathi, is a ruined Buddhist monument, probably built in phases between the third century BCE and about 250 CE, at Amaravathi village, Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh, India. The site is under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India. The campus includes the stūpa itself and the Archaeological Museum.
Kushinagar is a pilgrimage town in the Kushinagar district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Nagarjunakonda is a historical town, now an island located near Nagarjuna Sagar in Guntur district of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, near the state border with Telangana. It is 160 km west of another important historic site Amaravati Stupa.
Salugara Monastery is among the most frequented revered places, located in the outskirts of Siliguri. Located 6 km from the city, the Buddhist shrine is visited by tourists for meditation. The ideal tranquil location for meditation was established by Tibetan monks and followers of religious leader the Dalai Lama.
Pushpagiri was an ancient Buddhist mahavihara located atop Langudi Hills in Jajpur district of Odisha, India. The complex contains ruins of stupas, rock-cut sculptures and other artifacts.
Kesariya is a town in the district of East Champaran, in the Indian state of Bihar. It is the site of a stupa built by the Mauryan king Ashoka.
Dhamek Stupa is a massive stupa located at Sarnath, 13 km away from Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.
Sanchi Stupa No. 2
The Stupa No. 2 at Sanchi, also called Sanchi II, is one of the oldest existing Buddhist stupas in India, and part of the Buddhist complex of Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh. It is of particular interest since it has the earliest known important displays of decorative reliefs in India, probably anterior to the reliefs at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, or the reliefs of Bharhut. It displays what has been called “the oldest extensive stupa decoration in existence”. Stupa II at Sanchi is therefore considered as the birthplace of Jataka illustrations.
Chaneti Buddhist Stupa
Chaneti Buddhist Stupa is a 3rd century BC monument protected by the Government of India. The stupa is located in the Yamunanagar district of Haryana, three kilometers east of Jagadhri, and about three kilometers northwest of the archaeological site Sugh. The stupa has been referred by traveller Hiuen Tsang.
Sonari is the archaeological site of an ancient monastic complex of Buddhist stupas. The site, positioned on a hill, is located about 10 km southwest of Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Sugh Ancient Mound
Sugh Ancient Mound, also known as the Ancient Site of Sugh, is located in the village of Amadalpur Dayalgarh, in the Yamunanagar district of Haryana, India. Suryamandir-Tirth in Amadalpur is nearby. Buddhist stupa here is identified with the Srughna.
The Bodh Stupa is situated near the Fine Arts Department in the north-east region of Kurukshetra University, in Haryana, 160 km from Delhi, India.
Assandh is a city and a municipal committee in Karnal district in the state of Haryana, India. Assandh is 45 km south-west of Karnal.
Deekshabhoomi is a sacred monument of Navayana Buddhism located at Nagpur city in Maharashtra state of India, where B. R. Ambedkar, embraced Buddhism with approximately 600,000 of his followers mainly scheduled caste peoples on Ashoka Vijaya Dashami on 14 October 1956. Ambedkar revived Buddhism in India. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism is deeply significant for millions of people in India. According to the 2011 India census, more than 87% of the total Buddhist population in India are Ambedkarite Buddhists.
Salihundam, a historically important Buddhist monument and a major tourist attraction is a village lying on top of the hill on the south bank of the Vamsadhara River. It is about 9 miles from Srikakulam.
Satdhara is the name of an archaeological site consisting of stupas and viharas, located 9 km west of Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Shanti Stupa – Ladakh
Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh, in north India. It was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura and part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Sujata Stupa, also Sujata Kuti stupa or Sujata Garh, is a Buddhist stupa located in the village of Senanigrama (Bakraur) slightly east of Bodh Gaya in the state of Bihar, India. It lies directly across the Phalgu River from the town of Bodh Gaya, where Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. It is a walk of about 20 minutes, from Bodh Gaya to Sujata Stupa. It was initially built in the 2nd century BCE as confirmed by finds of Dark Grey polished wares and a punch-marked coin in the monastery nearby.
Tarapur – Odisha
The town of Tarapur is located in the Indian state of Odisha, on the eastern coast of India. Three stupas (edicts), put up by Emperor Asoka, have been discovered at Tarapur recently.
Thotlakonda Buddhist Complex is situated on a hill near Bheemunipatnam about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, India. The hill is about 128 metres (420 ft) above sea level and overlooks the sea. The Telugu name Toṭlakoṇḍa derived from the presence of a number of rock-cut cisterns hewn into the bedrock of the hillock. In 2019, the stupa was partially damaged due to monsoons, but it was restored by 2021 at the cost of Rs 42 lakh.
Adurru is a village and a 2nd-century CE Buddhist archaeological site in the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Konaseema district of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is located in the Mamidikuduru Mandal, on the western bank of Vainateya, a distributary of the Godavari river, around 9.5 km from the Bay of Bengal.
Peace Pagoda – Darjeeling
Peace Pagoda, Darjeeling or Darjeeling Peace Pagoda is one of the Peace Pagodas designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds to help unite them in their search for world peace. It is located in the town of Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. Like most of the other Peace Pagodas, it was built under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii (1885–1985), a Buddhist monk from Japan and founder of the Nipponzan-Myōhōji Buddhist Order.
Chaitya Bhoomi is a Buddhist chaitya and the cremation place of B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. It is situated besides Dadar Chowpatty (beach), Mumbai. Chaitya Bhoomi is a revered place of pilgrimage for Ambedkar’s followers, who visit in millions annually on his death anniversary on 6 December.
The Andher Stupas are a group of three stupa located 19 km south-east of Sanchi, Raisen District, Madhya Pradesh, India. Located high enough, they overlook the Bhojpur Stupas, beyond which are visible the stupas of Sanchi.
Bavikonda Buddhist Complex lies about 16 km from Visakhapatnam, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, on a hill about 130 metres above mean sea level. The term Bavikonda in Telugu means a hill of wells. As per its name, Bavikonda is a hill which has wells for the collection of rainwater. Bavikonda Monastic ruins dates back to the 3rd century BCE.
The Bhojpur Stupas, also called Murelkhurd Stupas or Morel Khurd Stupas by the Archaeological Survey of India to avoid confusion with the village and archaeological site of Bhojpur, Madhya Pradesh about 45 km to the southwest, are a group of about thirty stupas located southeast of Sanchi, about at about 11 km.
Buddha Samyak Darshan Museum and Memorial Stupa
Buddha Samyak Darshan Museum and Memorial Stupa is a proposed museum and stupa to house the Buddha relic, which was found in archeological excavation in Vaishali. The Bihar state cabinet gave nod for its construction on 9 February 2013, but construction was commenced onnly on 20 February 2019, inaugurated by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. The museum will be built over 72 acres of land with a budget of ₹315 crore. The entire structure will be built of stone and Indian Institute of Technology Delhi is providing technical support for its construction.
Buddha Smriti Park
Buddha Smriti Park also known as Buddha Memorial Park is an urban park located on Frazer Road near Patna Junction in Patna, India. This park has been designed by Vikram Lall and developed by the Bihar Government to commemorate the 2554th birth anniversary of the Buddha. This park was inaugurated by the 14th Dalai Lama.
Buddha Vihar – Kalaburagi
Buddha Vihara is a Buddhist temple and spiritual center in Kalaburagi, Karnataka, India.
Chaukhandi Stupa is a Buddhist stupa in Sarnath located 8 kilometres from Cantt Railway Station in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Stupas have evolved from burial mounds and serve as a shrine for a relic of the Buddha. The site was declared to be a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India in June 2019.
Kotturu Dhanadibbalu & Pandavula Guha is an ancient Buddhist site near Kotturu village of Rambilli mandal Visakhapatnam District of Andhra Pradesh. A post office is located at Kotturu Village with Pincode 531061
Clement Town is a cantonment town in Dehradun, Dehradun district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. Clement Town is seven kilometres (4.3 mi) from the clock tower in main city of Dehradun. Saharanpur and Haridwar are 65 and 54 km respectively. It also borders Rajaji National Park and is home to several renowned institutions. Schools such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy Academy and St. Mary’s are in the neighbourhood. Country singer Bobby Cash resides in Clement Town.
Deorkothar is a location of archaeological importance in Madhya Pradesh, Central India. It is known for its Buddhist stupas and was discovered in 1982.These stupas are credited to the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka.
Devnimori, or Devni Mori, is a Buddhist archaeological site in northern Gujarat, about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the city of Shamlaji, in the Aravalli District of northern Gujarat, India. The site is variously dated to the 3rd century or 4th century CE, or circa 400 CE. Its location was associated with trade routes and caravans in the area of Gujarat. Site excavations have yielded Buddhist artifacts dated prior to 8th-century in the lowest layer, mixed Buddhist and Hindu artwork from the Gurjara-Pratihara period in the middle, topped by Muslim glazed ware attributed to the 14th century. The site was excavated between 1960 and 1963. The site became flooded by the Meswo reservoir, a project started in 1959 and completed over 1971-1972 over the nearby Meshwo River.
Do-drul Chorten is a stupa in Gangtok in the Indian state of Sikkim. The stupa was built by Trulshik Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. Inside this stupa is a complete set of Dorjee Phurba, Kangyur and other religious objects. Around the stupa are 108 Mani Lhakor or prayer wheels. The stupa is surrounded by Chorten Lakahang and Guru Lakhang, where two statues of Guru Rinpoche are present.
Gudiwada Dibba – Vizianagaram
Gudiwada Dibba is a small hillock at Gudiwada village in Bhogapuram mandal, Vizianagaram district, Andhra Pradesh. It located on the banks of River Gosthani.
Kanaganahalli is about 3 km from Sannati. An important Buddhist site, the place where an ancient Buddhist Mahastupa site found. It is on the left bank of the Bhima river in Chitapur taluk, Gulbarga District in Karnataka, India. Nalwar is the nearest Railway station about 19 km from Kanaganahalli. The Buddhist site about 2.5 km from Chandrala Parameshwari temple of Sannati.
Vishwa Shanti Stupa – Rajgir
Vishwa Shanti Stupa is a large white Peace Pagoda in Rajgir, Nalanda District, Bihar, near Gitai Mandir. Statues of the Buddha are mounted on the stupa in four directions. It also has a small Japanese Buddhist temple with a large park. There is a temple near the stupa where prayers are conducted for universal peace. The initial pagoda was completed in 1969. New initiatives in 1993 resulted in the present form. It is one of around 80 Peace Pagodas which have been built around the world by the neo-Buddhist organisation Nipponzan Myohoji. These were a dream of Nichidatsu Fujii, inspired by Mohandas K. Gandhi, as a reaction to the atomic bombing of Japan, the first, and more well known Vishwa Shanti stupa, being built on Ratnagiri Hill in Rajgir.