The group of Buddhist monuments at Sanchi was declared world heriage site in 1989. The stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars here belong to a prolonged period of 3rd century BC to 12th century AD. This ancient Buddhist pilgrimage centre exhibits number of complex structures with popular Buddhist legends as their theme. As in early Buddhism, the sculptures and figures at Sanchi depict Buddha through symbols rather than images. Lotus symbolized Buddha's birth, Tree symbolized the enlightenment of Buddha, Wheel symbolized his salvation while Footprints and Throne represented his presence. Lost in anonymity, it was re-discovered in 1818, by General Taylor, a British Officer. It was then half buried and was in good state of preservation. Sir John Marshal, Director General of Archeology, ordered its restoration in 1912.
The most famous monuments at Sanchi include the Great Stupa No.1, one
of the oldest stone structures in India that has a massive dome and was
built by Emperor Ashoka. It was rebuilt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.
It has four, richly ornamented, gateways or Toranas. The Southern
Gateway represents the birth of Gautum Buddha as Prince Siddhartha with
dramatically rich carvings and is crowned by wheel of law, the Eastern
Gateway, depicts the prince abandoning his palace to seek enlightenment
and the Western Gateway depicts the Seven incarnations of Buddha.
Ashokan Pillar topped by a four lion sculpture that is the National
Emblem of India was erected during the 3rd century BC here. There are
ruins of 4th century Gupta Temple to explore, which is one of the
earliest known examples of temple architecture in India. The Great Bowl
carved out of one block of stone is believed to be used as the food
container for the monks of Sanchi.