Sanchi Stupa, a UNESCO Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh was part of the Middle kingdoms of India, but that’s not why I went there. It is the oldest man made stone structure in India and probably one of the oldest in the world, built in 3rd century BCE. That’s not what took me there either.
When I read that in 1850, British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham, respected for his meticulous work, had excavated from one of the three Stupas the relics of Sariputta and Mahamoggallana, the two chief disciples of the last Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, I had an instant wish to go there and meditate. The relics were sold to the Victoria and Albert museum, and were returned to India in 1949. The journey of the relics is outlined in The Wire, by researcher and professor of history, Shashank Sinha. Here’s the link for your interest.
A weekend trip, over which a friend and I sat at the Stupa, while many footsteps crossed us by: some paused and commented, some didn’t miss a step and ignored us, and some hesitated and fell silent as soon as they saw us. It felt like the world around us moved, while we did not participate in its motion. We were not engaged in life’s stream and yet were part of it.
I heard a man’s voice say that there is hope of finding buried treasures at some of India’s ancient monuments, but what can one hope to find here, in these barren stone structures that have episodes from the life of the last Buddha etched on them.
I had the answer but my eyes were closed, and I was too busy looking within, at the immense treasure that lay therein. Come sit, take a look, and know for yourself–said Gautama Buddha. Because treasures are passed on, what’s buried is what is plundered and decayed.