Lecture-III BUDDHIST ARCHITECTURE
Buddhism began in India 2,500 years ago and remains the
dominant world religion in the East.
It is based on the teachings of an Indian prince named Siddharta
Gautama who lived around 500 BCE.
According to Buddhist tradition, the sheltered young prince was
shocked by the suffering he saw outside his palace walls, so he left
his life of luxury to seek answers.
Eventually he succeeded, becoming the Buddha--the "Enlightened
He spent the remaining 45 years of his life teaching the dharma
(the path to liberation from suffering) and establishing the sangha
(a community of monks).
A Buddhist temple is called Vihara and is a place for education. In
a temple, there is a shrine room with a large Buddha and statues
of his disciples. It also has relics and manuscripts. There is also a
lecture room, meditation room and a library.
Buddha is known as a teacher not a god.
Candles and incense sticks are lit and Buddhists recite verses in the
Flowers and food are placed on the front of the Buddhist Statue.
The flowers are to remind the person that they will not live forever.
The food is given to the Monks since they own nothing of their own
and Buddhists feel that giving food will help them reach Nirvana
Facts about Buddhism
The following principles are said to help Buddhists to act well: 1.
Not to hurt living things, 2. Do not take advantage of what is not
there, 3. Use senses correctly, 4. Speak kindly, and, 5. Do not take
or use drugs or alcohol.
Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or
'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of
wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:
(1)to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.
The Buddhist architecture has its root deeply implanted in the
Indian soil- the birthplace of the Buddha's teachings.
Indian emperor Ashoka, not only established Buddhism as the
state religion of his large Magadh empire, but also opted for the
architectural monuments to spread Buddhism in different
The major features of this style are
STUPA After many years of teaching Buddha died at the age of 80 .His body
was cremated and ashes were divided in to eight parts the ashes
were then deposited in several special mound shaped monuments
Umbrella were often mounted at the top of stupa as a sign of honor
A stupa is a mound-like structure containing buddhist relics,
typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of
These stupas are circular tumuli built of earth, covered with stone
or brick, the plan, elevation, section and the total form of which were
all derived from circle.
Stupa become a cosmic symbol in response to a major human condition: death. With the enlightenment of the Buddha, stupa became a particularly buddhist symbol.
A symbol to inspire aspiration and efforts in the religious life the
pursuit of enlightenment
Stupas are physically composed of the four elements earth, air,
fire and water.
Of the early stupas some were centered around sacrificial stakes
but all evolved as burial mounds. As Buddhism developed the
stupa became more of a general religious symbol, an object of
A symmetrical expression of the microcosm and macrocosm.
A centered construction designed to draw the viewer to their own
still centre through silent contemplation.
The basic form is a circle (heaven) inside a square (earth).
The conceptual components of a stupa (cube, sphere, cone) interlock
and the shared axis leads the viewers line of sight upwards to the apex
a symbol of the goal of Buddhism, nibbana.
There are mainly three main stupas on the top of the sanchi
hill which rise about 100m above the plain.
Of the three stupa the biggest one is known as the great
The 'Great Stupa' at Sanchi is the oldest stone structure in
India and was originally commissioned by the emperor
Ashoka the Great 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 chatra, a parasol-like structure
symbolizing high rank, which was intended to honor and
shelter the relics.
It has four profusely carved ornamental gateways and a
balustrade encircling the whole structure.
DOME- is a solid brick-
work 32.32m in
diameter and 12.8m
The dome has a slight
crushed profile at top and
was surmounted by
HARMIKA with a central
Plan and Elevation
The facing of the dome consists of dry masonry composed of
hammer dressed stones laid in even courses.
The terrace 4.87m high from ground was added thus
creating a separate and upper ambulatory passage 1.8m wide
access to which was provided by a double staircase with high
balustrade, on the south side.
There are four gateways known as TORANAS at the cardinal
points to the compass and are slightly staggered from the railing
The ambulatory or pradakshina path is fenced by railing
3.35m high all around the stupa.
Outside the railing there once stood the famous ashoka pillar,
the fragments of which are noticed now to the right of southern
torana. Axonometric drawing
Steps leading to upper ambulatory Lower Ambulatory 3.35 m. high
Harmika & triple umbrella
Upper Ambulatory 1.8m wide3.35m high
Suchi 60 cm dia
Urdhava patas 45cm dia 60-90 cmc/c
View of Torna from upper ambulatory
Elephants and Yakshi of the Eastern Torana, Great Stupa, Sanchi, mid-1st century BC - AD 1st century
Front View of sanchi stupa
Front View of Torna
Column of Torna
Toranas, the entrance to the
ambulatory were accepted as
the traditional type of
ceremonial potals and excel the
array of architectural
Torana consists of two square
uprite columns with capital of
lion or elephant heads
The first Torana gateway to be built is the one at the
principal entrance on the South.
These columns support three separate horizontal panels
between each of which is a row of ornamental balusters.
These panels are supported by atlantean figures, a group of
dwarfs, lions and elephant.
The total height of this erection is somewhat 10.36m with a
width of 3m.
No images of the Buddha was depicted; use only symbols such
as footprint, lotus flower, an empty throne.
The entire panel of the gateways is covered with
sculptured scenes from the life of Buddha, the Jataka
Tales, events of the Buddhist times and rows of floral or
The scenes from Buddha's life show Buddha represented
by symbols - the lotus, wheel a rider less caparisoned
horse, an umbrella held above a throne, foot prints and the
triratnas which are symbolic of Buddha, Dharma and
The top panel has a Dharma chakra with two Yakshas on
Female figures (Yakshinis;
male is called yakshas) on
the brackets symbolizes
tree goddesses; pre-
Buddhist spirits associate
with the generative or
productive forces of
nature, water, and strength
of the inner breath.
Yakshi bracket figure from the east gate
RAILING OR VEDICA
The vedica or railing consists of upright octagonal plan
45cm in diameter spaced at 60 to 90cm from each other and
connected by three lens shaped horizontals called suchi or
needles 60cm deep being threaded through the holes of the
The top horizontal bar is provided with coping to drain out
Dhamekh Stupa, Sarnath
The Dhamekh Stupa and the
Dharmarajika stupa at
Sarnath are believed to have
been built by Ashoka and
later rebuilt in the Gupta
Built in 7th century
A commemorative Stupa
Situated 6.5KM to the north of Benares.
The Stupa consist of large tower built in stone masonry at
the basement for a height of 13M and in brick masonry above
for a height 34M.
The facing of stone basement has 8 niches,
A line of sculptured ornaments run below it.
These niches were mostly provided to erect Buddhas statue.
Delicately carved with beautiful floral and geo-metrical
patterns is believed to have been put up in the Gupta period.
These stupas contain the relics of Buddha and are therefore
important places of Buddhist pilgrimage.
Buddha gave his First Sermon in Sarnath and also founded th