An insider’s guide to Sanchi- The Spiritual Retreat!

Interesting tidbits

Anyone who has been to Sanchi agrees that it is a place of remarkable peace and tranquility. A 300m high hill rises from the surrounding flat plains and is home to a wealth of ancient Buddhist monuments: stupas, monasteries and a monolithic Ashokan pillar. Part of the hill away from the cluster of these World Heritage monuments is still forested and offers a lovely walk in good weather. From the hill you can see a huge amount of farmland all the way to the horizon.

Read also: Unveiling the World’s Enigmatic Monuments

Things to do and see There are 50 monuments on Sanchi Hill, in various states of conservation. The Great Stupa is the iconic image of the city of Sanchi, a grand building visible from the passing trains. After Ashoka, kings of the Sunga and Satavahana dynasties added it. The four beautifully carved gateways depict key episodes in the Buddha’s life, his miracles, scenes from the Jataka Tales and more, in incredible detail. You can watch for hours and notice the craftsmanship.
 
Other notable monuments in Sanchi are Stupa 3, which contains relics of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, Buddha's closest disciples; the Ashokan Pillar; several monasteries with cells of monks; and a stone temple of the Gupta era.
Other notable monuments in Sanchi are Stupa 3, which contains relics of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, Buddha’s closest disciples; the Ashokan Pillar; several monasteries with cells of monks; and a stone temple of the Gupta era.
 
Outside of the heritage site, Sanchi, one of the most must-visit towns in Madhya Pradesh, is characterized by a heap of haphazard structures – a museum, a few guesthouses, a few shops – yet it retains its tranquility. The museum below the hill features metal objects used by Buddhist monks and the four-headed lion chapel of the Ashoka Pillar seen on the hill. ◆ Museum entrance fee: INR 30 (includes vehicle entry), foreigners INR 250 Timings 10am-5pm, closed on Fridays.
Outside of the heritage site, Sanchi, one of the must-visit towns in Madhya Pradesh, is characterized by a heap of haphazard structures – a museum, a few guesthouses, a few shops – yet it retains its tranquility. The museum below the hill features metal objects used by Buddhist monks and the four-headed lion chapel of the Ashoka Pillar seen on the hill. ◆ Museum entrance fee: INR 30 (includes vehicle entry), foreigners INR 250 Timings 10am-5pm, closed on Fridays.
 
Where to stay and eat MP Tourism runs the Gateway Retreat (Tel: 07482-266723; Tariff: INR 1,790-2,290) and Gateway Cafeteria (Tel: 266723; Tariff: INR 990-1,090; 2 rooms). Sambodhi International (Mob: 093297 31894; Tariff: 1,500-2,000) is an option.
Where to stay and eat MP Tourism runs the Gateway Retreat (Tel: 07482-266723; Tariff: INR 1,790-2,290) and Gateway Cafeteria (Tel: 266723; Tariff: INR 990-1,090; 2 rooms). Sambodhi International (Mob: 093297 31894; Tariff: 1,500-2,000) is an option.
 

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Around Sanchi

Caves of Udaygiri (15 km)

This group of rock-cut caves was sculpted during the reign of Chandragupta II (375-415 CE). Note the beautiful design of the entrance, the massive pillars and the artful facade, eroded by time and the elements. Cave 5 has an image of Vishnu in his Varaha avatar. Cave 1 and 9 are remarkable. Taxi costs INR 1,500 for the whole day ◆ Timings 10am-5pm, Closed Monday.

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Vidisha (10km)

This pretty town on the fork between the Betwa and Bes rivers was known as Besnagar in the Pali scriptures. It is dotted with white lime mortar temples, a 2nd-century shrine and a museum stocking 9th-century sculptures and terracotta objects.

Not far to the north of Vidisha is the Heliodorus (or Garuda) pillar, known locally as the Khamba Baba. It bears inscriptions from 140 BC. Heliodorus of Taxila, an envoy of the Indo-Bactrian king, Antialkidas, suggested it. Also not to be missed are Lohangi Rock, Gumbaz-ka-Maqbara and the 11th century Bijamandal Mosque. Taxi costs INR 1,500 for a full day.
Not far to the north of Vidisha is the Heliodorus (or Garuda) pillar, known locally as the Khamba Baba. It bears inscriptions from 140 BC. Heliodorus of Taxila, an envoy of the Indo-Bactrian king, Antialkidas, suggested it. Also not to be missed are Lohangi Rock, Gumbaz-ka-Maqbara and the 11th century Bijamandal Mosque. Taxi costs INR 1,500 for a full day.
 

When to go: November to February are the best months to visit this serene place.

To get there: Bhopal Airport (45 km / 1 hour), connected to Delhi, Mumbai and Indore. Taxi INR 800 (round trip).

Brimming with stories and details, the vibrant and fine trek in the Sanchi monuments captivates every visitor to this hill. It’s like seeing the past, some two millennia old, come to life. Take less time off the road this season and visit the serene Sanchi!

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