four-gateway-sanchi

The Great Stupa is surrounded by four gateways which are popularly called Toranas and are named as northern, southern, eastern and western. The Northern Gateway is crowned by a wheel of law and showcases all the miracles connected to Buddha that are mentioned in the Jatakas. The Southern Gateway has carvings that showcase the birth of Gautama Buddha.

The Eastern Gateway was built in 35 BC and is one of the four gateways located in Sanchi that depict the different incidents of Gautama Buddha’s life. The Eastern Gateway displays the incident when Gautama left the palace for his enlightenment. This gate also shows the dream of Maya, Gautama’s mother before he was born. There are four elephants that act as a support to the architraves of the gate. The Western Gateway displays the seven incarnations of Lord Buddha.

These gateways have the carvings of early Buddhist art which mostly centres on the depiction of Buddha in symbols like the lotus which represents his birth, the tree that stands for his enlightenment, the wheel from the title of his first sermon, the footprints and throne that stands for his presence.

Of all the stories depicted in the gateways, two of the most touching are that of Prince Vessantara who gave away his wife, children and wealth for charity and kindness. The other one is that of Buddha who as a monkey king sacrificed his life for his friends. There are various inscriptions on gateways that speak of the donors along with the ivory workers from Vidisha who had done the sculpting of the stone.