Sanchi – Buddham Dhammam Sangham

8. Pillars


Pillar No 10 – This broken Ashokan pillar is partially standing in situ near the Southern Gateway and the other part is placed inside a shed. As the pillar carries an edict of Ashoka hence it can be assumed that it was erected by emperor Ashoka. It can also be said that he erected it before the start of the construction work at this site as it was customary to erect a pillar before the construction of stupa. Cunningham mentions that probably this pillar was broken by some local zamindar to utilize the shaft in sugarcane crushers, which Marshall confirmed during his studies.

Pillar 10


The pillar, in its full glory, would have been of 42 feet (12.6 m) in height including its abacus and capital. The shaft is tapered towards top surmounted by a bell shaped capital topped with an abacus supporting its crowning ornament, four-lions set back to back. This crowing lion capital is now placed in Sanchi Archaeological Museum. Marshall mentions that these magnificent lions were the work of Perso-Greek artists. He writes that when compared to Southern Gateway lion capital, superiority of this pillar capital is very evident and as the former is a product of Indian indigenous artists hence the latter, which is of earlier time, should be of the foreign artists only. I never understood this foreign artist or influence concept as no two artist will produce the same results. What if the artists of Ashoka’s period were superior than those of Satavahana period, this is not a remote possibility.

Broken part of Pillar 10


The extremely fine grained sandstone in which this pillar is carved, like other Ashoka pillar, was probably quarried in Chunar in Bihar. It was certainly the skills of Ashoka and his engineers who transported this block of stone about 40 feet in length weighing almost as many tons, it to Sanchi, some 800 km far. Marshall suggests that they would have utilized water transport through rivers like Ganges, then Yamuna and finally Betwa. Betwa is just 1 km from this site.




Written in Brahmi, language is Pali – incomplete and broken -… path is prescribed both for the monks and the nuns. As long as (my) sons and great-grandsons (shall reign; and) as long as the moon and the sun (shall endure), the monk or nun who shall cause divisions in the Sangha, shall be compelled to put on white robes and to reside apart. For that is my desire. That the Sangha may be united and may long endure”

Pillar 25


Pillar No 25 – This is the next pillar in the chronological order as per Marshall and others. It was erected in the towards the end of second century BCE, during the reign of the Shungas. Maisey suggests that it would have been erected during the Gupta period however Marshall and Dhavalikar differ from him. Few medieval letters are scribed on the shaft, at the height of about 6 feet from the ground. There are few defaced shell script characters near its base as well, however both these are later engravings.

Total length of the pillar is about 15 feet. The shaft is octagonal up till the height of 4.5 feet, above this it is sixteen sided. The capital is bell-shaped with lotus leaves falling over the bell. Above it are two circular necking which support a square abacus on top. Its crowning capital is missing now, however it might be the usual lion capital in most probability.

Pillar 26


Pillar No 26 – This Gupta period pillar of the fifth century CE is made of three pieces, a square base, circular shaft and crowing ornament. It’s total height would be 22.5 feet (6.75 m). Unfortunately the shaft is broken into three pieces which could not be joined due to type of breakage. It had a bell-shaped capital and is crowned by a lion and dharma-chakra. This crowing element is now housed in Sanchi museum. Marshall mentions that in comparison to the lion capital of the Ashoka pillar at the site, this capital is a feeble imitation of that and does not excel in craftsmanship.




engraved at the lowest section of the pillar – language Sanskrit – The gift of Vajrapani pillar, two pillars of a getway, the mandapa (hall) of monastery, and a gateway were donated by one Rudrasena or Rudrasimha, son of Goshura-Simhabala, the superintendent of the monastery.

Pillar 35


Pillar No 35 – This is situated near the northern gateway of stupa 1. Marshall mentions that this might be the pillar spoken in the inscription of the pillar 25 as this pillar shows all characters of the Gupta style and can be assigned to 5th century CE. Most of the shaft has been destroyed however the foundation and stump is still in situ. What remains of this shaft measures 9 feet in length.

Its bell shaped capital and crowning member, an image of Vajrapani, was found lying near this pillar by Cunningham and Maisey. An interesting feature of this image is its halo which is pierced with twelve small holes evenly disposed around its edge. These pieces of exquisite workmanship are now in Sanchi museum.

Pillar No 34 – This pillar is no more there on site but found only in the drawings of Maisey. Two pieces of this pillar were found by Marshall among the debris. Marshall mentions that from the style it can be dated to the Gupta period.


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  • PN Subramanian

    Excellent coverage.