Sanchi Buddhist Complex – A legacy of the Maurya era

Sanchi Buddhist complex, famous for its great stupa at Sanchi, is located in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. Commissioned by emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, the Great Stupa of Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India. The stupa was built over the relics of Buddha. The original construction work of this stupa was overseen by Ashoka, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant of nearby Vidisha. Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her marriage with Ashoka. In the first century BCE, four elaborately carved toranas (gateways) and balustrade encircling the entire structure were added.

The stupa may have been vandalized in the 2nd century BCE during the rise of the Shunga emperor Pushyamitra Shunga, who overtook the Maurya Empire and was believed to be rebuilt by his son Agnimitra. The original brick stupa was covered with stone during the Shunga period. During the later Shunga period the stupa was expanded with stone slabs to almost twice its original size. The dome was set on a high circular drum meant for circumambulation, which could be accessed via a double staircase. A second stone pathway at ground level was enclosed by a stone balustrade with four monumental gateways facing the cardinal directions. Other structures which were commissioned during the Shunga period are the second and third stupas.

In the first century BCE, during the Satavahana period the gateways were constructed. Further Buddhist structures were added over the centuries until the 12th century AD. Temple 17 is attached to the Gupta period (5th century CE). This structure consists of a flat roofed square sanctum with a portico and four pillars.

Temple 45 was the last Buddhist temple built during the 9th century. With the decline of Buddhism in India the monuments of Sanchi went out of use and fell into a state of despair. Between 1912 and 1919 the structures were restored to their preset condition under the supervision of Sir Johns Marshall.

The stupas of Sanchi
The great stupa with the northern gateway
A closer view of the northern gateway
Details – the dvarapala from the gateway
Rear view of the northern gateway
More details from the gateway
The eastern gateway of the great Stupa
More details from the gateway
Another view of the great stupa
The balustrade of the great stupa and the eastern gateway
Another view of the balustrade
Stupa no.3
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Ruins around the area
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
More ruins around the area
Temple No.18 at sanchi
More ruins around
Temple No.17 at Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
The Ashokan pillar, which was reduced to pieces by a local zamindar
Details from the pillar
An inscription
View of the surrounding fields from the top
View of the surrounding fields from the top
The stupa at sunset
Sun setting behind the ruins

Today around fifty monuments remain on the hill of Sanchi. These monuments have been listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1989.

Ahmedabad declared India’s first world heritage city by UNESCO – Proud moment for every Indian

Recognizing its unique heritage value, the walled city of Ahmedabad which is more than 600 years old was declared India’s first World Heritage City by UNESCO. This historic declaration was issued at the 41st session the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland on Saturday July 08, 2017.

Ahmedabad’s nomination was supported by 20 countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, Portugal, Peru Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Finland, Azerbaijan, Jamaica, Croatia, Poland, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Korea, Angola and Cuba.

The 5.5 km walled city area with an approximate population of four lakhs living in century old wooden residences in around 600 pols or neighbourhoods, is regarded as living heritage and the UNESCO had preferred Ahmedabad’s entry over Delhi and Mumbai, the two main metro cities in the country.

There are 2600 heritage sites and over two dozen ASI (Archeological Survey of India) protected monuments in the walled city. In the walled city the dominant Hindu, Islamic and Jain communities peacefully coexists. Besides its architectural marvels, the city was the epic center of non-violent freedom struggle spear-headed by Mahatma Gandhi that led to the country’s independence in 1947.

Other cities from the subcontinent which hold the world heritage tag are Bhaktpur in Nepal and Galle in Sri Lanka.

You can read more about the city of Ahmedabad from the links below:

Ahmedabad – Part I : Bhadra Fort and Teen Darwaza

Ahmedabad – Part II : The Pols and Havelis

Ahmedabad – Part III : The Swaminarayan Temple at Kalupur

Ahmedabad – Part IV: The Hutheesing Jain Temple

Ahmedabad – Part V: Jama Masjid & Mausoleums

Ahmedabad – Part VI: Sidi Saiyyed Mosque

Ahmedabad – Part VII: Rani Rupamati’s Mosque

Ahmedabad – Part VIII: Rani Sipri’s Mosque and Tomb

Ahmedabad – Part IX: The Pattharwali Masjid or Qutbuddin’s Mosque

Ahmedabad – Part X: Sidi Bashir Mosque and the Shaking Minarets

Ahmedabad – Part XI: Raj Babri Mosque and the Mausoleum of Bibiji

Ahmedabad – Part XII: Kankaria Lake and the Dutch Tombs

Ahmedabad – Part XIII: Dada Hari Vav

Ahmedabad – Part XIV: Sabarmati Ashram

Reminiscence of a journey to the Land of Cedars – Lebanon (Part 7 of 7)

The Qadisha grotto lies on the main road between the Cedar forest and Bcharre. This 778-metre long grotto is the source of the River Qadisha. The natural stalactite and stalagmite formations in dazzling colours are a sight to behold. From the grotto, one could see the Qadisha Valley or Wadi Qadisha, as it is more popularly known. Qadisha means ‘holy’ in Aramaic and the valley is also sometimes called the Holy Valley.

Qadisha Grotto
Qadisha Grotto
Qadisha Grotto
Qadisha Grotto
Qadisha Valley
Qadisha Valley
Qadisha Valley
Qadisha Valley

Bcharre, pronounced as Sharr-i, in ancient times was a Phoenician settlement. Later in the 7th century AD, it became the refuge of Maronite Christians fleeing persecution. Bcharre is known to the world as the birthplace of the famous writer and poet, Kahlil Gibran. He is especially remembered for the book ‘The Prophet’. Today, the town of Bcharre also has a Gibran Museum which contains the works of the Lebanese writer.

On the way to Bcharre
On the way to Bcharre
Bcharre
Gibran Museum
Gibran Museum
One of the churches in Bcharre
Bcharre

Acknowledgment:
I would like to express my special thanks to my friend Zaher Joumblat for making this visit a reality. His hospitality and effort to show me around his country is much appreciated and will always be cherished. Especially, the journey we took to explore Hiram’s tomb and Noah’s tomb which were very difficult to locate. It was just one of the many adventures we had in Lebanon.

Reminiscence of a journey to the Land of Cedars – Lebanon ( Part 6 of 7)

Caliph Walid II of the Umayyad Islamic dynasty, founded the city of Anjar in the 8th century. It was a commercial centre which fell on two important trade routes – one leading from Beirut to Damascus and the other from Homs to Tiberiade. However, the city was destroyed and abandoned soon after, with the defeat of Walid’s son, Caliph Ibrahim. Anjar is a strikingly well-planned city with its rectangular shape, perpendicular streets and alleys that intersect at the city center. The city is also famous for its numerous hammamet or thermal baths. The ruins of the Great Palace of Anjer are a fine example of the Ummayyad era architecture.

Ruins of Anjer
Ruins of Anjer
Ruins of Anjer
The Great Palace of Anjer
The Great Palace of Anjer
Ruins of Anjer
Ruins of Anjer
Ruins of Anjer

Near to Zahle, in the suburb of Karak Nuh, is a 42 feet long tomb inside the local mosque, believed to be of Noah. The keeper of the mosque claims that the body of Noah was much longer than 42 feet and they had to bend his knees to fit him in.

Noah’s Tomb

Reminiscence of a journey to the Land of Cedars – Lebanon (Part 5 of 7)

Byblos, earlier known as Gebal, is believed to be the oldest of all Phoenician cities. It served as the major port for the export of cedar wood, papyrus and other goods to Egypt. The ruins of the city of Byblos has always interested archaeologists because of the successive layers of debris from the centuries of human habitation. The remains of the Great Temple, Temple of Baalat Gebal and others scattered across the archaeological site of Byblos are from the Phoenician period and are as old as 2700 BC. The Byblos castle, made of limestone, was built on the remains of Roman structures by the Crusaders in the 12th century.
Today, Byblos or Jbeil is a very modern city and a popular tourist attraction in the Mediterranean.

Ruins
Byblos city
Ruins
Ruins
Archaelogical museum next to the excavation site
Byblos City
Ruins
Byblos City
Excavation site at Byblos
Excavation site at Byblos
Byblos harbour
Ruins
Byblos beach
Ruins

Reminiscence of a journey to the Land of Cedars – Lebanon (Part 3 of 7)

Tyre is a city on the Mediterranean Coast, about 80 km to the south of Beirut. Like Baalbek, it is an ancient Phoenician City. It is believed to be the birthplace of Europa and Dido. In the 6th century BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, drawn by the affluence of the city, laid siege to Tyre for thirteen years. In 332 BCE, a wrathful Alexander the Great laid siege to Tyre for seven months; after which the walls were torn down, the people massacred and the city destroyed. Some of the ruins of the ancient glory of Tyre can be seen in the Triumphal Arch, which is the most preserved of the ruins and the Great Hippodrome, built for chariot racing. Legend says that the purple dye was first produced here.

Great Hippodrome
Great Hippodrome
Obelisk at the centre of the Great Hippodrome
Great Hippodrome
Great Hippodrome
Great Hippodrome
Great Hippodrome
The Triumphal Arch
Sarcophagus of Al-Bass cemetery
Sarcophagus of Al-Bass cemetery
Inscription on sarcophagus
Inscription on sarcophagus
More ruins from Tyre
The Triumphal Arch
Sarcophagus of Al-Bass cemetery
Sarcophagi of Al-Bass cemetery
Sarcophagi of Al-Bass cemetery
Sarcophagus of Al-Bass cemetery

Below is the tomb believed to be of King Hiram of Tyre, which is a few kilometers away from the ruins and very close to the Israeli border.

King Hiram’s tomb