CHAUKHANDI STUPA(SQUARE EDIFICE) SARNATH VARANASI

CHAUKHANDI STUPA WAS BUILT TO MARK THE SITE WHERE BUDDHA MET HIS FIRST FIVE DISCIPLES WHILE TRAVELLING FROM GAYA TO SARNATH.

DHARMA IS NOT THE RESULT OF THINKING. IT IS THE FRUIT OF DIRECT EXPERIENCE.

It was at this place that Buddha met his first five disciples and informed them all about his enlightenment and inspired them to follow the path of truth.

Later these five disciples of Buddha~1. Assaji 2. Bhaddiya 3.Kondanna 4. Mahanama 5,Vappa were called Panchvargiya.

Chaukhandi Stupa can be divided into two parts.

1.Ancient stupa (Chaukhandi stupa)

2. Humayun Burj

CHAUKHANDI STUPA

The stupa is square in shape. Because of its four-armed plan structure, it is called Chaukhandi Stupa. It is made of solid bricks placed on three floors.

Like other major Buddhist buildings in Sarnath, this stupa was also built during the reign of Emperor Ashoka (250 BC). Later this stupa was given a grand form during the Gupta period (500CE).

During the excavation, a statue of Buddha and some other statues were found. The famous Chinese traveler XUANZANG also described this stupa. Xuanzang came to Sarnath in 637 AD.

The archaeological excavations conducted in 1835 and 1904-05 brought light to this 93 feet high, brick stupa laid in mud mortar having three diminishing square terraces each about 12feet High and 12ft broad, each terrace is supported by an outer and inner wall with a number of cross walls to strengthen the structure. The outer walls of the terraces are ornamented with a series of niches separated by pilasters.

There is a deep hole, about 5 feet in diameter on the topmost part of Chaukhandi Stupa (which is, also the floor of the Humayun Burj). The hole extends, vertically coming down to the ground. It looks like a tunnel when viewed from above.
This hole was dug by the archaeologist JOHN MARSHAL (1835 AD) during the excavation of Chaukhandi Stupa to see it from inside.

A clear impression of the buildings of the Gupta period can be seen at the base of the stupa.

Humayun Burj

The top part of the Chaukhandi Stupa, known as Humayun Burj was built during the Mughal period. Information regarding the construction of this octagonal building is written on the square stone plate on it’s Northern Doorway. This stone plate can be seen at top in this picture.

There is an octagonal structure(Humayun Burj) on top of the Chaukhandi Stupa, its height is about 23 feet. It was built during the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar. There is an inscription written in Persian language regarding the construction of Humayun Burj. Which says–

To commemorate the stay of Humayun at the Chaukhandi Stupa, Govardhan, son of Raja Todar Mall, built this octagonal building in 1588 CE during the reign of Akbar.

One such another octagonal building is located near Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi which is known as Sabz Burj.

When Humayun had conquered the fort of Chunar, he had camped in Banaras for a few days, perhaps then only he might have come here.

In the documents of Mughal era, this place has been mentioned as Humayun Burj.

A painting for Mr. Colin Mackenzie in 1814 by a painter named Sheikh Abdullah.

In this painting Humayun Burj, the top of Chaukhandi Stupa can be seen at some distance from Dhamekh Stupa. DHAMEKH STUPA: The larger stupa in the image is the Dhamekh Stupa. Dhamekh Stupa was built on the sacred spot where Buddha delivered his first sermon.

During that time there was no information regarding the history of Chaukhandi Stupa. The structure built in the Gupta period was completely buried under layers of soil for centuries and only the octagonal building built in the Mughal period was visible at its top.

In 1835, to understand the history related to this building, and to get some important articles related to Buddhism, John Marshall dug a vertical hole in this building as I had already mentioned above.

Mr. F.O.Oertel gets the credit for introducing the world to the grand form of the Chaukhandi Stupa hidden in the mud under the octagonal Mughal building.
It is quite clear from the above painting that the actual Chaukhandi Stupa was completely hidden under the soil .

The memories related to Sarnath and Buddha’s teachings remained in the minds of the people of Banaras till the fourteenth century, but after that they were forgotten under Islamic rule. The pre-Islamic history of India was shrouded in ignorance and darkness for a long time.

At the end of the seventeenth century a sense of interest and curiosity about the pre-Islamic history of India aroused within some Britishers . Soon many British intellectuals, including people of all kinds, orientalists, linguists, archaeologists, historians, engineers, started doing serious work on the pre-Islamic period of the Indian subcontinent.

Soon, by the end of the eighteenth century, the ancient history of India appeared before the world in a gleaming form. The discovery of this glorious past later became the backbone of India’s nationalist movement.

Whisper of History

In 2019, Chaukhandi Stupa was accorded the status of a monument of national importance.

Presently it is a well preserved building. Chaukhandi Stupa is situated in a very beautiful garden. At a distance of about 800 meters from the main Sarnath complex , tourists also rarely come here. The serene atmosphere here is made on sight. If you are interested in ancient Indian history, then this place is no less than a jewel for you.

Even if you do not want to look at Chaukhandi Stupa from the subtle point of view of history, you can sit here comfortably for some time, which is no less than a boon in today’s run-of-the-mill life.
The Chaukhandi Stupa is flanked by rows of large trees where meditating is undoubtedly a supernatural experience.
While meditating in this calm environment under the sunlight filtered through the leaves of trees, it seems that the old times want to tell their history to by whispering it in your ears.

Author: nitinsingh

Postgraduate in International relations. Experience in writing in various journals, from BBC WORLD NEWS SERVICE to India's one of the oldest hindi daily. I like to write on international relations, religion, religious conflict. Social media has bridged the distance between writing and reading. Now writing is not just the expression of one's own thought, but also knowing the expression of people on various subject.

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