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The Bhilsa Topes or Buddhist Monuments of Central India

The Bhilsa Topes or Buddhist Monuments of Central India
Item Code: IAB56
Author: Alexander Cunningham
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 1997
ISBN: 8121507596
Pages: 406 (Figures: 33)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.0" X 6.0"
About the Book:

Present work describes the Buddhist monuments discovered by Sir Alexander Cunningham around Bhilsa in Central India, viz., topes at Sanchi, Sonari, Satdhara, Bhojpur and Andheri.

It also gives a historical account of the rise, progress and decline of Buddhism; the synods; the life and faith of Sakya; the symbols of Buddha, Dhamma and Samgha.

About the Author:

Sir Alexander Cunningham (1814-1893) was the first Archaeological Surveyor to the Government of India (1861-1865), the department was abolished in 1865, but revived in 1870, with Cunningham as Director, he held the post until he retired in 1885.

Apart from his official reports of his annual tours and his occasional contribution to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, he wrote on Ladakh; The Bhilsa Topes; The Ancient Geography of India: The Buddhist Period; Corpus Insciptionum Indicarum, vol. I, Inscriptions of Ashoka; The Stupa of Bharhut; The Book of Indian Eras; Mahabodhi; Coins of Mediaeval India; Coins of Indo-Scythian Sakas and Kush; Coins of Alexander's Successors in the East.




  1. Limits of Buddhism
  2. Decay of Buddhism
  3. Buddhist Remains
  4. Ditto
  5. Cave Temples
  6. Vihars
  7. Inscriptions on Rocks and Pillars
  8. Topes
  9. Bhilsa Topes
  10. Ditto
  11. Description of Topes
  12. Origin of Topes
  13. Existing before Sakya's advent
  14. Ditto
  15. Various Buddhist Topes
  16. Ditto
  17. Dedicatory Topes
  18. Memorial Topes
  19. Funeral Topes
  20. Ditto
  21. Ditto
  22. Intimately connected with Buddhist religion


Life of Sakya

  1. Early Indian worship - Elements
  2. Conflicting opinions at Sakya's advent
  3. Doctrine of transmigration
  4. The Swastikas
  5. Their doctrine of eternal annihilation
  6. Swastikas, Brahmans, and Buddhists, compared
  7. Ditto Ditto
  8. Birth and early life of Sakya
  9. The four predictive signs
  10. Ditto
  11. Ditto
  12. Ditto
  13. Probability of the story of his conversion
  14. Embraces a religious life
  15. His asceticism
  16. Ditto
  17. Braves the terrors of Maro or death
  18. His teaching
  19. Ditto
  20. Sakya's death
  21. Grief of his followers
  22. Burning of his corpse
  23. Division of his relies
  24. They are collected by Ajatasatra
  25. And again distributed by Asoka


Faith of Sakya

  1. Early observations of mankind
  2. Discrimination of the elements
  3. Early worship of Greece and India
  4. Philosophical systems of ditto
  5. The Pythagoreans
  6. Sakya's faith: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha
  7. The Samadhikas (Contemplatists) and the Pradhanikas (Materialists)
  8. Buddhists deny the Creator's providence
  9. Doctrine of Nirvritti and Pravritti, or rest and action
  10. The five Dhyani Buddhas, or personifications of the elements
  11. Similarity of the early Brahmanical and Buddha schools
  12. The Sankhy a doctrine of the eternity of matter
  13. Buddhist belief of creation of matter
  14. Doctrine of the Sankhya teacher, Kapila
  15. Doctrine of the Sankhya teacher, Patanjali
  16. The Brahmanical Nireswara similar to the Bauddha Swabhavika doctrine of supreme nature
  17. Mystic roots of the elements
  18. The Brahmanical Seswaras and the Aiswarika Buddhists
  19. All the schools agree that there is a compound of mind and matter
  20. The three classes of Sakya's doctrine :- 1. Vinaya; 2. Sutra; 3. Abhidharma
  21. Called Tripitaka and Triyanika
  22. Their compilation in B.C.543
  23. Kachhayana's Pali grammar
  24. Ditto
  25. Language of the Buddhist books
  26. Ditto
  27. Ditto
  28. Identification of Kachhayana and Katyayana
  29. Ditto
  30. Ditto
  31. Sakya a social reformer
  32. Ditto
  33. Buddhism and Mahomedanism


First Synod

  1. The Bauddha community
  2. First Synod of five hundred monks
  3. First Synod of five hundred monks
  4. Ditto
  5. Rehearsal of Vinaya
  6. Rehearsal of Dharma
  7. Buddha's Hymn of Joy
  8. His last injunctions
  9. Conclusion of the Synod
  10. Admission of women
  11. Dress of the ascetics
  12. Ditto
  13. Sarmanes, or Sramanas
  14. Hylobii, or Arhats
  15. Iatriki, or Pratyekas
  16. The four classes of Kleitarchos
  17. Types of the Buddhist classes
  18. Difference between Buddhist and Christian ideas of immortality
  19. The Grand Lama of Tibet a Bodhisatwa, and not a Buddha
  20. Rules for the Bhikshu
  21. His dress and equipments



  1. Succession of teachers
  2. Ditto
  3. Chronological list of teachers
  4. Date of Sakya's death - 543 B.C.
  5. Chandra Gupta's accession
  6. Possible origin of the error in Buddhist chronology


Second Synod.

  1. Ten indulgences claimed by the Vaisali fraternity
  2. Assembly of Second Synod
  3. Discussion on the indulgences
  4. Sentence of Degradation confirmed
  5. Similarity of proceedings to those of English trial by jury


Buddhist Schisms.

  1. The degraded monks originate the Maha Sanghika heresy
  2. Various sects
  3. Ditto
  4. The Vaibhashikas
  5. The Sautrantikas
  6. Names of eighteen schisms
  7. Extent of Buddhism in 443 B.C.


Progress of Buddhism.

  1. The Maurya dynasty : accession of Chandra Gupta
  2. He expels the Greeks from the Panjab
  3. He conquers India
  4. Palibothra, or Pataliputra
  5. Indian expedition of Seleukos Nikator
  6. Ditto Ditto
  7. Accession of Bindusara
  8. Embassy of Dionysios
  9. Asoka deputed to Taxila
  10. Appointed Governor of Ujain
  11. Death of Bindusara


Reign of Asoka.

  1. Accession and conquests of Asoka
  2. His conversion to Buddhism
  3. He erects numerous Vihars and Chaityas
  4. Promulgates numerous edicts
  5. Title of Priyadarsi doubted by Prof. H.H. Wilson
  6. True meaning of Dharma
  7. Ditto
  8. Ditto
  9. Ditto
  10. Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, mentioned in the Bhabra inscription
  11. Antiquity of the Pali Scriptures vindicated
  12. Ditto Ditto
  13. Ditto Ditto
  14. Names of Asoka not mentioned in his won inscriptions
  15. Identity of Priyadarsi and Asoka
  16. Chronological difficulties removed
  17. Doubtful name in edicts, perhaps Ariobarzanes
  18. Asoka's knowledge of the Greeks
  19. No mention of the king of Kabul and Parthia in his edicts
  20. Dates of the Rock edicts
  21. Date of the Pillar edicts
  22. Sincerity of Asoka's faith


Third Synod.

  1. Heretics assume the dress of the Buddhists and enter their monasteries
  2. Expulsion of the heretics
  3. Rehearsal of Vinaya and Dharma
  4. Missions to foreign countries
  5. Relics of the missionaries found in the Bhilsa Topes
  6. Relics of Kasapa
  7. Ditto, and of Majhima
  8. Relics of Gotiputra
  9. Explanation of the term dayada
  10. Gotiputra, the missionary to Dardabhisara
  11. Other relics
  12. The seal of Asoka anticipated Christianity in religious missions
  13. Kunala, son of Asoka - Asoka's death


Rise and Fall of the Indo-Scythians.

  1. Division of Asoka's empire - Fall of the Mauryas
  2. Conquests of Menander in India
  3. The Seythian Mauas expels the Greeks
  4. He is succeeded by Azas
  5. Rise of the Yuchi or Tochari under Kadphises
  6. Kanishka, a zealous Buddhist
  7. Milindu, Raja of Sakala
  8. Nagarjuna : Buddhism extended into Tibet
  9. Mention of Buddhists by Apollonius of Tyana
  10. By Klemens of Alexandria
  11. By Porphyrius
  12. By Palladius and Scholastikos
  13. In the Hindu dramas

The Gupta Dynasty. - Decline and Fall of Buddhism

  1. Rise of the Gupta dynasty - Gupta era
  2. Gupta era dates from establishment of dynasty
  3. Gupta kings mentioned by the Chinese
  4. Chronological table of the Guptas
  5. Data for chronology
  6. Mr. Thomas's chronology
  7. Mr. Thomas's chronology
  8. He dates the rise of the Guptas from 78 A.D.
  9. Reasons for adopting a later date
    Silver currency of Gujrat copied from the drachmas of Apollodotus
  10. Inscription of Chandra Gupta at Udayagiri
  11. Sanakanika, name of the kingdom of Bhilsa
  12. Vaishnava faith of the princes of Sanakanika
  13. Inscription of Chandra Gupta at Sanchi
  14. Illustration of the meaning of Prajna
  15. Prajna is nature deified
  16. Chandra Gupta's gift to Sanchi Tope
  17. Chandra Gupta's lord of Ujain
  18. Ditto not an orthodox Buddhist
  19. Buddhism prevalent in Pataliputra
  20. Ditto paramount in the Panjab and Northern India
  21. Religious belief of the earlier Guptas
  22. Tantrika belief of Skanda Gupta
  23. Extravagance of the Tantrists
  24. Their charms and incantations
  25. Spread of Tantrika doctrines
  26. Lokaditya
  27. Buddha Gupta
  28. Toramana - inscriptions at Eran and Gwalior
  29. Conquest of Siladitya
  30. Decline of Buddhism
  31. Fall of Buddhism
  32. Causes of the decline and fall of Buddhism


Building and Dedication of Topes

  1. Account of the building of a Tope from the Mahawanso
  2. Memorial pillar recording the builder's intentions
  3. Topes usually built by forced labour
  4. Foundations
  5. Laying the foundation stone
  6. Ceremonies attending it
  7. Form of the chaitya
  8. Construction of the relic-chamber
  9. Procession of the closing the relic-casket
  10. Ceremonies on closing the relic-casket
  11. Ceremonies on placing it in the relic-chamber
  12. Completion of the Tope
  13. Cornices or copings added to it
  14. Other additions by subsequent kings
  15. The same description applies to the Great Sanchi Tope
  16. Different positions of the relic-chamber
  17. Consecration of the ground
  18. Various shapes of Topes
  19. Various shapes of Topes
  20. Their age ascertained approximately from shape


Sanchi Tope - No. 1.

  1. Position of Sanchi Hill
  2. Description of ditto
  3. Group of Topes at Sanchi
  4. Sanchi, the same as Sha-chi of Fa Hian
  5. Name of Sanchi
  6. Story of the holy nettle at Sha-chi
  7. Village of Sanchi
  8. Situation of the Great Tope No. 1
  9. Other ruined Topes
  10. Shape of the dome
  11. Upper enclosure
  12. Pinnacle, chatta
  13. Height of the Tope
  14. Colonnade or Buddhist railing
  15. Pillars of colonnade
  16. Rails of ditto
  17. Architraves
  18. Prevalence of Buddhist railings
  19. Four gateways
  20. Pillars of gateways - different capital
  21. Architraves of gateways
  22. Symbols of Buddha and Dharma
  23. Variety of bas-reliefs
  24. Figures of the four Buddhas
  25. Hariswamini inscription
  26. Lion pillar, with inscription
  27. Capital of pillar
  28. Height of ditto
  29. Style of sculpture in the lions
  30. Statue pillar
  31. Capital pillar
  32. Description of statue
  33. height of pillar
  34. Shafts of pillars cut into pieces for sugar-mills
  35. Eastern pillar
  36. Broken pillar of Hariswamini Gosha
  37. Flight of steps, and statues at entrance


Description of the Sanchi Bas-Relief's.

Eastern Gateway.
Right Pillar - Front Face.

  1. Place Scene - Audience Hall
  2. Palace Scene - Women dancing before the King

Right Pillar - Inner Face.

  1. Adoration of Tree
  2. Dream of Maya

Left Pillar - Front Face.

  1. Adoration of Symbol of Dharma
  2. Boat Scene - Sakya's Nirvana
  3. Prince in Chariot leaving Kapila

Left Pillar - Inner Face.

  1. Kitchen Scene
  2. Worship of Buddha - as flame
  3. Tope dedicated to the Supreme Buddha

Architraves - Front.

  1. Worship of Topes
  2. Procession of Buddha's feet
  3. Worship of Tree

Architrave - Rear.

  1. Worship of Trees
  2. Worship of Trees by Animals
  3. Worship of Tope by Elephants

South Gateway
Right Pillar - Fornt Face.

  1. Triple Symbol of Dharma
  2. Scene in Palace
  3. Casket Scene in Palace

Architraves - Front.

  1. Worship of Topes
  2. Worship of Tope
  3. A Siege, and Relic-procession

West Gateway
Right Pillar - Front Face.

  1. Trial of the Bow
  2. Worship of Tree
  3. Ditto
  4. Lions

Right Pillar - Inner Face.

  1. Gateway - Worship of Tree
  2. Worship of Tree surmounted by Chatta

Left Pillar - Front Face.

  1. Social Scene
  2. Love Scene

Left Pillar - Inner Face.

  1. Ascetic Life - Archers
  2. Festival of the Tree
  3. State Barge

Architraves - Front Faces.

  1. Procession escorting a Relic - casket
  2. Worship of Symbol of Buddha
  3. Worship of Tree by Elephants

Architraves - Rear Faces.

  1. Worship of Topes
  2. Triumphal Procession
  3. Temple Worship

North Gateway
Right Pillar - Front Face.

  1. Tree, with Staircase

Right Pillar - Inner Face.

  1. Worship of Tree
  2. Ditto
  3. Ditto

Left Pillar - Front Face.

  1. Worship of Tree
  2. Reverence paid to a Boy
  3. Simple Adoration
  4. Procession
  5. Domestic Scenes at Fountain

Left Pillar - Inner Face.

  1. Cave Temple
  2. Procession
  3. Worship of Tree


Inscriptions. - No. 1 Tope. - Sanchi.

    Nos. 1 to 176. On colonnade - old
    No. 177. On southern - pillar
    Nos. 178 to 196. Later inscriptions from gateways


Opening of Sanchi Tope - No. 1.

  1. Manner of opening the Tope - Brick Tope
  2. No discovery made
  3. Probable age of the Tope - 500 B.C.
  4. Probable date of the colonnade - 250 B.C.
  5. Probable date of the colonnade - 250 B.C.
  6. Date of the gateways - 19 to 37 A.D.
  7. Gateway inscriptions in a more recent character
  8. Old inscription hidden by pillar of gateway
  9. Tope probably dedicated to the Supreme Buddha


No. 2 Tope. - Sanchi.

  1. Position of Tope
  2. Dimensions of dome
  3. Pinnacle
  4. Colonnade, or Buddhist railing
  5. Ornaments of pillars
  6. Bas-reliefs of entrance pillars
  7. Bas-reliefs of Tope and wheel pillar
  8. Wheel pillar
  9. Sangha, or the united symbols of Buddha and Dharma
  10. Probable age, about 200 B.C.


Inscriptions From No. 2 Tope. - Sanchi.

    Nos. 1 to 43. On colonnade


Opening of NO. 2 Tope. - Sanchi.

  1. Present appearance of the Tope
  2. Position of the relic-chamber
  3. Relic-box with inscription
  4. Remarks on inscription
  5. Inscriptions on the steatite boxes
  6. Remarks on the enshrined relics
  7. Relics of ten Buddhist teachers in 240 B.C.
  8. Tope originally intended for relics of two only
  9. Intimate connection between the principal Buddhist leaders
  10. Value of genealogies derivable from other Tope


No. 3 Tope. - Sanchi

  1. Present appearance, and former size
  2. Buddhist railing
  3. Pillars of ditto
  4. Square enclosure
  5. Relic-chamber with two relic-boxes
  6. Relic-box of Sariputra
  7. Seven precious things in relic-casket
  8. Series of seven precious things according to the Chinese
  9. Series of seven precious things according to the Chinese
  10. The seven precious things in this Tope
  11. Relic-casket of Maha Mogalana
  12. Initial letters of names written in ink
  13. Relative position of relics to right and left
  14. Sariputra's career
  15. Sariputra's career
  16. Sakya's account of Sariputra
  17. Sakya's account of Sariputra
  18. His death and cremation
  19. Origin of Mogalana
  20. Relics of both found at Satdhara
  21. Date of Tope uncertain - between 550 and 250 B.C.
  22. Date of Tope, perhaps 500 B.C. - of railing, 250 B.C.
  23. Other Topes at Sanchi


Sonari Topes. - No. 1 Tope.

  1. Position of Sonari - meaning of name
  2. Wheel pillar at Sravasti
  3. Situation of Topes
  4. No. 1 Tope - Sonari
  5. Dimensions of Tope
  6. Surrounded by a Buddhist railing
  7. Probable date, 250 - 200 B.C.
  8. Opening of Tope - stone boxes


No. 2 Tope. - Sonari

  1. Position of No. 2 Tope
  2. Dimensions of Tope
  3. Opening of Tope
  4. Large steatite relic-vase
  5. Flat crystal relic-casket of Gotiputra
  6. Steatite relic-casket of Majhima
  7. Ditto Kasapa Gota
  8. Ditto Kosiki-putra
  9. Ditto Alabagira
  10. Date of Tope about 220 B.C.
  11. Other Topes at Sonari


Topes at Satdhara.

  1. Position of Satdhara
  2. Tope, No. 1, of brick
  3. Buddhist railing
  4. Opening of Tope
  5. Massive foundations of Temples
  6. No. 2 Tope
  7. Steatite Relic-caskets of Sariputra and Mogalana
  8. No. 7 Tope, Satdhara
  9. Relics of No. 7 Tope
  10. Other Topes at Satdhara


Topes at Bhojpur.

  1. Ruins of Bhojpur
  2. Position of ditto
  3. Situations of Topes
  4. No. 1 Tope, A
  5. No. 2 Tope, B
  6. Opening of ditto
  7. Relic-casket, a crystal Tope
  8. No. 3 Tope, C
  9. No. 4 Tope, D
  10. Remains of other Topes, upper stage
  11. No. 7 Tope, a ; second stage
  12. Opening of ditto
  13. Relic-jar of Patito, the "degraded"
  14. Relic-jar of Upahitaka
  15. Probable date, 250-200 B.C.
  16. No.8, Tope, b
  17. No.9, Tope, c
  18. No.10, Tope, d
  19. No.11, Tope, e
  20. Other Topes on the second stage
  21. Third stage of Topes
  22. Fourth stage of Topes
  23. Bhojpur Topes, mostly opened before


Andher Topes.

  1. Position of the Topes
  2. No. 1 Tope
  3. Buddhist railing
  4. Opening of No. 1
  5. No. 2 Tope
  6. Opening of ditto
  7. Flat earthenware relic-box
  8. Tall steatite relic-casket
  9. Large steatite relic-vase
  10. Probable date, 200 B.C.
  11. No. 3 Tope
  12. Opening of ditto - Relics of Haritiputra
  13. Relics presented by Aswa Deva - Ink writing


Symbols of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

  1. Symbols on Sanchi gateways and caves
  2. Triad of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
  3. The wheel, a symbol of universal dominion
  4. Crowns the summits of the Sanchi gateways
  5. Various forms of wheel
  6. Quadruple symbol of Buddha
  7. Symbol of Dharma
  8. Symbol of Sangha
  9. Different spellings of Sangha
  10. Triple symbols of Dharma
  11. Symbol of Dharma the same as Jagannath
  12. Symbol of Dharma the same as Jagannath
  13. Probable Buddhist origin of Vithoba
  14. Fair at Besnagar
  15. Origin of the fair
  16. Another account
  17. Rukmangada, the same as Lohangada
  18. Besnagar probably included in Vidarbha
  19. Foundation of Besnagar
  20. Foundation of Bhilsa
  21. Position of the various groups of Topes
  22. Appearance of the Tope hills in ancient times.


Description of ancient arms, &c.

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