The Buddhist monuments at Sanchi were built over a period of 1400 years, from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. Apart from the impressive stupas, this important site - visited by thousands of Buddhist pilgrims each year - includes magnificent carved gateways, a famed Ashokan pillar, and various monasteries and temples.
The book begins with a succinct overview of Sanchi's historical background, also tracing the life and works of the Buddha and the evolution of his religion. The author then takes the reader on a tour of the site, his erudite commentary highlighting the architectural and artistic significance of various features of the monuments. This detailed description is brought to life using numerous plans, maps and photographs, making the book invaluable to all visitors to Sanchi
Written by a leading expert in Indian archaeological history, this accessible and readable book will be welcomed by archaeologists and art historians, as well as general readers and informed tourists interested in India's most famous Buddhist monuments.
(Note: Jacket Photograph: Eastern Gateway, front, Shalabhanjika. Courtesy the author.)
M. K. Dhavalikar retired in Professor of Archaeology and Director of Deccan College Post-Graduate Research Institute, Pune. His many books include Ajanta: A Cultural Study (1974), Kailas-Ellora: Masterpieces of Rashtrakuta Art (1983) and Ellora (Monumental Legacy Series, OUP, 2002).
There are 721 sites on the World Heritage list, as on December 2001, 'inscribed as properties by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO. These sites are considered to be of outstanding value to humanity', and the preservation of this shared heritage concerns all of us. India has been an active member-state on the World Heritage Forum since 1977, and is one of the countries on the list, with 22 World Heritage sites. Of these, 17 are recorded as cultural sites, while the rest are natural sites.
I am delighted that the Oxford University Press is publishing brief books on each of the 17 cultural sites, under its series titled Monumental Legacy. So far, the following cultural sites in India have been listed as World Heritage sites:
Ajanta Caves (1983), Ellora Caves (1983), Agra Fort (1983), Taj Mahal (1983), Sun Temple, Konarak (1984), Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1985), Churches and Convents of Goa (1986), Group of Monuments at Khajuraho (1986), Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986), Fatehpur Sikri (1986), Group of Monumentss of Pattadakal (1987), Elephant Caves (1987), Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur(1987), Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi(1989), Humayun's Tomb (1993),Qutb Minar and its Monuments, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway(1999).
There is scope, indeed, for recognition of many more Indian sites in future on the World Heritage list. I am sure that as, and when, these are declared as World Heritage Sites, they will be including under the Monument Legacy Series of the Oxford University Press.
The Oxford University Press, in consultation with me, have invited experts, in the field to contribute small books, addressed to general reader, on each of these 17 World Heritage Sites in India. These books, obviously, differ from cheap tourist books and glossy guide books and, at the same time, also from specialized monographs. Their importance lies in the fact they are written by authorities on the subject, to enable visitors to see the monuments in proper perspective.
My sincer thanks to all the authors of the Series to the editorial staff at the OUP. Their constant support and enthusiasm are much appreciated.
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