A STUPA (
Sanskrit : "heap") is a mound -like or hemispherical
structure containing relics (śarīra - typically the remains of
Buddhist monks or nuns ) that is used as a place of meditation. A
related architectural term is a chaitya , which is a prayer hall or
temple containing a stupa.
In Buddhism, circumambulation or pradakhshina has been an important
ritual and devotional practice since the earliest times, and stupas
always have a pradakhshina path around them.
* 1 Description and history
* 1.1 Notable stupas
* 1.2 Types of stupas
* 2 Symbolism
* 2.1 Five purified elements
* 3 Construction
* 3.1 Treasury
* 3.2 Tree of Life
* 3.3 Benefits
* 4 Tibetan stupas
* 4.1 Lotus Blossom
* 4.2 Enlightenment
Stupa of Many Doors
Stupa of Descent from the God Realm
Stupa of Great Miracles
Stupa of Reconciliation
Stupa of Complete Victory
* 7 Gallery
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY
See also: cetiya
Dhamek Stupa in
Sarnath marks the spot where
Buddha gave his first sermon.
Stupas originated as pre-Buddhist tumuli in which śramaṇas were
buried in a seated position called chaitya . After the parinirvana
of the Buddha, his remains were cremated and the ashes divided and
buried under eight mounds with two further mounds encasing the urn and
the embers. The earliest archaeological evidence for the presence of
Buddhist stupas dates to the late 4th century BCE in
India . Buddhist
scriptures claim that stupas were built at least a century earlier.
Since it is likely that before this time stupas were built with
non-durable materials such as wood, or that they were merely burial
mounds, little is known about them, particularly since it has not been
possible to identify the original ten monuments. However, some later
stupas, such as at
Sanchi , seem to be embellishments of
earlier mounds. The earliest evidence of monastic stupas dates back to
the 2nd century BCE. These are stupas that were built within Buddhist
monastic complexes and they replicate in stone older stupas made of
baked bricks and timber.
Sarnath , Amaravati and
examples of stupas that were shaped in stone imitating previously
existing wooden parts.
The stupa was elaborated as
Buddhism spread to other Asian countries,
becoming, for example, the chörten of
Tibet and the pagoda in East
Asia . The pagoda has varied forms that also include bell-shaped and
pyramidal styles. In the Western context, there is no clear
distinction between a stupa and a pagoda. In general, however, "stupa"
is the term used for a Buddhist structure in
India or Southeast Asia
while "pagoda" refers to a building in
East Asia which can be entered
and which may be secular in purpose.
Stupas were built in
Sri Lanka soon after Devanampiya Tissa of
Anuradhapura converted to Buddhism. The first stupa to be built was
Thuparamaya . Later, many more were built over the years, some
Anuradhapura , being one of the tallest
ancient structures in the world.
Borobudur bell-shaped stupas.
The earliest archaeological evidence for the presence of Buddhist
stupas dates to the late 4th century BCE. In India,
Bharhut are among the oldest known stupas. The tallest
Stupa located in the ancient city of
Sri Lanka with a height of 400 ft The Swat Valley
hosts a well-preserved stupa at Shingardar near
Ghalegay ; another
stupa is located near
Barikot and Dharmarajika-Taxila in
Pakistan . In
Sri Lanka , the ancient city of
Anuradhapura includes some of the
tallest, most ancient and best preserved stupas in the world, such as
The most elaborate stupa is the 8th century
Borobudur monument in
Indonesia . The upper rounded terrace with rows of bell-shaped
Buddha images symbolizing
Arūpajhāna , the sphere
of formlessness. The main stupa itself is empty, symbolizing complete
perfection of enlightenment. The main stupa is the crown part of the
monument, while the base is a pyramidal structure elaborated with
galleries adorned with bas relief scenes derived from Buddhist texts
and depicting the life of Gautama
Buddha . Borobudur's unique and
significant architecture has been acknowledged by
UNESCO as the
largest Buddhist monument in the world. It is also the world’s
largest Buddhist temple. as well as one of the greatest Buddhist
monuments in the world.
Jain stupa was excavated at
Mathura in the 19th century.
TYPES OF STUPAS
Built for a variety of reasons, Buddhist stupas are classified based
on form and function into five types:
* RELIC STUPA, in which the relics or remains of the Buddha, his
disciples, and lay saints are interred.
* OBJECT STUPA, in which the items interred are objects belonged to
Buddha or his disciples, such as a begging bowl or robe, or
important Buddhist scriptures.
* COMMEMORATIVE STUPA, built to commemorate events in the lives of
Buddha or his disciples.
* SYMBOLIC STUPA, to symbolise aspects of Buddhist theology; for
Borobudur is considered to be the symbol of "the Three Worlds
(dhatu) and the spiritual stages (bhumi) in a
* VOTIVE STUPA, constructed to commemorate visits or to gain
spiritual benefits, usually at the site of prominent stupas which are
View of the
Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew complex from the northeast, temple
complex of the Emerald
Buddha with stupas.
"The shape of the stupa represents the Buddha, crowned and sitting in
meditation posture on a lion throne. His crown is the top of the
spire; his head is the square at the spire's base; his body is the
vase shape; his legs are the four steps of the lower terrace; and the
base is his throne."
FIVE PURIFIED ELEMENTS
Although not described in any Tibetan text on stupa symbolism, the
stupa may represent the five purified elements:
* The square base represents earth
* The hemispherical dome/vase represents water
* The conical spire represents fire
* The upper lotus parasol and the crescent moon represent air
* The sun and the dissolving point represent the element of space
To build a stupa,
Dharma transmission and ceremonies known to a
Buddhist teacher are necessary. The type of stupa to be constructed
in a certain area is decided together with the teacher assisting in
the construction. Sometimes the type is chosen directly connected with
events that have taken place in the area. The sharing of the
relics of the Buddha.
Greco-Buddhist art of
Gandhara , 2-3rd century
ZenYouMitsu Temple Museum, Tokyo.
Buddha relics from
Kanishka\'s stupa in
Peshawar , Pakistan. These surviving relics are
now housed in
Mandalay , Myanmar.
All stupas contain a treasury filled with various objects. Small clay
votive offerings called tsatsas in Tibetan fill most of the treasury.
Creation of various types of tsatsas is a ceremony itself. Mantras
written on paper are rolled into thin rolls and put into small clay
stupas. One layer of tsatsas is placed in the treasury, and the empty
space between them is filled with dry sand. On the thus created new
surface, another layer of tsatsas is made, and so on until the entire
space of the treasury is full.
The number of tsatsas required to completely fill the treasury
depends on its size and the size of the tsatsa. For example, the
Kalachakra stupa in southern
Spain contains approximately 14,000
Jewellery and other "precious" objects are also placed in the
treasury. It is not necessary that they be expensive, since it is the
symbolic value that is important, not the market price. It is
believed that the more objects placed into the stupa, the stronger the
energy of the stupa.
TREE OF LIFE
An important element in every stupa is the "Tree of Life". This is a
wooden pole covered with gems and thousands of mantras; it is placed
in the central channel of the stupa. It is positioned during a
ceremony or initiation, where the participants hold colorful ribbons
connected to the Tree of Life. Together, the participants make their
most positive and powerful wishes, which are stored in the Tree of
Life. In this way the stupa is charged, and starts to function.
Building a stupa is considered extremely beneficial, leaving very
positive karmic imprints in the mind. Future benefits from this action
result in fortunate rebirths. Fortunate worldly benefits will be the
result, such as being born into a rich family, having a beautiful
body, a nice voice, being attractive, bringing joy to others, and
having a long and happy life in which one's wishes are quickly
fulfilled. On the absolute level, one will also be able quickly to
reach enlightenment , the goal of Buddhism.
Destroying a stupa, on the other hand, is considered an extremely
negative deed, similar to killing. Such an action is said to create
massive negative karmic imprints, leading to serious future problems.
It is said this action leaves the mind in a state of paranoia after
death has occurred, leading to totally unfortunate rebirths.
The Eight Great Stupas
Part of a series on
* Later Buddhists
Four Noble Truths
Four Noble Truths
* Five Aggregates
* Dependent Origination
* Tibetan canon
* Chinese canon
* Three Jewels
Buddhist Paths to liberation
Buddhist Paths to liberation
* Philosophical reasoning
* Aids to Enlightenment
* Four Stages
Buddhism by country
Bhutan are usually called CHORTEN in English,
reflecting the term in the Tibetan language . There are eight
different kinds of stupas in Tibetan
Buddhism , each referring to
major events in the
Buddha 's life.
LOTUS BLOSSOM STUPA
Also known as "
Stupa of Heaped Lotuses" or "Birth of the Sugata
Stupa," this stupa refers to the birth of Gautama
Buddha . "At birth
Buddha took seven steps in each of the four directions" (East, South,
West and North). In each direction lotuses sprang up, symbolizing the
brahmavihāras : love, compassion, joy and equanimity. The base of
this stupa is circular and has four steps, and it is decorated with
lotus-petal designs. Occasionally, seven heaped lotus steps are
constructed. These refer to the seven first steps of the Buddha.
Ogoy Island ,
Also known as the "
Stupa of the Conquest of Mara ", this stupa
symbolizes the 35-year-old
Buddha 's attainment of enlightenment under
the bodhi tree in
Bodh Gaya , where he conquered worldly temptations
and attacks, manifesting in the form of Mara.
STUPA OF MANY DOORS
This stupa is also known as the "
Stupa of Many Gates". After reaching
Buddha taught his first students in a deer park
Sarnath . The series of doors on each side of the steps
represents the first teachings: the
Four Noble Truths
Four Noble Truths , the Six
Pāramitās , the
Noble Eightfold Path and the
Twelve Nidānas .
STUPA OF DESCENT FROM THE GOD REALM
At 42 years of age,
Buddha spent a summer retreat in the Tuṣita
Heaven where his mother had taken rebirth. In order to repay her
kindness he taught the dharma to her reincarnation. Local inhabitants
built a stupa in
Sankassa in order to commemorate this event. This
type of stupa is characterized by having a central projection at each
side containing a triple ladder or steps.
STUPA OF GREAT MIRACLES
Potala Palace ,
Also known as the "
Stupa of Conquest of the Tirthikas ", this stupa
refers to various miracles performed by the
Buddha when he was 50
years old. Legend claims that he overpowered maras and heretics by
engaging them in intellectual arguments and also by performing
miracles. This stupa was raised by the Lichavi kingdom to commemorate
STUPA OF RECONCILIATION
This stupa commemorates the Buddha's resolution of a dispute among
the sangha . A stupa in this design was built in the kingdom of
Magadha , where the reconciliation occurred. It has four octagonal
steps with equal sides.
STUPA OF COMPLETE VICTORY
This stupa commemorates Buddha's successful prolonging of his life by
three months. It has only three steps, which are circular and
STUPA OF NIRVANA
This stupa refers to the death of the
Buddha when he was 80 years
old. It symbolizes his complete absorption into the highest state of
mind. It is bell-shaped and usually unornamented.
A ninth kind of stupa exists, the
Kalachakra stupa . Its symbolism is
not connected to events in the Buddha's life, but instead to the
symbolism of the
Kalachakra Tantra , created to protect against
Swat District is a small place with a large number of ancient stupas.
The largest stupa of the Indian subcontinent is in Shingardar.
Stupa surrounded by four lion-crowned pillars,
Gandhara , 2nd century
Shingardar stupa, Swat valley
Dro-dul Chorten - Gangtok, Sikkim
Swayambhunath , also known as Monkey Temple, is an ancient religious
complex atop a hill in the
Kathmandu Valley ,
Boudhanath is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in
Kathmandu Valley ,
Ruwanwelisaya in the sacred city of
Jetavanaramaya stupa in
Sri Lanka is the largest brick
structure in the world
Borobudur , the largest Buddhist structure in
The rock cut and semi-brick construction ruins of Maha Chaitya(stupa)
Andhra Pradesh ,
The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at
Shambhala Mountain Center , Colorado
Khmer style stupa within the Royal Palace in
Phnom Penh ,
Different architectural features that comprise Shwedagon
similar Mon-style stupas, in
Phra Sri Ratana Chedi within
Wat Phra Kaeo , in
Evolution of the
Butkara stupa in
Pakistan through the Mauryan ,
A stupa at Dambulla golden temple ,
The National Memorial Chorten (stupa)
One Hundred and Eight Stupas in
Full height view of Chedi Liam at
Wat Chedi Liam ,
Chiang Mai ,
* Ancient stupas of
Great Stupa of Universal Compassion
* ^ Google Translate forum: What Phonetic System does Google
Translate use for Thai s̄t̄hūp , cedīy̒
* ^ Encyclopedia.com. Credited to James Stevens Curl, A Dictionary
of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, 2000, originally published
by Oxford University Press 2000.
* ^ "Buddhist Art and Architecture: Symbolism of the
Chorten". 2006-08-14. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
* ^ "THE BUDDHIST STUPA: ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT". 2005-01-13.
* ^ "
Stupa - Bhutanese, Nepalese, Tibetan Style Chortens or Stupa
is the symbol of enlightened mind".
Bhutan Majestic Travel.
2013-01-17. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
* ^ The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University
* ^ "Tallest stupa". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2018-01-08.
* ^ "Largest Buddhist temple".
Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records . Guinness
World Records. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
* ^ Purnomo Siswoprasetjo (July 4, 2012). "Guinness names Borobudur
Buddha temple". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the
original on 5 November 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
* ^ "
Borobudur Temple Compounds".
UNESCO World Heritage Centre .
UNESCO . Retrieved 28 December 2008.
* ^ Smith, Vincent Arthur (1901). The
Jain stûpa and other
antiquities of Mathurâ. Allahabad: KFrank Luker, Superintendent,
Government Press, North-Western Provinces and Oudh.
* ^ A B Le Huu Phuoc (March 2010). Buddhist Architecture. Grafikol.
p. 140. ISBN 978-0-9844043-0-8 . Retrieved 8 December 2011.
* ^ "Introduction to stupas". stupa.org. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K Beer, Robert: The Encyclopedia of Tibetan
Symbols and Motifs (2004) Serindia Publications Inc. ISBN
* ^ A B C D E F G H I "Miracle
Stupa - Stupa". stupa.pl. Retrieved
* ^ A B "Benefits Resulting from the Building of Stupas".
stupa.org. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
* ^ A B Article: Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche: The Four Thoughts which
Turn the Mind from Samsara. BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.5, 1998. Available
online Archived 2009-03-03 at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ "Kalachakra Stupa". karmaguen.org. Archived from the original
on December 5, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
* ^ "ANCIENT STUPAS IN SRI LANKA – LARGEST BRICK STRUCTURES IN
THE WORLD" (PDF). stupa.org. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
* Harvey, Peter (1984). The Symbolism of the Early Stūpa, Journal
of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7 (2), 67-94
* Mitra, D. (1971). Buddhist Monuments. Sahitya Samsad: Calcutta.
ISBN 0-89684-490-0 .
* Smith, Vincent Arthur (1901). The
Jain stupa and other antiquities
Wikimedia Commons has