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Bharhut is a village located in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, central India. It is known for its famous relics from a Buddhist stupa. What makes Bharhut panels unique is that each panel is explicitly labelled in Brahmi characters mentioning what the panel depicts. The major donor for the Bharhut stupa was King Dhanabhuti.[1][2]

The Bharhut sculptures represent some of the earliest examples of Indian and Buddhist art, later than the monumental art of Ashoka (circa 260 BCE), and slightly later than the early Shunga-period reliefs on railings at Sanchi Stupa No.2 (starting circa 115 BCE).[2] Though more provincial in quality than the sculpture at Sanchi, Amaravati Stupa and some other sites, a large amount of sculpture has survived, generally in good condition. Recent authors date the reliefs of the railings of Bharhut circa 125–100 BCE, and clearly after Sanchi Stupa No.2, compared to which Bharhut has a much more developed iconography.[2][3] The torana gateway was made slightly later than the railings, and is dated to 100–75 BCE.[2] Historian Ajit Kumar gives a later date to Bharhut, the 1st century CE, based on stylistic comparisons with datable works of art from the Art of Mathura, particularly sculptures inscribed in the name of ruler Sodasa.[4] Many of the Bharhut remains are now located in the Indian Museum in Kolkata.

Buddhism continued to survive in Bharhut until 12th century. A Small Buddhist temple was enlarged around 1100 AD and a new statue of Buddha was installed.[5] A large Sanskrit inscription from the same period was found at the site, however it appears to have been lost.[6] This is different from the inscription Lal Pahad inscription of AD 1158 mentioning the Kalachiri kings.[7]

Further reading


  1. Quintanilla, Sonya Rhie (2007). History of Early Stone Sculpture at Mathura: Ca. 150 BCE - 100 CE. BRILL. p. 11. ISBN 9789004155374. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Le, Huu Phuoc (2010). Buddhist Architecture. Grafikol. p. 161. ISBN 9780984404308. 
  3. Didactic Narration: Jataka Iconography in Dunhuang with a Catalogue of Jataka Representations in China, Alexander Peter Bell, LIT Verlag Münster, 2000 p.18
  4. Kumar, Ajit (2014). "Bharhut Sculptures and their untenable Sunga Association". Heritage: Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies in Archaeology. 2: 230. 
  5. Report Of A Tour In The Central Provinces Vol-ix, Alexander Cunningham, 1879 p.2–4
  6. Buddhist Sanskrit inscription slab from about the 10th century A.D., (?)Bharhut, The British Library, 26 March 2009
  7. Report Of A Tour In The Central Provinces In 1873–74 And 1874–75 Volume Ix, Cunningham, Alexander, 1879, p. 38
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