Stupas are basically funeral mounds
- low circular mounds ringed by boulders. It was mostly a Buddhist art,
though Jains also seemed to have built stupas.
Emperor Ashoka had built a great
number of stupas. A stupa was to enshrine body relics in the form of small
pieces of calcinated bone of the Buddhist monks and teachers.
A stupa consists of a solid hemispherical
dome on which stands a kind of kiosk. A railing surrounds this (vedika)
and even when the construction was of stone, it continued to rsemble wooden
railings of the past in design.
The Sanchi stupa in
Madhya Pradesh is the best specimen of stupa art. The finest of Buddhist
stupas in South India is that in Amaravathi, Andhra Pradesh. Stupas were
also erected in Nagarjunakonda, Jaggayapetta and Ghantasala in South India.
Smaller miniature stupas were also
placed around the main, as is the case in Bodh Gaya, Gandhara and Nepal,
where the pilgrims placed the stone replicas, sometimes with a Buddha statue
within. The Gandhara stupas show great development in decorative sculptural
elegance with a higher base.