Hailing from Kolkata, I can appreciate the importance of lethargy and the unhurried pace of a city, so when I got a chance to visit the Sanchi Complex I agreed without any hesitation. But, before I narrate my incredible experience, let me tell you how and why I decided to hike the stupa complex. It was my best friend’s wedding.
Wedding bells in tow
Do you know what is more irritating than your friend getting married? Your mother reminding you that you will die single. While I do not object to that notion, the insinuation does get boring. But, leaving every unhappy thought aside, I reached Bhopal for my best friend’s wedding. Throughout the flight from Kolkata to Bhopal, I had flashes coming from our childhood and our happier times. Then uncle got transferred and they had to move to Bhopal but we stayed connected. Once I availeda licensed car rental in Bhopal with a trusted driver I reached her house. At once aunty hugged me and handed me a list of chores. But we, the school gang, also had our own celebrations planned and that started with a spinster party.
An unexpected request
We hired a resort and threw a lavish party when the bride made an unusual request – she wanted to visit the Sanchi Complex. Dumbfounded with this sudden request, I asked her why, to which, she just smiled and played the “I am the bride card”. Cancelling all our plans and bookings, we immediately booked a cab from Bhopal to Sanchi. Early morning we reached the stupa complex and I was immediately struck with the grandeur of the whole place, the colours of the stupa, the ambience and above all the sense of something grand and ancient left me speechless. History told me that the Sanchi Complex is one of the oldest stone structures in the country.
Traversing through history
I am not a history buff but one cannot deny knowing about the great king Asoka and his transformation. How somebody as ruthless as him became the preacher of non-violence and maintained his kingdom by following the codes of Buddhism. But a visit to the complex made me feel so inconsequential! We headed to the oldest temple in the complex. I don’t know why they decided to name it as temple 40 but the grandeur wasn’t robbed with such a technical name. Next, we visited Stupa 2 whose focus was on the Buddhist teachings. Every part and carving was so detailed that one cannot help but wonder how talented these craftsmen were. Every step made me wonder about the reign of Asoka and his conversion to Buddhism. I know I was getting a bit philosophical but then being in one of the oldest stone sites that too dedicated to the Enlightened One will leave you thinking about bigger things. But, above all, there was a sense of calmness in the environment. Our group spread out and my best friend and I decided to soak in the heritage a bit more. Sometimes we need to appreciate silence for it does tell many stories. We gathered in front of the sandstone pillar, the original edict of Emperor Asoka’s views on dharma. While we did not understand the script, we knew enough history to understand the message inscribed in the edict.
Since we left early, we went without breakfast. The rigorous hiking and thinking made me hungry! We made a beeline near the Gateway Cafeteria which served a delicious spread. We dug in as soon as the food arrived: dal bafla, kebabs, and biryani. We ended with having laddoos and a sugar cane drink.
The silent words
While sitting on the ground facing the edict, my best friend told me the secret behind her request. After marriage, she will be settling in Germany and it wasn’t until yesterday that she realized how much more she was yet to explore in her own city and country. Being native to a place we take so much for granted and ignore the places which have a lot to offer us unless it is too late. I could totally relate to this, as a huge part of my own city remains unexplored by me. Visiting the stupa complex did not only make me aware of and invested in my heritage but also about the importance of change and travel.