The Period of the Great Stupa at Sanchi
The classic stupa shape as shown below was most prominent during the Mauryan dynasty in India. Ashoka Maurya, one of the most powerful and influential rulers of ancient India, spread Buddhist thought and customs during his reign. The religion prospered, and so did its art and architecture. Ashoka himself was in charge of the construction of many of the nation's greatest stupas and temples. The Great Stupa, also known as Stupa Number One, was one of eight built by him on a hilltop at Sanchi. The spot is home to over fifty Buddhist buildings and statues.
The stupa/ pagoda form was still in the early stages at the time the Great Stupa was built. During the second century BCE, the round dome with small steeple above was still more common than the square form which later became popular in India. Stupa Nunber One is an almost perfect hemisphere, aligned with the sun. During the first century BCE, one hundred years later, the stone gateways and surounding terrace were added. In the fourth century CE, four stones Buddahs were placed along the outside walls of the stupa. To see the Great Stupa and its surrounding stupas is to see almost the entire span of Buddhist architecture in India. Each layer added to the building represents stylistic and architectural changes through the years.