Dhamek Stupa – Varanasi, India - Atlas Obscura

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Dhamek Stupa

A bulky, ancient stupa marks the site of Siddhartha Gautama's seminal Buddhist teaching. 


Shortly after attaining enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama delivered a rousing speech on the Wheel of Law to a crowd of five, setting in motion a religious adherence that today boasts a following of 500 million. To commemorate the seminal spark of all Buddhist teaching, this 141-foot tall stupa has stood for millennia. 

The Dhamek Stupa was first built in 249 B.C. by Ashoka the Great (304–232 B.C.), Indian emperor of the Mauryan Dynasty, who came to rule nearly the entire Indian subcontinent in his decades-long reign. To encourage the spread of then-nascent Buddhism, he ordered the construction of dozens of religious monuments across India. The stupa’s current iteration is a replacement that was built in 500.

While much surrounding the history of the stupa was lost to time, in the 1830s, a British archaeologist allegedly uncovered a stone tablet embedded within the stupa whose inscriptions told of the site’s importance. The stupa’s exterior is lined with intricate carvings of floral, geometric, animal, and human figures indicative of the Gupta Period (4th–6th centuries), indicating that work on the stupa was ongoing through this time.

Today, adherents visit the stupa to circumambulate in worship of the Buddha.

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