Caitlin Dunn EnvDes 543 - Fall 2006 Final Essay #1: The stupa is the essential element of Buddhist sanctuaries. It is circular and mound shaped, modeled on the earlier South Asian burial mounds. It is not a tomb, but a monument built to house the relics of Buddha. When Buddha died, his remains were placed in eight reliquaries and buried in earthen mounds (stupas). In the third century BCE, Ashoka spread the relics to thousands of stupas all over his realm. Buddhists worship Buddha’s remains by walking in circles around the stupa clockwise, called circumambulation, which follows the path of the sun and brings the worshiper in harmony with the cosmos. Stupas come in many sizes, from tiny handheld objects to huge structures like the Great Stupa at Sanchi in India (at left). Stupas are meant to be three-dimensional mandalas, or sacred diagrams of the universe. The dome of the stupa represents the world mountain, with the cardinal points marked by toranas (gateways). The harmika is a stone fence on top of
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Stupa, Great Stupa, stupa clockwise, Asian burial mounds, Caitlin Dunn EnvDes