10 Famous Stupas Worth Visiting In India

An amazing example of ancient architecture, stupas are traditionally used to store Buddhist teachings, relics and other important things. Here are the best Stupas in India you must explore.

Published On Jul 05, 2023 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024

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Stupas, ancient dome-like structures hold a revered status in Buddhism. Used to house and store Buddhist relics, manuscripts and teachings among other things holding importance for Buddhist monks and nuns, these stupas are a symbol of peace, serenity and spirituality. Those who visit these stupas, always describe a feeling of positivity and calmness taking over. Even if you happen to visit an ancient stupa that is in ruins by chance, you will still be able to feel the positivity while exploring the ruins. Stupas derive their name from the Sanskrit language and mean to be ‘mounds of mud’. You should plan your next vacation to visit these mystical stupas, to witness their grandeur, positivity and to experience a magical sense of calm.

The most famous and important stupas in Buddhism history in India

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The Mahabodhi Stupa, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is probably one of the most important stupas in Buddhist history. Known to be the place where Lord Buddha gained enlightenment, this stupa is steeped in ancient history and mystic energy. The walls surrounding the stupa and the ancient Bodhi tree also famously trace their roots back to the period from 150 BC to 700 AD. It is said that the way from the stupa to the ancient Bodhi tree, used by visitors to travel between the two points, is the very same way that Lord Buddha himself travelled. Visit the stupa to marvel at its ancient history and to have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk in the footsteps of Lord Buddha.

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Sanchi Stupa, the oldest stupa in India and said to be built by the Mauryan Emperor, Asoka in the third century BCE, is another bright example of ancient Buddhist history and architecture. Known for its splendid magnificence, the Sanchi stupa reflects the Mauryan intricate beauty in all its glory. The aura of this stupa is such that at one moment you will feel completely overwhelmed by the surroundings but in another moment, you will feel such familiarity and warmth in these premises that you would not want to leave.

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Famously known to be one of the largest and tallest stupas in the world, the Kesaria Stupa is believed to have been built in the period from 200 AD to 750 AD. The stupa was built as an ode to Lord Buddha himself when he visited the region of Kesaria, Bihar to preach his learnings to the Kesaputtiya Suttas. One of the most famous stupas, it is visited frequently by tourists both nationally and internationally.

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The stupa, a famous tourist attraction in Leh, was built by the Nichiren sect, a branch of Japanese Buddhism. Majestically built with over 500 steps that lead to the monument, this stupa, although a recent addition to Buddhist stupas, is nowhere lacking in the mystical and positive aura that is typical of these monuments. One can witness magnificent views of the surrounding hills and mountains. The view makes the experience of visiting the Shanti stupa even more mesmerising.

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Dhamek Stupa, reputed to be one of the best examples of Buddhist art through its paintings and carvings of different subjects such as birds, human beings and flowers, etc. as well as Buddhist architecture, was also built by the Mauryan Asokan Empire. The inscription in the ancient Brahmi script adds an ancient touch to the stupa’s surroundings. The Dhamek stupa, built by Ashoka, was meant to celebrate the visit of Lord Buddha to the area for one of his preachings.

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The Ramabhar stupa is a highly sacred site for Buddhists in India and the rest of the world. Counted as one of the most iconic Buddhist pilgrimage sites, it was the place where Lord Buddha gave his last sermon and then proceeded to achieve enlightenment. His mortal remains were also cremated by his disciples at this very location. The stupa is surrounded by prehistoric ruins, therefore amplifying its historic significance.

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Dro-Dul Chorten stupa was built in 1945. The stupa is remarkable in its architecture as it iconically sports a gold-plated spire. Officially belonging to the Nyingma Order of the Tibetan Buddhists, this stupa holds and preserves several religiously important artefacts such as holy books as well as a complete order of Dorjee Phurba, among other artefacts. The stupa has 108 wheels of prayers which the visitors reverently rotate as per traditions. The Dro-Dul Chorten Stupa is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site as well as a famous tourist attraction.

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This Shanti stupa, also famously known as ‘Peace Pagoda’ has an interesting history. Located on the site of the iconic Kalinga War, which drove Emperor Ashoka to convert to Buddhism, it was built jointly by the Japan Buddha Sangha and the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha in the 1970s. The stupa stands as the symbol of the peace that the brutal Kalinga War ironically helped achieve. In a fitting nod to its history, visitors to the stupa can also witness the stupa’s surroundings bearing the remnants of the Kalinga war as well as ancient carvings, pillars, etc.

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The ruins of the Amaravati Stupa are a symbol and true representation of India’s ancient history, art and architecture. Bearing the markings and remnants of the Kakatiyas, Satavahanas, Pallavas, Cholas, Ikshvakus and many other dynasties that ruled over the region, it is as much a historical site as much a religious site for Buddhists. The stupa, like countless others, was also built during the time of Ashoka, the Mauryan Empire. Known to be the finest stupa of its time, the architecture of the stupa depicts all five major stages of Lord Buddha’s life.

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Thotlakonda stupa, located in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, is another ancient stupa now lying in ruins. Said to be at least two thousand years old, Thotlakonda stupa has been concluded to have once been a witness to bustling human activity. The stupa has excavated remnants of man-made structures like royal baths, universities, monasteries and even advanced drainage systems, giving a rare and exciting insight into the life of those ancient times. This certainly makes for an enthralling visit to the stupa.


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