Less than an hour’s drive northeast of Bhopal lies one of the country’s most evocative archaeological sites, dating from the very dawn of Indian history in the third century BC, when most of the subcontinent was ruled by the Mauryan Dynasty.

After his conversion to Buddhism, the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka, married a woman from this district and in her honour founded a Buddhist stupa site on a low hill near the town of Besnagar, which over the centuries grew to be among the largest of its kind in Asia.

The ruins of Ashoka’s Great Stupa and its lesser siblings still rise from the hilltop, surrounded by fragments of railings and gateway arches elaborately carved with some of the finest stonework surviving from the ancient world.

 

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