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A UNESCO world heritage site in central India near the Betwa River. On a flat-topped sandstone hill, 90m above the countryside, stands the best-preserved group of Buddhist monuments in India. Most noteworthy is the Great Stupa, discovered in 1818. It was probably begun by the emperor Aśoka in the mid-3rd century BCE and later enlarged. Solid throughout, it is enclosed by a massive stone railing pierced by four gateways on which are elaborate carvings depicting the life of the Buddha. The stupa itself consists of a base bearing a hemispherical dome representing the dome of heaven enclosing the Earth; it is surmounted by a squared rail unit, the world mountain, from which rises a mast to symbolize the cosmic axis. The mast bears umbrellas that represent the various heavens. Other remains include several smaller stupas, an assembly hall (caitya), an Aśokan pillar with inscription, and several monasteries (4th-11th cent. CE). Several relic baskets and more than 400 epigraphical records have also been discovered. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica; Aug 05]
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