Replica of Sanchi Stupa at a Kyoto Temple in Japan
Replica of "Sanchi Stupa" at Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple
"Stupa" is a Sanskrit word and it is used to designate a monument where Buddhist relics are stored. It is usually constructed as a hemispherical mound of rocks and is usually a place of worship for the followers of Buddhism. The hemispherical Stupas are usually found in India and in some parts of Asia.
The "Great Stupa of Sanchi" or "Sanchi Stupa" is a magnificent construction from the 3rd century and is designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It was built by Emperor Ashoka The Great. in Central India.
The Great Stupa of Sanchi in India
After Buddhism was introduced to Japan in 6 century BCE, the followers of Buddhism in Japan building monuments to store the Buddhist relics. But these monuments in Japan, took the structure of Pagodas, instead of the structure of a typical Stupa, as they look in India. These Japanese Pagodas, serve a similar function as Stupa, a place to keep the Buddhist relics and a place of worshiping these relics. Many temples in Japan have a pagoda in it's precincts and some of these are truly magnificent structures.
Magnificent Five Story Pagoda at Daigo-ji Temple, Kyoto City
Usually you do not see hemispherical Stupas in Japan. But at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple in Arashiyama District of Kyoto has a Stupa, that is used as a place of worship and a place to keep Buddhist relics.
What is more surprising is that it is a scaled down replica of "The Great Stupa of Sanchi". Although this construction does not have all the great details of the original Sanchi Stupa but it is a magnificent replica of the original one. The gate in front of the Stupa also has "The Ashoka Chakra". Similar Ashoka Chakra is part of the Indian Nation Flag.
Exactly how, when and why this replica was built I could not find out. There was no information in the temple brochure about this monument. But I thought the history of Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple may give us a clue of why this monument was built. Adashino Nenbutsu-ji temple, which was founded by the great Buddhist saint Kukai (Kobo Daishi, 774-835) contains thousands of grave stones from the Heian and Edo eras. These grave stones do not have any identification marks on them.
Gravestones at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple, Kyoto Prefecture
So, in addition to these grave stones, probably a Stupa was built to be used to store some sort of Buddhist relics in this temple precincts. The reason, why it was built to mimic the "Great Stupa of Sanchi" is not entirely known to me. Buddhism was introduced to Japan from India, via China and Korea. Great many Japanese monks have traveled to India to study Buddhism. So, it may have been built to commemorate these relationships between the Indian Buddhist monks and Japanese Buddhist monks.
Whatever the reason is, it is a magnificent structure to behold, in addition to other aspects of the Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple.
Here is a video of this replica of "Sanchi Stupa"
Replica of "Sanchi Stupa" at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple
Unfortunately this magnificent structure completely ignored or non-chalantly visited by both Japanese and non-Japanese visitors. Hope more people understand, what it is and enjoy the site of this monument.