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Bharhut is a village located in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, central India. It is known for its famous relics from a Buddhist stupa. What makes Bharhut panels unique is that each panel is explicitly labelled in Brahmi characters mentioning what the panel depicts. The major donor for the Bharhut stupa was King Dhanabhuti.
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Stupa ruins present|
|Year consecrated||300–200 BCE|
|Buddha's Holy Sites|
The Bharhut sculptures represent some of the earliest examples of Indian and Buddhist art, later than the monumental art of Ashoka (circa 260 BCE), and slightly later than the early Shunga-period reliefs on railings at Sanchi Stupa No.2 (starting circa 115 BCE). Though more provincial in quality than the sculpture at Sanchi, Amaravati Stupa and some other sites, a large amount of sculpture has survived, generally in good condition. Recent authors date the reliefs of the railings of Bharhut circa 125–100 BCE, and clearly after Sanchi Stupa No.2, compared to which Bharhut has a much more developed iconography. The torana gateway was made slightly later than the railings, and is dated to 100–75 BCE. Historian Ajit Kumar gives a later date to Bharhut, the 1st century CE, based on stylistic comparisons with datable works of art from the Art of Mathura, particularly sculptures inscribed in the name of ruler Sodasa. Many of the Bharhut remains are now located in the Indian Museum in Kolkata, with others in museums in India and abroad. Little remains at the site today.
Buddhism continued to survive in Bharhut until 12th century. A Small Buddhist temple was enlarged around 1100 AD and a new statue of Buddha was installed. A large Sanskrit inscription from the same period was found at the site, however it appears to have been lost. This is different from the inscription Lal Pahad inscription of AD 1158 mentioning the Kalachiri kings.
Some recent reevaluations have tended to uncouple Bharhut from the Shunga period, and rather attribute the stupa to the 1st century CE, based on artistic similarities with better dated Mathura art and a questioning of the antiquity of the Bharhut inscriptions (particularly the Dhanabhuti inscriptions) suggested by traditional paleography.