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Excursions around Varanasi

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Ashokan Pillars and Railings

To see...



Main Shrine

Ashoka Pillar

Mulgandh Kuti


Archaeological Museum

A monolithic railing of Chunar sandstone, 2.54 m long and 1.45 m tall, was discovered by F.O. Oertel below the foundation of the south chapel of the Main Shrine when he undertook excavations here with permission from the Archaeological Survey of India, in 1904. Though the inscriptions on it date from the post-Kushan period, the well-polished surface characterises it as an Ashokan monument. The railing, it is believed, must have been removed from atop the nearby Dharmarajika Stupa and later got embedded under the foundation of the Main Shrine.

The Ashokan Pillar, with the characteristic high polish, also stands in the vicinity of the Main Shrine. The Lion Capital, which once surmounted the 15 m high pillar, is now housed in the Archaeological Museum. Four lions stand back to back on a pedestal on which are represented four animals - elephant, bull, horse and lion - chasing each other and separated from one another by a dharmachakra - the sacred wheel- with 24 spokes. Fragments of a 32-spoked dharmachakra, which crowned the capital, have also been discovered

This Lion Capital has been adopted as the national emblem of India.

What remains of the Pillar itself is a tapering shaft measuring about 71 em in diameter at the top. There are three inscriptions on the pillar, one each of Ashoka, Asvagosha of the Kushan dynasty who ruled Kausambi, Varanasi and Sarnath, and an early, unidentified Gupta king.