IntroductionCentres with stupasInformation: symbolismStupas under constructionBooks on stupasBuy a stupa, add a linkEmail

(Most of the stupas under construction have information also)
Well, what sort of information do you want? By saying I have been (trying to) practice Tibetan Buddhism for the last (censored) number of years, my bias is visible. But then that should have been obvious from the front page.

From this perspective, the best introduction I have read is by Venerable Thubten Rinpoche The Immeasurable Benefits of Stupas

Lama Zopa explains the 10 benefits of stupas here

This Singapore site has a page listing benefits

Last updates / links checked November 2007. Please let me know if you find any that don't work

Ven Lama Samten. who taught me all about stupas, likes these two translations from the Kangyour best:

Benefits resulting from the building of stupas and

Symbolic meaning of stupas

A quick visual guide from Great Stupa of Dharmakaya - Lots of links, an overview

An a Tibetologist from Torino (Italy) sent me this useful passage:

"Stupa is a sanskrit word and it is translated as "a knot or tuft of hair, the upper part of the head, crest, top, summit". In Rigveda texts stupa means "tree's stem". The root "stup" and the noun "stupa" was a living lexeme as evidenced by its derivatives in several languages distribuited over vast areas from Afghanistan to Lahndi in the eastermost region of India. Stupa is also a "pile-up of clay", meaning supported by its hindi derivatives. This is confirmed by the chinese traveller I-Tsing who visited India in the seventh century A.D. The word "stupa" can also be derived from "stup" which means "to raise well up, raise aloft, elevate". The word is also attested in Greek stupos "stem, stump, block. Compare the cognates in Latin stipes, stipa, stupeo, and in Lithuanian stups, stupe, pl. stupas. In Icelandic stupa is "tower". We can catch glimpses of the very beginning of the stupa as an element of the agricultural economy of early man. In its earliest stages it was a "tethering post" for an animal made out of a wooden stump to keep the animal in place. The animal was the symbol of wealth, Latin pecunia "money", originally property in cattle, from pecus "cattle". In its earliest form and function, the stupa represented a stabilisation of the socio-economic life of the comunity. The word tope for stupa was first introduced into English in 1839. It has three quite distinct origin. In the meaning of a buddhist monument: the word tope is in local use in the North-West Punjab, where ancient monuments of this kind occur, and appears to come from Sanskrit stupa, through the Pali or Prakrit thupo...The word was first introduced to European knowledge by Stewart Elphinstone in his account of the tope in Rawulpindi district, in the year 1839.

Monnier Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, renders stupa as "a Buddhist monument, dagoba (generally of a pyramidal or dome-like form and created over sacred relics of the historical Buddha [563-478 b.C.] or on spots consecrated as the scenes of his acts); a relics shrine or relics casket. The stupa was originally a topknot of hair, designating the upper part of the head but subsequently became used as an architectural term, indicating a monument of a dome-shaped form over the sacred relics of the Buddha or other saints or venerable persons. With the growth of Buddhism in the course of time, the early structural model of stupa underwent gradual architectural trasformation in various regions of India and elsewere. Penetration of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Central Asian, South-East Asian and East Asian countries besides Nepal and Tibet was followed by the trasmission of the religio-cultural traditions, concept, and form of Buddhist architecture including the stupa from their birth place to these foreign lands, where these were preserved , adapted and developed in accordance with local requirements, believes and taste."


Evolution of The Stupa

On Line BookThat's right, a whole on line book, written by a Westerner (Venerable Kusalo, Therevaden Tradition). Chapters include: Origins, Purpose, Evolution and Mandala. Heaps of great photos, and the best single page on Sanchi I have seen. If this link doesn't work, start here and find your way to the section on stupas.
 The same indefatigable writer as above has put together (as well as the book above) three extensive sections on stupas: ancient, recent and modern. Here you will find profiles of the types from all countries and ages, lots of sub pages, even a puzzle! You can spend quite a while here.

A general history here

Old Stupas

Mahabodhi Stupa/Temple

I was fortunate enough to visit the seat where Buddha acheived enllightenment, for teachings by HH Dalai Lama just prior to the millenium celebrations. It's a very inspiring place!
I've put together a page summerising the 2,500 year history, which can be read in conjunction with Root Institute's (below)

BoudhanathProbably the most famous old stupas - in Nepal. Two good sites with photos and info here and here
Legend of the Great
Stupa Jarungkhasor
Transcript fro the book published by Dharama Publishing
The Legend of Maha Buddha Stupa

"Oral disclosure by Guru Rinpoche; Translated from Tibetan by Chung Shin Lit; Translated from Chinese by Mahasanti Karma Tharchin"
Also known as the
Bodhnath stupa in Nepal

BorobodurOne of the greatest monuments in the world: this is a page at Buddhanet, with three nice photos and a little history.
KarshaThe "Queen's" Chorten is located in Karsha, Zanskar, immediately in front of the Chuchikjyal temple. This is one of a series of pages by Prof. Linrothe, who spends a lot of time in this region. For instance, here is a second page, showing beautiful pictures of the oldest stupa (and "entrance" style, that you can walk through) at karsha

South East India. A nice English site where you can explore the stupa

SanchiThe Great Stupa at Sanchi. Excellent pages at Buddhanet.
Sanchi & KarleLittle bit here about some of the early stupas. This is a page I put together myself. There are two more links to stuff about Sanchi below. (There is a *lot* of info on the web available: enter "Sanchi" on your favourite search engine)
AnuradhapuraThis is the oldest capital city of Sri Lanka. There are three large, ancient stupas here. There is quite a lot of information about these on the web. Here is perhaps the best page. Here and another one here, and here and here and here. And of course Buddhanet has great pages. e.g. here
Conservation of ancient stupas in Shri LankaA six page pdf file
Ancient stupas in Shri LankaA 9 page pdf with colour photos and plans


Photos sent by Tony, and Australian living in Afganistan, who writes: "A stupa here near a town called Samangan (or Aibak). It is at the ancient, well preserved site of a Buddhist cave monastery. It was probably destroyed by raiders from the north in about 460 CE (AD). The site was excavated in 1959-60 and was only slightly damaged in the 25 years of war.

The stupa is hewn into the solid rock of a large hill - and so cannot be seen from the foot of the hill - it has entrances through caves at the foot of the hill. From a distance all that can be seen is the square relic chamber on the top.


New Stupas

The Jangchub Chorten

Bloomington, Indiana. 35 feet high. The old page about this stupa seems to have gone, which is a pity - it had great pictures and a good explanation.

Samye Ling, Scotland

The original "" pages - check out "meaning" for a good account of the process of construction

The Tashi Gomang Stupa

In Colorado, a little on the symbolism

Symbolism of the Stupa-Chorten

as per Buddhanet. Brief description, one page. Therevadan perspective

Chagdud Rinpoche's stupas in USA.

The old link has gone, all I can find at the moment is this wiki entry

Nyingmapa teachingsA badly translated essay that gives you a good idea of the process of construction in terms of the spiritual acivity.

If you are looking for specific information about the design and symbolism, Lori Cayton did her doctorate on the different types of stupas. I hope to scan in bits of her thesis in the near future. The whole dissertation is available from The University of Michigan, and Lori is willing to answer questions if you are serious.

Manila, PhilipinesHere is an extensive essay describing, amoungst other things, many of the ingredients of a traditional stupa
Kagyu gridHere is a traditional grid from the kagyu lineage, showing the exact proportions to build a stupa: you can see the system is based on "4" Each "big" unit is further divided into 4 smaller units.
gelugpa gridThis is the grid that was used to create the stupas at Chenrezig Institue (Australia) and Chandrikirti (Nelson, NZ)
cut planThis is a scan of most of the plans for the stupa at Chandrikirti, set out from the grid above. This stupa is 5.2 meters overall (one unit = 75mm) above ground level (that little line at the first block) The pipe up the centre, and all the steel, are features for an earthquake resistant design. This can be contrasted with the one under construction at Gampo Abbey

Plan Drawing

This is a scan of part of plans drawn for a stupa built at Dorje Chang Institute,New Zealand. It is a cross section, showing the construction needed in this earthquake-prone land. It also shows the various voids needed for the different sacred objects. I spent some time trying to make the file as small as possible, but still readable. It is 55kb. It should print legibly. (Set your printer orientation to "Landscape") Let me know if you want more.

The eight types Nice line drawings of all eight types

That's the end of the information from the practitioner's side
Next are some links from a scholarly or touristy angle


THE BUDDHIST STUPA: ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT by NAEEM AHMED An extensive essay, with photos and diagrams. (Including of Sanchi) Lots of research done for this, includes a bibliography. Definitely worth a read.

tsa tsas

Here is an article about tsa tsas.

photos of tsa tsas

Photos different types of tsa tsas

The Stupa - Yoga's Sacred ArchitectureAn article in "Exotic India" ezine

Shakyamuni's relics

Article from the Royal Asiatic Society (1901) How the Buddha's relics were divided up, then stolen shortly after their original internment

Buddha's relics

Another article from the Royal Asiatic Society (1907) What happened to the Buddha's relics.

SanchiNice couple of pages by an architect

Well, if that's not enough, I've got an old page of links to photos of stupas......and this is the only way there : photos

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If you want to create a link to these pages, feel free to take one of these little stupas as an
icon: or click on any of them for a big version for a homework assignment :-)