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Stupa  

E. Errington, Howard A. Wilson, John Villiers, Henrik H. Sørensen, Erberto F. Lo Bue, Young-Ho Chung and Ken Brown

[Skt stūpa; Pkt thūbha; Pali thūpa; Eng. tope]

Dome-shaped mound, often containing sacred relics. It became the primary cult monument of Buddhist and also Jaina monastic establishments in India. The stupa retained its importance as Buddhism spread across Asia, and a variety of stupa types evolved.

The stupa’s origin is almost certainly the tumulus or funerary mound. According to the Mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra (an early account of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni), the funeral cult due to a Buddha is the same as for a great king: a tumulus should be constructed for the cremated remains at a crossroads and honoured with parasols and other symbols of veneration. Inscriptions of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (reg c. 269–232 bc) attest that the cult of the stupa was already in existence in India by the 3rd century bc (see Buddhism, §III, 1). They mention not only erecting new stupas, but also repairing and enlarging existing monuments in honour of Shakyamuni and of previous Buddhas....