The Four gateways constructed in 35 BC are the best from of
Buddhist expression one can find any where in the world. Gateways or Torans
as they are called are covered with explicit carving which depict scenes
from the life Buddha and the the Jatakas, the stories relating to Buddha
and his earlier births. At this stage Buddha was not represented directly
but symbols were used to portray him-- The lotus represents his birth, the
tree his enlightenment, the wheel, derived from the title of his first
sermon, the footprints and throw symbolizing his presence. The carvings on
the Torans are done with inspired imagery which in harmony with the
surrounding figures balance the solidity of massive stupas.
The Western Gate : This gate has depictions of the seven incarnations of Buddha. The six incarnations before becoming the Buddha is called the Manushi Buddha. The architraves is supported by the dwarfs. One of the pillars shows Buddha resisting the temptation of Mara. while the demons are fleeing the angles cheer Buddha. On the bottom Architraves the colourful stories of the Chhadanta Jataka are also carved with the intense care. Pot bellied dwarfs support the architraves on this gate.
The Eastern Gate : The pillars of this gate depicts story of the great departure of Prince Gautama. The pillar shows vividly the moments when the Gautama was leaving his fathers a place in search of Enlightenment. It also depicts the dream which Gautama's mother had before his birth. on the pillar Buddha is shown as riderless horse. Also on the architraves are hanging images of Yakshi which is one of the best known images from Sanchi.
The Southern Gate : This gate is a representation of scenes from the life of Ashoka and Buddha's Birth. There is another representation of the Great Departure. This oldest of the three gates and is very rich in the carvings.
The Northern Gate : This gate is crowned by the wheel of law and depicts the miracles which took place during the life of Buddha. Though the wheel is broken the northern gate is the most well preserved gates of all the four. The architraves of this gate is supported by elephants facing four directions, the gap between the architraves is filled by more horses and elephants.