Bairat Temple

Bairat Temple is a freestanding Buddhist temple, a Chaityagriha, located about a mile southwest of the city Bairat, Rajasthan, India, on a hill locally called "Bijak-ki-Pahari" ("Hill of the Inscription").[1][2] The temple is of a circular type, formed of a central stupa surrounded by a circular colonnade and an enclosing wall.[3] It was built during the time of Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, and near it were found two of Ashoka's Minor Rock Edicts, the Bairat and the Calcutta-Bairat Minor Rock Edicts.[3] The temple is an important marker of the architecture of India.

Bairat Temple
Buddhist Temple Viratnagar.jpg
Remains of Bairat Temple
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusRuins
Year consecrated3rd century BCE
StatusArtifacts removed
Bairat Temple is located in India
Bairat Temple
Shown within India
Bairat Temple is located in Rajasthan
Bairat Temple
Bairat Temple (Rajasthan)
Geographic coordinates27°25′02″N 76°09′44″E / 27.417116°N 76.16229°E / 27.417116; 76.16229Coordinates: 27°25′02″N 76°09′44″E / 27.417116°N 76.16229°E / 27.417116; 76.16229

A rare circular stand-alone templeEdit

Early Chaitya halls are known from the 3rd century BCE. They generally followed a circular or apsidal plan, and were either rock-cut or freestanding.[4] Temples —built on elliptical, circular, quadrilateral, or apsidal plans— were initially constructed using brick and timber.[5] Some temples of timber with wattle-and-daub may have preceded them, but none remain to this day.[3]

Today, only the foundation of the temple remains.[3] The circular temple was located inside a rectangular enclosure wall, and had an outer diameter of 5.6 meters.[3] It was built around a small stupa at the centre, with a diameter of 1.6 meters.[3] There was also an internal circle of 26 wooden octagonal columns surrounding the stupa.[3][1] The layout created two pradaksina circular paths for devotional deambulation. The global shape of the temple has been inferred from more or less contemporary reliefs of such buildings from Bharhut, or from rock-cut temples at Kondivite, Tulja Caves or Guntupalli Caves.[3]

It has been suggested that this circular design with columns was derived from the similar design of the Greek Tholos.[3] However local circular hut designs are a more probable source of inspiration.[3]

Minor Rock Edict of AshokaEdit

The Minor Rock Edict of Ashoka, found on the platform in front of the temple.[2]
The inscription was found on a rock on the platform between the Bairat Temple and the huge cannon-shaped rock in front of it.[2]
The word "Buddha" in the Bairat Edict. Brahmi script.

A Minor Rock Edict of Ashoka (the unique Minor Rock Edict No.3) was found in close proximity to the Temple: the Bairat-Calcutta Edict, also called the Bhabru Edict, from the name of a nearby village.[2] Dating to circa 250 BCE, the edict was found just in front of the remains of the Bairat Temple, on the lower platform located between the temple and the cannon-shaped large rock, by Major Burt in 1840 (27°25′02″N 76°09′45″E / 27.417124°N 76.162569°E / 27.417124; 76.162569).[6][7][2][8] The presence of this inscription, its date and its Buddhist content, help date the temple with a high level of certainty, as well as confirm its Buddhist affiliation.[2]

The Edict, relocated since the 19th century to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta (hence the name "Calcutta-Bairat Edict)", is the only one of its kind, describing Buddhist scriptures recommended by Ashoka for study. It reads:

The Magadha king Priyadarsin, having saluted the Samgha hopes they are both well and comfortable.

It is known to you, Sirs, how great is my reverence and faith in the Buddha, the Dharma (and) the Samgha.

Whatsoever, Sirs, has been spoken by the blessed Buddha, all that is quite well spoken.

But, Sirs, what would indeed appear to me (to be referred to by the words of the scripture): "thus the true Dharma will be of long duration", that I feel bound to declare:

The following expositions of the Dharma, Sirs, (viz.) the Vinaya-Samukasa ("The Exaltation of Discipline"), the Aliya-vasas ("The Ideal Mode of Life"), the Anagata-bhayas ("Fears to Come"), the Muni-gathas ("The Songs of the Hermit"), the Moneya-Suta ("Discourse on the Hermit Life"), the Upatisa-pasina ("The Questions of Upatishya"), and the Laghulovada ("The Sermon to Rahula") which was spoken by the blessed Buddha concerning falsehood, — I desire, Sirs, that many groups of monks and (many) nuns may repeatedly listen to these expositions of the Dharma and may reflect (on them).

In the same way both laymen and laywomen (should act).

For the following (purpose), Sirs, am I causing this to be written, (viz.) in order that they may know my intention.

— Adapted from Inscriptions of Asoka. New Edition by E. Hultzsch 1925 p.172 Public Domain

This edict was the basis for the efforts at deciphering Brahmi, led by James Prinsep in 1837.[9] A commemorative plaque is visible at the Asiatic Society.

Other circular templesEdit

Tall circular Buddhist temple, early 1st Century CE, Mathura Museum.

Some of the earliest free-standing temples may have been of a circular type. Ashoka also built the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya circa 250 BCE, also a circular structure, in order to protect the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha had found enlightenment. Representations of this early temple structure are found on a 100 BCE relief sculpted on the railing of the stupa at Bhārhut, as well as in Sanchi.[10] From that period the Diamond throne remains, an almost intact slab of sandstone decorated with reliefs, which Ashoka had established at the foot of the Bodhi tree.[11][12] These circular-type temples were also found in later rock-hewn caves such as Tulja Caves or Guntupalli.[3]

Apsidal templesEdit

Another early free-standing temple in India, this time apsidal in shape, appears to be Temple 40 at Sanchi, which is also dated to the 3rd century BCE.[15] It was an apsidal temple built of timber on top of a high rectangular stone platform, 26.52x14x3.35 metres, with two flights of stairs to the east and the west. The temple was burnt down sometime in the 2nd century BCE.[16][17] This type of apsidal structure was also adopted for most of the cave temple (Chaitya-grihas), as in the 3rd century BCE Barabar Caves and most caves thereafter, with side, and then frontal, entrances.[3] A freestanding apsidal temple remains to this day, although in a modified form, in the Trivikrama Temple in Ter, Maharashtra.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "ASI Notice".
  2. ^ a b c d e f Archaeological Survey Of India Four Reports Made During The Years 1862 - 63 - 64 - 65 Volume Ii. 1871. pp. 242–248.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Le Huu Phuoc, 2010, p.233-237
  4. ^ Chakrabarty, Dilip K. (2009). India: An Archaeological History: Palaeolithic Beginnings to Early Historic Foundations. Oxford University Press. p. 421. ISBN 9780199088140.
  5. ^ Chandra (2008)
  6. ^ "According to Cunningham this is probably the same inscription of Ashoka which Major Burt found in 1840 on a hill at Bairat." in Misra, Virendra N. (2007). Rajasthan: Prehistoric and Early Historic Foundations. Aryan Books International. p. 47. ISBN 978-81-7305-321-4.
  7. ^ Cunningham, Alexander (1871). Archaeological Survey Of India Vol.2. p. 247.
  8. ^ Smith, Vincent E. (2018). Asoka: The Buddhist Emperor. Sristhi Publishers & Distributors. p. 104. ISBN 978-93-87022-26-3.
  9. ^ Proceedings of the Meetings of the Session, Volume 24, Indian Historical Records Commission, 1948 "the discovery at Bairat of the Asokan inscription which, in the hands of James Prinsep, became the key for unravelling and deciphering the edicts of King Piyadasi"
  10. ^ "Sowing the Seeds of the Lotus: A Journey to the Great Pilgrimage Sites of Buddhism, Part I" by John C. Huntington. Orientations, November 1985 pg 61
  11. ^ Buddhist Architecture, Huu Phuoc Le, Grafikol, 2010 p.240
  12. ^ A Global History of Architecture, Francis D. K. Ching, Mark M. Jarzombek, Vikramaditya Prakash, John Wiley & Sons, 2017 p.570ff
  13. ^ Hardy, Adam (1995). Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation : the Karṇāṭa Drāviḍa Tradition, 7th to 13th Centuries. Abhinav Publications. p. 39. ISBN 9788170173120.
  14. ^ Le, Huu Phuoc (2010). Buddhist Architecture. Grafikol. p. 238. ISBN 9780984404308.
  15. ^ Buddhist Architecture, Lee Huu Phuoc, Grafikol 2010, p.147
  16. ^ Abram, David; (Firm), Rough Guides (2003). The Rough Guide to India. Rough Guides. ISBN 9781843530893.
  17. ^ Marshall, John (1955). Guide to Sanchi.
  18. ^ Le, Huu Phuoc (2010). Buddhist Architecture. Grafikol. p. 237. ISBN 9780984404308.


  • Chandra, Pramod (2008), South Asian arts, Encyclopædia Britannica.
Edicts of Ashoka
(Ruled 269–232 BCE)
Regnal years
of Ashoka
Type of Edict
(and location of the inscriptions)
Geographical location
Year 8 End of the Kalinga war and conversion to the "Dharma"
Year 10[1] Minor Rock Edicts Related events:
Visit to the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya
Construction of the Mahabodhi Temple and Diamond throne in Bodh Gaya
Predication throughout India.
Dissenssions in the Sangha
Third Buddhist Council
In Indian language: Sohgaura inscription
Erection of the Pillars of Ashoka
Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription
(in Greek and Aramaic, Kandahar)
Minor Rock Edicts in Aramaic:
Laghman Inscription, Taxila inscription
Year 11 and later Minor Rock Edicts (n°1, n°2 and n°3)
(Panguraria, Maski, Palkigundu and Gavimath, Bahapur/Srinivaspuri, Bairat, Ahraura, Gujarra, Sasaram, Rajula Mandagiri, Yerragudi, Udegolam, Nittur, Brahmagiri, Siddapur, Jatinga-Rameshwara)
Year 12 and later[1] Barabar Caves inscriptions Major Rock Edicts
Minor Pillar Edicts Major Rock Edicts in Greek: Edicts n°12-13 (Kandahar)

Major Rock Edicts in Indian language:
Edicts No.1 ~ No.14
(in Kharoshthi script: Shahbazgarhi, Mansehra Edicts
(in Brahmi script: Kalsi, Girnar, Sopara, Sannati, Yerragudi, Delhi Edicts)
Major Rock Edicts 1-10, 14, Separate Edicts 1&2:
(Dhauli, Jaugada)
Schism Edict, Queen's Edict
(Sarnath Sanchi Allahabad)
Lumbini inscription, Nigali Sagar inscription
Year 26, 27
and later[1]
Major Pillar Edicts
In Indian language:
Major Pillar Edicts No.1 ~ No.7
(Allahabad pillar Delhi pillar Topra Kalan Rampurva Lauria Nandangarh Lauriya-Araraj Amaravati)

Derived inscriptions in Aramaic, on rock:
Kandahar, Edict No.7[2][3] and Pul-i-Darunteh, Edict No.5 or No.7[4]

  1. ^ a b c Yailenko,Les maximes delphiques d'Aï Khanoum et la formation de la doctrine du dhamma d'Asoka, 1990, p. 243.
  2. ^ Inscriptions of Asoka de D.C. Sircar p. 30
  3. ^ Handbuch der Orientalistik de Kurt A. Behrendt p. 39
  4. ^ Handbuch der Orientalistik de Kurt A. Behrendt p. 39