AskDefine | Define stupa

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From सतूप.


  • /ˈstuːpə/


  1. A dome-shaped Buddhist monument, used to house relics of the Lord Buddha.
    • 1993, Will Self, My Idea of Fun:
      He mounded so much honey on the top of the buns that they looked like miniature stupas.


a dome-shaped Buddhist monument, used to house relics of the Lord Buddha
  • Hungarian: sztúpa
  • Lao: ທາດ

See also



sv-noun-or stup stupa
  1. stupa


  1. Die (in a battle)
  2. To fall asleep, exhausted.



See also

Extensive Definition

A stupa (from Sanskrit and Pāli, literally meaning "heap") is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics--typically, the remains of a Buddha or saint. In other Asian languages such monuments are called
  • chos rtan (Tibetan, "dharma place/seat")
  • chedi (Thai, from the Pāli chaitya)
  • dagobah (Sinhalese, from the Sanskrit dhatu)
  • tope (Hindi, from the Sanskrit)
  • garbha (Sanskrit, meaning a storehouse or repository)
After "stupa," chorten (from the Tibetan chos rtan) is the most commonly-encountered English term. The term "reliquary" is sometimes used, after a Roman Catholic functional equivalent.
Stupas are an ancient form of mandala.

Description and history

The stupa is the latest Buddhist religious monument and was originally only a simple mound of mud or clay to cover supposed relics of the Buddha. After the "passing away" of the Buddha, his remains were cremated and the ashes divided and buried under eight stupas with two further stupas encasing the urn and the embers. Little is known about these early stupas, particularly since it has not been possible to identify the original ten monuments. However, some later stupas, such as at Sarnath and Sanchi, seem to be embellishments of earlier mounds.
In the third century BCE, after his conversion to Buddhism, the emperor Ashoka had the original stupas opened and the remains distributed among the several thousand stupas he had built. Nevertheless, the stupas at the eight places associated with the life of the Buddha continued to be of particular importance. Accordingly, the importance of a stupa changed from being a funerary monument to being an object of veneration. As a consequence their appearance changed also. Stupas were built in Sri Lanka soon after King Devanampiyatissa converted to Buddhism, the first stupa to be built was the Thuparamaya. Later on Sri Lanka went on to build many stupas over the years, some like the Jetavanarama in Anuradhapura being one of the tallest ancient structures in the world.
They evolved into large hemispherical mounds with features such as the torana (gateway), the vedica (fence-like enclosure evolved from the vedic villages), the harmika (a square platform with railings on top of the stupa), chattrayashti (the parasol or canopy) and a circumambulatory around the stupa. From the first century BCE onwards, stupas were incorporated into the hall of the chaitya-griha.
One such stupa is discovered at Sopara an ancient port near Mumbai and is supposed to be one of most ancient stupas in the world. The oldest known stupa is the Dhamek Stupa at Sanchi, India, while the tallest is the Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, with a height of 127 metres. The most elaborate stupa is the 8th century Borobudur monument in Java, Indonesia. The upper rounded terrace with rows of bell shaped stupas contained buddha images symbolize Arupadhatu, the sphere of formlesness. The main stupa itself is empty, symbolizing complete perfection of enlightenment. The main stupa is only the crown part of the monument, while the base is pyramidal structure elaborate with galleries adorned with bas relief of scenes derived from Buddhist text depicted the life of Siddharta Gautama. Borobudur unique and significant architecture has been acknowledge by UNESCO as the largest buddhist monument in the world.
The stupa evolved into the pagoda as Buddhism spread to other Asian countries. The pagoda has varied forms that also include bellshaped and pyramidal ones. Today, in the Western context, there is no clear distinction between the stupa and the pagoda. But in general stupa is used for a Buddhist structure of India or south-east Asia, while pagoda refers to a building in east Asia which can be entered and which may be secular in purpose.
Fundamentally, a stupa is essentially made up of the following five constituent parts:
  • a square base
  • a hemispherical dome
  • a conical spire
  • a crescent moon
  • a circular disc
Each component is rich in metaphoric content. For example, "the shape of the stupa represents the Buddha, crowned and sitting in meditation posture on a lion throne. His crown is the top of the spire; his head is the square at the spire's base; his body is the vase shape; his legs are the four steps of the lower terrace; and the base is his throne." The components of the stupa are also identified with the five elements — earth, water, fire, air, and space — held to constitute the fabric of manifest existence.
Regional names for stupa include:
  • Chaitya - Nepal
  • Candi - Indonesia and Malaysia
  • Chedi - Thailand
  • Chorten - Tibet and Bhutan
  • Dagoba/Chaitiya - Sri Lanka
  • Chedey - Cambodia
  • Sübürgen - Mongolia
  • Tap - Korea ( lit: "tower")
  • Thart - Laos
  • Ta - China ( lit: "tower")
  • Tō - Japan ( lit: "tower")
  • Zedi () /Pahto () - Myanmar


image:Borobudur stupa.jpg|Rows of bell-shaped stupa at upper terrace of Borobudur, Indonesia. image:Samye Ling Stupa.JPG|Stupa at Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland image:Dagoba_Colombo.jpg|Colombo, Sri Lanka image:Shwedagon-Pano.jpg|Shwedagon in Yangon, Myanmar image:Chorten Tibet.jpg|Chörten, Tibet image:Dodrulchortenstupa.jpg|Stupa in Gangtok, Sikkim, India image:gan_L03s1.jpg|The western side of the stupa at Kuruhinna in Gan Island, Haddhunmathi Atoll, Maldives image:Dhammakaya_stupa.jpg|Dhammakaya stupa,Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Thailand



  • Mitra, D. (1971). Buddhist Monuments. Sahitya Samsad: Calcutta. ISBN 0-89684-490-0.

External links

stupa in Catalan: Stupa
stupa in Czech: Stúpa
stupa in Danish: Stupa
stupa in German: Stupa
stupa in Estonian: Stuupa
stupa in Spanish: Estupa
stupa in Esperanto: Stupao
stupa in French: Stûpa
stupa in Croatian: Stupa
stupa in Indonesian: Stupa
stupa in Icelandic: Stúpa
stupa in Italian: Stupa
stupa in Hebrew: סטופה
stupa in Lithuanian: Stupa
stupa in Hungarian: Sztúpa
stupa in Dutch: Stoepa
stupa in Japanese: 卒塔婆
stupa in Polish: Stupa
stupa in Portuguese: Stupa
stupa in Romanian: Chedi
stupa in Russian: Ступа (архитектура)
stupa in Slovenian: Stupa (zgradba)
stupa in Serbian: Ступа
stupa in Finnish: Stupa
stupa in Swedish: Stupa
stupa in Thai: เจดีย์
stupa in Chinese: 窣堵坡

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

antenna tower, arch, barbican, barrow, beehive tomb, belfry, bell tower, bone house, boundary stone, box grave, brass, burial, burial chamber, burial mound, bust, cairn, campanile, catacombs, cenotaph, charnel house, cist, cist grave, colossus, column, cromlech, cross, crypt, cup, cupola, cyclolith, dagoba, deep six, delubrum, derrick, dokhma, dolmen, dome, fire tower, footstone, grave, gravestone, headstone, hoarstone, holy place, house of death, inscription, lantern, last home, lighthouse, long home, low green tent, low house, marker, martello, martello tower, mast, mastaba, mausoleum, megalith, memento, memorial, memorial arch, memorial column, memorial statue, memorial stone, menhir, minaret, monolith, monstrance, monument, mound, mummy chamber, naos, narrow house, necrology, obelisk, obituary, observation tower, ossuarium, ossuary, pagoda, passage grave, pilaster, pillar, pinnacle, pit, plaque, pole, prize, pylon, pyramid, reliquaire, reliquary, remembrance, resting place, ribbon, rostral column, sacrarium, sepulcher, shaft, shaft grave, shrine, skyscraper, spire, standpipe, steeple, stela, stone, tablet, television mast, testimonial, tomb, tombstone, tope, tour, tower, tower of silence, trophy, tumulus, turret, vault, water tower, windmill tower
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