Sanchi, a small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh, is the location of several Buddhist monuments dating from the third century BC to the twelfth century AD. The foundation of the hilltop temple complex was laid by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (273-236 BC) when he built a total of eight stupas, one of which became known as the Great Stupa. The present Great Stupa (120 feet/37 meters wide and 54 feet/17 meters tall) is, however, not the original one. It encases an earlier stupa of about half its current dimensions that was built of large burnt bricks and mud.
This Ashokan Great Stupa was vandalized sometime in the second century BC, but was repaired and expanded during the later period of the Sunga Empire (85 BC–75 BC). At that time, the dome was flattened near the top and crowned by three superimposed parasols within a square railing. The dome was set on a high circular drum meant for circumambulation, which could be accessed via a double staircase. In addition to their renovation of the Great Stupa, the Sungas constructed the Second and Third stupas, as well as other religious buildings.