Sandstone Replica of the Sanchi Gateway Erected in Front of the Humboldt Forum

Humboldt Forum

On the side of the Humboldt Forum overlooking the Lustgarten, work is currently underway to install a replica of the impressive eastern torana of Sanchi, which will take up a prominent position on the Schlossplatz across from the Berlin Cathedral, pointing towards the famous collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s Ethnologisches Museum and Museum für Asiatische Kunst inside the Humboldt Forum. Yesterday, the project was officially presented to members of the press, with the Indian ambassador, S.E. Harisch Parvathaneni, in attendance.

The Sanchi gateway has accompanied the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst since their earliest days. A plaster cast of the original gateway was on display from 1886 in what was then the Königliches Museum für Völkerkunde (Royal Museum for Ethnology), while another copy made of synthetic stone has been installed in Berlin-Dahlem since 1970.

Work on the sandstone replica in front of the Humboldt Forum – carried out in part by stone sculptors from India – is set to be completed by the end of the year. This new version will be the first ever replica cut in sandstone of the almost 10-metre-high and approximately 6-metre-wide gateway, which forms part of one of the oldest surviving and most important sacred sites of Buddhism, which is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  

Intricate scenes adorn the surface of the three horizontal beams and the two vertical pillars. Most of the scenes depict episodes from the life of Buddha. Buddhist symbols, depictions of erotic-seeming, luck-bringing entities, as well as exquisite representations of animals – such as elephants, lions and peacocks – lend the pictorial narratives a festive abundance. However, you won’t find figurative depictions of Buddha here. Back then, Buddha was represented in imagery by way of symbols, such as a throne beneath a tree, or footprints in the sand.