Activity 1: Solving the puzzle
The various bullet points below provide some of the main issues at each stage. You can use them for discussion, comprehension, group work or to derive other activities (debates, presentations, timelines and so on). It is not intended that they all be presented to students as lists of 'questions to be answered'.
Vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to some students includes: Stupa, pandit, edict, Sanskrit, Pali, Buddhism.
At this stage, it is enough for students to know that a stupa is a Buddhist monument, that Sanskrit and Pali are old languages and that a pandit is a highly educated Indian. If students are not Buddhists themselves, they will probably have heard of Buddhism, but this investigation does not require a detailed understanding.
Discussion and explanation points in relation to the slideshow
- Why hadn't Prinsep or others noticed earlier that there was essentially a common set of edicts? (The basis for understanding this has been laid in Investigation 1.)
- The slideshow says that there weren't any Buddhists in Sanchi in 1836. Why might that have been?
- Why might the stupa at Sanchi have been in a semi-ruined state at that time?
- Why might the British have wanted to repair it 50 years later?
- Do students know about other stupas? Some, for instance, may have visited or heard about Borobudur in Indonesia, for example, but there are also many others in India and elsewhere.
- Notice again that it was a military officer, Captain Smith, who copied the inscriptions at Sanchi.
- The slideshow makes a point of mentioning 'the Asiatic Society's pandit', Rama Govinda. Why wasn't he mentioned more prominently in Prinsep's writing?
- The word we are told means 'gift' or 'given' is 'danam'. Does this sound like any English words that students know? Since the languages of northern India are of the Indo-European family, it is likely that it is related to words like 'donation' in modern English. (One context probably familiar to students would be 'blood donor'.)
- What might the donors at Sanchi actually have been giving?
If students are to make a summary of the slideshow, they could focus on:
- Why did it take so long to work out the edicts?
- What clues helped in the end?
- Who was speaking through the edicts?
- What sorts of things was he saying?
- Do we have any idea when he lived?
Students can add dates to timelines, including the various dates of the old photos seen in the slideshow.