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The Monumental Building Device

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Firstly, in Ancient Mesopotamia the monumental building device built in order to communicate with gods above was called a ziggurat. A ziggurat is a massive set of three stairs forming a tower connected to the temple. Each ziggurat was part of a temple complex that included many buildings. Ziggurats were not places for public worship but rather the dwelling places of gods, with each city having a patron god. At the top of each ziggurat was a shrine, however no shrines have survived unfortunately. Practically, the ziggurat offered a high place for the priests to escape floods and also provided security. Since one could only access the temple and shrines from one of the three stairs located in the ziggurat, a small group of guards was enough protection. Its materiality consisted mainly of sun baked bricks as well as fired bricks for the outside.

Secondly, in Indian Buddhism the monumental device built in order to communicate with gods above was called a stupa. Stupas are the origin of Asian pagodas and are monumental buildings. A stupa is a hemispherical structure, containing relics, and was used mainly for meditation. It features stairways (Sopanas) similarly to the ziggurat but not on such a grand scale as there were only one or two sets instead of the three that ziggurats boast. A stupa is often surrounded by railings (Vedika) and gateways (Toranas). Stupas are mainly constructed of stone and earlier versions were constructed of baked bricks and timber. The only common material in stupas and ziggurats therefore were baked bricks.

Finally, differences in form and structure are shown by the fact that stupas are centralised designs and circular in shape, populated by columns arranged to surround the structure either in a rectangular shape or along the sides to put the focus on the space in the middle, whereas ziggurats are rectangular shapes in plan with the focal point is residing at the top of the stairs on a given side instead of directly in the middle. However, both stupas and ziggurats are surrounded by other buildings. Stupas are generally surrounded by courtyards, much like how ziggurats are surrounded by living spaces or an entire city. Both stupas and ziggurats have open spaces used to display religious artefacts. One of the main functions of both these building structures is to showcase these artefacts, be it relics or shrines. Both buildings are used as a marker of a sacred place.

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