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The
ziggurat is a stepped temple tower built by Sumerians and Babylonians, among
the few, across Mesopotamia. The ziggurat developed from earlier raised temples
and could only be accessed by a series of ramps, and it was also only a
fraction of a temple complex. The purpose of these temples was to create a
platform which connected the heavens to earth. The best example of this ancient
temple is the Ziggurat of Ur in present day Iraq. It is believed that ziggurats
held a shrine at the very top of the steps, but like the Ziggurat of Ur, most
of these temples are left as layered solid mass of mud brick.

The
Buddhist stupa is a hemispherical structure used as a place of mediation and
sometimes pilgrimage. There are various types of stupas which have been
classified into five categories; the relic, object, commemorative, symbolic,
and votive stupa. In general, the stupa originated as a building which represented
the Buddha’s burial mound and evolved into being a building which commemorated
other sacred saints and concepts. The Great Stupa in Sanchi (India), served as
a prototype for the countless stupas which followed and spread all throughout
southern Asia. The ‘anda’ is the name given to the hemispherical mound with a
solid core that contains relics of the Buddha. Over time, the mound has been
given a greater symbolic association; the “replica of the infinite dome of
heaven”. The stupa is now considered to be pointing to the centre of the
universe; a place for the gods.

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The
similarity between the Mesopotamian ziggurat and the Buddhist stupa is that
they were both constructed as a place of worship and connection between the
heavens and earth. These buildings are shaped, used and accessed differently,
but they were at some point in their history, erected to commemorate a divine
figure. Secondly, they were both constructed out of bricks. The brick plays a
crucial role in architecture, and today we can appreciate how numerous
civilisations shared the same technique in their built environment. The
ziggurat is a stepped temple formed by layering mud-bricks and using mud to
seal them together. In contrast, the traditional stupas were also made out of
brick but they are a dome-like platformed structure.

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