Because Buddhism is such a widespread faith, its architecture reflects the diversity found in its followers. The Stupa, one of the oldest styles of Buddhist architecture, is a domed structure of stone featuring an umbrella shaped tower. Generally stupas are built over Buddhist relics, which range from teeth to copies of sacred texts. The dome, containing the relic, is usually supported by a five layered platform, intended to represent the five elements of air, fire, water, earth and wisdom (or sometimes space). Stupas originated in India, and have spread and evolved throughout the Buddhist world, to countries such as Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. Each geographical region produces stylistically different stupas, and contribute different symbolic and cultural features. For example, in Tibet there are eight specific style of stupas, all of which refer to a different event or stage in the Buddha’s life, called the Lotus Blossom Stupa, Enlightenment Stupa, Stupa of Many Doors, Stupa of Descent from the God Realm, Stupa of Great Miracles, Stupa of Reconciliation, Stupa of Complete Victory, and Stupa of Nirvana.
The Pagoda, a relative of the stupa, also originated from India, and spread East with the growth of Buddhism. Today, this multistoried tower can be found in many Asian cultures, and still often serves as a place of worship and meditation for Buddhists.
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