The origins of Stupas have their roots in ancient India. It is considered that primarily, even before the Buddha came, Stupas had been burial mounds raised from earth and rock, where remains of saints, rulers and high-ranking people were buried. The name 'Stupa' comes from Sanskrit word - pile. This name is not surprising, since the initial bulk Stupas were of rounded shape and could resemble a big pile of stones or earth. Later, while maintaining the same rounded shape, Stupas were built of wood, clay and other materials.

The oldest preserved archaeological evidence of Stupas dated back in the 4th century B.C. But the ancient scriptures say that Stupas were built much earlier. And it is no wonder, because the first Stupas had been built of relatively non-durable materials, such as wood.

The history of the Stupas' spread is described in Mahaparanirvana Sutra (this ancient text narrates about the last days of Buddha's life). Buddha explained to His disciples how the Stupa should look like. Also Buddha instructed them in how to cremate His body after He passes away and how to place ashes into the Stupas, that are to be erected in four different places. 1) Lumbini - birthplace of the Buddha, 2) Bodhgaya - place, were the Buddha attainted Enlightenment, 3) Sarnath - where the Buddha delivered first teachings and 4) Kushinagar - where the Buddha achieved Parinirvana. 

After the Buddha passed away, eight kingdoms where He used to live and give teachings started to contend for the possession of the relics of Buddha's body. To avoid the arguments and conflicts His followers divided the relics into eight equal parts and shared among the kingdoms. In each of the kingdoms was erected a Stupa for preserving Buddha's relics. Later, in the 3rd century B.C. emperor Ashoka requested to open these eight Stupas, divide the relics into 84 000 parts and to build Stupas for preserving all these parts.

The first Buddhist Stupas preserved rounded, semi-spherical dome shape of ancient Stupas with square platform (Harmika) and umbrella on the top. That semi-spherical dome covered the square base, in which there was a small indentation for storage of the Buddha's relics. Around the Stupa there was a free space intended for Kora (ritual circumambulating the Stupa). This kind of shape remained until Stupas went beyond borders of India. 

In Tibet Stupa obtained its own characteristic shape and was named "Chorten", that literally means - the basis for the offering. Square base was supplemented with the "lion throne" (in large Stupas it serves as a room for rituals and practices), and semi-spherical part, rising above the throne, was transformed into a vase. The top of the Stupa was supplemented with the tall spire with thirteen rings and symbols: moon, sun and gemstone in the form of tongue of flame.

Stupas still serve as repositories of relics of the Buddha and spiritual masters. Relics is what animates the Stupa, transforming it from a regular architectural structure into a sacred object that emits relics' qualities.