• Introduction on Mauryan art.
  • Description of Mauryan art & sculpture.
  • Conclusion

The magnanimous Mauryan power is visible in its monumental stone sculptures and structures. The Mauryan art was strongly linked to political & religious ideologies of that time. Maurya kings, especially Ashoka, patronised different art forms like stone sculptures, terracotta figurines and stupa architecture.

Arts & Sculpture:

  • Ashoka was a pioneer of stupa cult. By redistributing Buddhist relics to important towns, he encouraged construction of stupas. He built approx. 84,000 stupas. His greatest innovation was the substitution of stone for wood & brick.

Sanchi stupa is a world heritage site, known for extensive carvings on its gateways. The pradakshipatha around the stupa is covered with Vedika. Buddha is shown symbolically as empty throne, feet, etc. Toranas constructed in all 4 directions having stylistic differences. Each torana is decorated with different themes & consisting of guardian images of Shalbhanjikas. Jatakas form important part of stupa narratives.

  • Ashokan pillars at Rampurva, Lauriya Nandangarh and Sarnath present excellent examples of stone sculptures – they are circular & monolithic, and made of sandstone. Ashokan pillars had some Achaemenid/Persian influence.

In Mauryan pillars, base is absent and inverted bulging lotus appears at the top of the shaft. Most Persian pillars have fluted surface while Mauryan pillars are smooth. The Mauryan type circular abacus & independent animals carved in round crowning are absent in Persian pillars. The lion capital (Sarnath) is adopted as India’s National emblem.

  • Among stone & terracotta sculptures, the polished stone sculpture of Didarganj Yakshini and a polished Chunar sandstone sculpture of a male torso at Patna, deserve special mention.
  • A stone portrait of Ashoka at Kanganahalli is spectacular.
  • Beginnings of Rock-cut architecture – Lomash Rishi Cave in the Barabara hills near Gaya, and the majestic Dhauli caves near Bhubaneshwar, Odisha. The Dhauli caves contain a majestic rock sculpture of the front part of an elephant. Lomash Rishi & Sudama caves are examples of wooden architectural
  • The famous Vajrasana (throne of meditation) at Bodh Gaya’s Mahabodhi temple belonged to this period.
  • A large number of carved ring stones & disc stones, having ritualistic significance, are found at various north Indian sites. They have two or more concentric circles and different geometric patterns.
  • Prevalence of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW), introduction of burnt bricks & timers in construction. Megasthenes reported wooden structure at Pataliputra.

Thus, the Mauryans made a remarkable contribution to the art & architectural heritage of India.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 26, 2023