Mauryan Art and Architecture

Mauryan Art and Architecture

Question: Union Telecom Minister released a commemorative postal stamp on Emperor Ashoka recently to celebrate the birth anniversary of the king. Prepare a note on Mauryan art and architecture.

- Art and architecture during the Mauryan period progressed and was marked through the use of stone in complex ways and creation of masterpieces

- Mauryan period art and architecture except relics of Chandragupta Maurya at Pataliputra were mainly during the regime of Emperor Ashoka

The art and architecture can be classified into the following:

- Stupas,

- Pillars,

- Caves,

- Palaces

- Pottery

Mauryan Stupas

- Stupas are solid domes made of brick or stone in different sizes.

- Emperor Ashoka created many stupas all over the country to celebrate the spread of Buddhism and the achievements of Gautama Buddha

- Sanchi Stupa served as a hemispherical dome, with truncation at the top and surrounded at the lower level by a lofty terrace to serve as the gate for procession

- Specifically, the stupa architecture was located inside the dome.

- Inner wall of the stupa was created using sun burnt, terracotta bricks.

- The dome’s top was decorated by a stone or wooden umbrella indicating the universal supremacy of Dharma

- A parikrama encircles the stupa

- The stupa built at Ceylon was one of the most notable ones in the world

- Other stupas built in South India was Amaravati Stupa, Nagarjunakonda, Ghantasala stupas.

Mauryan Pillars

- The celebrated pillars of Dharma are free standing columns with two main parts- the shaft and the capitol. Shaft is a monolith column of one piece of stone with polish on it.

- The pillars mark stages of Ashoka’s pilgrimage to numerous Buddhist centres

- Sarnath column has the most developed art in the world in the 3rd Century BC and it has been adopted as a symbol of the modern Indian republic.

- It is 7 feet in height and lowest part of the capitol represents a bell shaped and inverted lotus

Mauryan Caves Architecture

- Rock cut caves of the Ashoka and Dasaratha Maurya era created as residences of monks are beautiful art specimens

Examples of cave architecture of the Maurya period include the following:

- Barabar caves in North Gaya

- Nagarjuna hill caves

- Sudama caves

- Gopi caves

- Caves have simple style and their interior are like well polished mirrors

- Pillars inside the caves appear as legacies of wooden architecture preceding stone or lithic architecture

Mauryan Palaces and Buildings

- The gilded pillars of Mauryan palace were decorated with silver birds and golden vines

- Traveller Fa Hien remarked that the workmanship was so delicate that no human hands of the world could have accomplished it

- All towns were surrounded by high walls with battlements and ditches with water bearing lotuses as well as other plants

Mauryan Pottery

- Mauryan pottery comprises many different types of wares

- Black polished type is found in N. India and has a burnished and glazed surface

- Centre of N. Indian pottery manufacture is assumed to be Pataliputra and Kosambi

Facts and Stats

- Ashoka Maurya also known as Ashoka and Ashoka the Great was an Indian emperor of the Maurya dynasty

- He ruled the Indian subcontinent between 269 to 232 BCE

- Born to Mauryan emperor Bindusara and wife Dharma, he was the grandson of the founder of the Maurya dynasty. Chandragupta Maurya

- Mauryan empire stretched from the west Hindu Kush mountains to Bengal in the East and covered the entire subcontinent apart from present day TN and Kerala

- Empire’s capital was Pataliputra in current Bihar with provincial capitals at Ujjain and Taxila
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