Chapter 3 – Ancient India: Art and Architecture: Mauryan Beginnings and Post-Mauryan Cultural Developments (For CBSE, ICSE, IAS, NET, NRA 2022)

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The Mauryan contribution to art and architecture was significant. Ashoka is known to have built 84,000 stupas to commemorate various events of Buddha՚s life.

Art and Architecture: Mauryan Beginnings

  • Ashokan edicts were inscribed on stone pillars that were of single columns of polished sandstone and had capitals on their top. The best preserved of all Ashokan edicts stands at Lauriya Nandangardh (Bihar) .
  • The thirty-two feet tall column has an almost fifty ton seated lion capital placed on its, top an engineering feat worth admiring.
  • The bull capital from Rampura is also another fine example of Mauryan sculpture.
Mauryan Architecture
  • The most famous capital is the one at Sarnath, which shows four lions and the Dharma chakra.
  • Another noteworthy aspect of Mauryan architecture is the rock cut caves. The Lomash Rishi and the Sudama caves are examples of such architecture. These caves cut from solid rock were provided by Ashoka for non-Buddhist monks.
  • These caves marked the beginning of the rock cut architecture which was patronised by later rulers too. His rock edicts were inscribed in the local language and the local script.

Post- Mauryan Cultural Developments

  • The Greeks, Shakas, Parthians and Kushanas were foreigners; they were slowly absorbed into the local population. Since they were warriors, the law givers assigned them the status of Kshatriyas.
  • It should be noted that such a large scale assimilation of foreigners into the Indian society took place only in the post-Mauryan times.
  • Profound changes took place in the economic and political life and vital developments in different aspects of cultural life of our country.
  • There was a significant advancement in foreign trade both by land and by sea, besides emergence of various crafts.
  • The interaction among different foreign ethnic groups and the Indians played an important role in their choice or the other Indian religions.
  • Some foreign rulers also turned to Buddhism, as this did not create the problems of fitting into the caste system.

Cultural Development During the Gupta Period

  • The last phase of ancient Indian history starts in early fourth century A. D. and ends in about the 8th A. D.
  • The Guptas built a strong and powerful kingdom and under the political unity and state patronage that was provided by them, cultural activities increased manifold.
  • This art mainly depicted the Buddha or Buddhist thought. But during the Gupta period art became more creative and Hindu gods and goddesses also came to be portrayed.
  • The artistic achievement of the age is exhibited in the delicate workmanship and the variety of designs shown in different kinds of Gupta coins.
  • The general scheme that was followed was to exhibit the portrait of the king on one side of the coin or an appropriate goddess with her associated symbols on the other side.
  • Examples of the Gupta art can be seen at the dashavatara temple at Deogarh and the cave temples in Udaigiri hills.
  • The most famous examples of Guptaart that still remain are the numerous seated and standing images of Buddha from Sarnath.

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