Mauryan period of art UPSC

Mauryan period art UPSC can be sub divide into two kinds.

  1. Court art- which was state initiative. At that time most of the court art consist stupa and pillar.
  2. Popular art- Popular art at that time was individual art and it mainly consist sculpture, pottery and caves.
  • Mauryan arts time period was 4th to 3rd century bc.
  • Ashoka was the first Mauryan king who think In stone.

Pillars of Mauryan period Art UPSC

  • In Mauryan period art, mainly pillars were monolithic.
  • Pillars are on sacred sites.
  • The height of the pillars are 30-40 feet and they are crown by animal figures.
  • Pillars are inscribe with Buddhist concept of morality or Dhamma.

Pillar feature of Mauryan period art

Purpose of pillars of Mauryan period art UPSC

  1. Pillars were mainly the symbol of the state.
  2. They are also use to declare victory.
  3. Pillars also used for spread of moral ideas or Dhamma.

Different type of capitals

  1. Lotus column (bell shaped)
  2. Lotus column (bud shaped)
  3. Papyrus column (bell shaped)
  4. Papyrus column ( bud shaped)

Features of Mauryan period art Pillars

  • Mauryan pillars were mainly monolithic unlike the achaemenian type of pillar.
  • Uniformity in all the pillars of Mauryan art.
  • Chunar sandstone used for pillar making.
  • Use of animal to decorate the pillar or to give the some moral message.
  • Pillar at that time are highly polish which shows Iranian influence.
  • Different type of abacus use like round, circular etc.
  • Bell shaped capital shows Achaemenian influence.

Sarnath Pillar

  • Sarnath pillar was most remarkable pillar of that time.
  • Highly polished and lion capital used on it. ( which is also Government of India’s emblem.
  • In lion emblem 4 lions represent cardinal direction.
  • Round abacus is used with four Dharma chakra or wheel of law.
  • Elephant, bull, Horse and lion are depicted on the abacus, all are well polished.
  • Lion shows the great power and dignity.
  • Animal on the abacus make us know that they were animal friendly.


Bull capital Rampurva Bihar

  • It construction is of around 3rd century bc.
  • its mixture of Indian and Persian elements.
  • it have lotus capital.
  • motifs on the abacus are beautiful.
  • Decorative elements like rosette, palmetto and acanthus ornament used in which none of the Indian.
  • its called as masterpiece of Indian crafts man.

Bull capital of Mauryan period art

Rock cut Elephant Dhauli Odisha 

  • It’s locate at place where Kalinga war happen.
  • In this major edicts of Ashoka engraved.
  • Its a Buddhist Sculpture.  
    Rock cut Elephant Dhauli Odisha of Mauryan period art


  • Making of stupa start on Vedic period.
  • it flourished on Mauryan period.
  • It’s kind of funeral mound. They use to make stupas over the relics of the Buddha.
  • Originally 9 stupas are construct. 8 stupas had Buddha’s relics and 9th one have the vessel in which the relics were.
  • Stupa is a hemispherical dome with Buddha relics inside.
  • Initially the size of stupa was small.
  • Inside the stupa, simple bricks use while in the making of outside gate burnt bricks use with lime coating.
  • Jatakas stories and lion, bull, Elephant and lotus are carve on the stupa.

Features of stupa of Mauryan period art
Stupa in detail of Mauryan period art

Sanchi stupa

  • It’s size is small.
  • It have a wooden umbrella which represents the royalty and the dignity.

Sanchi stupa of Mauryan period art

Amaravati stupa

  • It came under Buddhist faith through the Kushan of mathura.
  • Marbles are used instead of Burnt bricks.
  • Its inner side have engraving of Buddha’s life.
  • Later it was transformed from Hinayana to mahayan.

Amaravti stupa Mauryan period art

Popular arts of Mauryan phase.


  • Real beginning of rock cut architecture was started from this phase.
  • Mauryan caves were mainly Vihar.
  • Post Mauryan caves were chaitya.
  • Chandragupta Maurya was influenced by Jainism that’s why he create caves in Aajivika sect.


  • Artistic gateway.
  • Polishing inside the caves

– 7 Sister caves – 4cave of barabar caves and 3 caves of Nagarjuna cave also from that period.

7 sister cave

Barabar cave

– Vihar was used as a rest place for Monks.


  • Yaksh and Yakshini sculpture which came from folk religion.( shows local religion influence on Buddhism).
  • Yaksh and Yakshini figure related to three religion viz. 
    Hinduism- reference in Tamil script Silapdigaram.   
    Buddhism- On the wall of stupa, the depiction of Yaksh  and Yakshini.  
    Jainism- In the Jain scripts every teerthankar found to be associated with one Yakshini.
    Yakshini Mauryan period art


  • Northern black polished wear was of this period.
  • Maturity and climax in pottery making was in this period.
  • Some silver pottery were also found.
  • purpose of silver pottery was as a luxury wear.

Northern black polished ware of Mauryan period art

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