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Ancient History / Mauryan Era

Art and Architecture of Mauryan Empire

    There were different kinds of art and architecture got developed during the reign of Mauryan empire. The important architectural forms are Ashokan pillars, Caves and Cave architecture, Stupas, Sculpture, Pottery, etc.

    Ashokan Pillars

    • These are monolithic columns with an approximate height of 50 feet and a weight of 50 tonnes. These are highly lustrous (polished to look like metal or glass). Ashoka has used two different rocks for pillars, (i) Red sandstone from Mathura quarries and (ii) Buff colored sandstone (wheatish) from Chunar quarries.

    • On the trunk, an inscription is written. Every pillar has a capital on its top (on the column). It is made of a separate stone. Capital is beautifully executed animal in one stone. Some important capitals are Rampurva Bull capital, Lauriya Nandangarh Lion capital, Rummindei Horse capital, Sarnath capital, etc.

    • Sarnath Capital - In this capital, 4 roaring lions are standing back to back. Below the lions, Ashoka Chakra with 24 spokes is present. Around the Ashoka Chakra, there are 4 animals - Bull, Galloping Horse, Elephant and Lion. At the bottom, there is an inverted Lotus.

      National Emblem is taken from Sarnath Capital with some modifications. Inverted Lotus is taken out from the emblem. In place of it, a saying from Mundaka Upanishad, "Satyameva Jayate" is placed. Two animals, elephant and lion are also removed.

    Cave Architecture

    In the history of India, Ashoka first started building artificial caves. These were used by monks for residential purposes. First caves that were built by Ashoka were related to Ajivika religion. Dasaratha built 3 caves at Nagarjuni hills (near to Barabar Hills), which were also dedicated to Ajivikas.


    According to Divyavadana, Ashoka built 84000 Stupas. Sanctum sanctorum was absent in these Stupas.


    We find lot of sculptures of Yakshas and Yakshis of Mauryan period. A Yakshi image of life size is found in Didarganj, Bihar and a Yaksha image is found at Mathura. Image of an Elephant (made of rock) is found at Dhauli, Odisha.


    During Mauryan period, potter's wheel was extensively used. The pottery consisted of many types of ware during this period. A special kind of pottery known as Northern Black Polished ware, was the highly developed technique seen in this period. It was made from finely levigated alluvial clay.