Arts of the Mauryan Period-Important Mouniments: Part 1 (Indian Culture – NCERT)

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Arts of the Mauryan Period

Map of Mauryan Period
  • Sixth century B. C. is a start of new religious and social movements in the Gangetic valley such as Buddhism and Jainism (Sramana/Shraman Tradition) .
  • Art that time Magadha was developed as a powerful kingdom and merged its control with other religions.
  • As shown in above map of Mayra՚s empire a large part of India was under control of them at the third century.
  • Ashoka arisen as great king of the Maurya Empire during this period religious practices had many dimensions.
  • Worship of Yakshas and Mother Goddess was become popular before and after the advent of Buddhism and it was assimilated in Buddhism and Jainism and stupas and viharas (dwelling place of monks) construction became part of the Buddhist tradition.
  • During this period Stone pillars, rock cut caves and monumental figure sculptures were designed in several places apart from stupas and viharas.


Mauryan Period Pillars
  • Pillars are constructed from the earliest time of Mauryas but the construction of pillars are different from other because they are rock cut pillars which shows the carver՚s skills.
  • Stone pillars were founded all over the Mauryan Empire.
  • The topmost elements of a pillar or column is recognized a capital.
  • At the top portion of the pillar figures like a bull, lion, elephant, etc. were curved.
  • And the capital figures (usually animals) are shaped on a square or circular abacus and the abacuses are decorated with stylized lotuses.
  • Sarnath which is commonly known as the Lion Capital is the best example of Mauryan sculpture tradition.

Lion Capital, Sarnath

Lion Capital, Sarnath of Mauryan Period
  • The Lion Capital was founded more than a hundred years ago at Sarnath, near Varanasi and it is generally known as Sarnath Lion Capital.
  • It is one of the best examples of pillar from Mauryan retro; it was built by Ashoka in commemoration of ‘Dhammachakrapravartana’ or the first sermon of Buddha.
  • It includes five components:
  • The pillar shaft
  • The lotus bell or base
  • A drum on the bell base with four animals proceeding clockwise (abacus)
  • Figure of four majestic addorsed (back to back) lions
  • The crowning element, Dharamchakra/Dharmachakra
  • A large wheel (Dharmchakaras) was also a part of this pillar.
  • However, this wheel is currently in broken condition and located in the site museum of Sarnath.
  • The capital has four Asiatic lions placed back to back and their facial beefiness is very strong.
  • They represent power, courage, pride and confidence.
  • The surface of the capital is extremely polished, which symbolize typical Mauryan period.
  • Abacus (drum on the bell base) has the chakra (wheel) in all four guidelines and a bull, a horse, an elephant and a lion between every chakra. And each chakra has 24 spokes in it which is adapted to the National Flag of India.
  • The capital without the shaft, the lotus bell and highest wheel has been adopted as the National Emblem of Independent India.
  • Only three Lions are visible in the symbol accepted by Madhav Sawhey.
  • The abacus is also set in such a way that simply one chakra can be seen in the central, with the bull on the correct and horse on the left.
  • In Sanchi a lion capital has also been found but is in a decrepit condition.
  • A pillar which was founded at Vaishali is opposite towards the north that indicates direction of Buddha՚s last voyage.

Yakshas and Yakshinis

  • Large figures of Yakshas and Yakshinis are founded at many places such as Patna, Vidisha and Mathura. And all most they are in the standing position.
  • Their notable element of that figures are the polished surface.
  • Description of faces is in full round with noticeable cheeks and physiognomic aspect.
  • The human figure was sensitively portrayed.
  • The most finest example is Yakshi figure from Didarganj, Patna.

Didarganj Yakshi

Didarganj Yakshi
  • The finest example of the sculpture tradition of Mauryan period is the life-size standing image of a Yakshi holding a chauri (flywhisk) founded from Didarganj near Patna.
  • It is a tall well balanced, free standing figure in round.
  • It was made by sandstone and has polished surface.
  • The left hand is broken and in the right hand the chauri is seized.
  • The image display superiority in the form and medium of figure and the round brawny body is clearly visible.
  • The face is round, fleshy cheeks and the neck is small in proportion; the eyes, nose and lips are sharp and bends of body are properly figured.
  • The necklace is drops in full round and hanging the belly.
  • And the dresses around the belly figured with great care.
  • Every bends of the clothes on the legs is shown by extended lines close-fitting to the legs, which also generates transparent effect.
  • The feet are decorated with thick bell ornaments.
  • Heavy breasts show the weight in the torso.
  • The hairs are tied in a bun at the back and the back is clear.