NCERT Class 11 Culture Chapter 3: Arts of Mauryan Period YouTube Lecture Handouts

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NCERT Class 11 Indian Art & Culture Chapter 3: Arts of Mauryan Period
Arts of Mauryan Period
  • 6th Century BCE – religious and social movements in Gangetic Valley as Buddhism and Jainism - Shraman tradition – opposed jati and varna system
  • Magadha became powerful
  • 4th Century BCE – Mauryan established power and most was under Mauryan empire by 3rd Century BCE
  • Workship of Yaksha and Mother Goddess
  • Yaksha was popular before Buddhism and after it was assimilated by as Buddhism and Jainism

Structures & Architecture

  • Viharas – where monastic order dwells (especially after Mahayana – in rains to protect themselves they stayed in caves) . Chaitya were built inside Viharas
  • Stupas - Buddha at Rajagraha, Vaishali, Kapilavastu, Allakappa, Ramagrama, Vethadipa, Pava, Kushinagar and Pippalvina.
  • Chaitya - like a prayer hall. It has pillars on side of a passage or a pathway leading to a Stupa generally contain relics of Buddha
  • Stone pillars
  • Rock cut caves

Mauryan Pillars Versus Achamenian (Persian) Pillars

  • Similarities – both use word dipi and lipi; start with 3rd person and move to 1st person & polished stones


Table of Distance Beetween Achamenian Pillar and Mauryan Pillar
Achamenian PillarMauryan Pillar
constructed in pieces by a masonrock-cut pillars thus displaying the carver՚s skills
bell or a plain rectangular or circular block.Inverted lotus on topo of shaft
fluted surfaceSmooth surface
part of some larger architectural schemeindependent freestanding monument

Mauryan Pillars

  • Top portion – carved with capital figures like bull, lion and elephant
  • Square or circular abacus with stylized lotus
  • Locations: Basarah-Bakhira, Lauriya-Nandangarh, Rampurva, Sankisa and Sarnath.

At Sarnath – Called Lion Capital (finest) – our national emblem – This pillar capital symbolising Dhammachakrapravartana (the first sermon by the Buddha) has become a standard symbol of this great historical event in the life of the Buddha

Worship of Yaksha (best in Didarganj, Bihar) and Yakhinis – in Patna, Vidisha and Mathura – standing position with full round face and pronounced cheeks

Rock-cut elephant at Dhauli in Orissa shows modelling in round with linear rhythm. It also has Ashokan rock-edict.

Rock Cut cave at Barabar hill snear Gaya, Bihar as Lomus Rishi Cave – has semicircular chaitya arch – hall is rectangular with circular chamber at back; entrance at side of hall. Patronized by Ashoka for Ajivika Sect.


  • Stupa in the third century BCE is at Bairat in Rajasthan. It is a very grand stupa having a circular mound with a circumambulatory path
  • Great stupa at Sanchi was built with bricks during the time of Ashoka
  • Patrons range from lay devotees to gahapatis and kings
  • Donation by guild was mentioned at several sites
  • Inscriptions mentioning the names of artisans such as Kanha at Pitalkhora and his disciple Balaka at Kondane caves
  • Additions like the enclosing of the circumambulatory path with railings and sculptural decoration.
  • Stupa consists of a cylindrical drum and a circular and with a harmika and chhatra on the top which remain consistent throughout with minor variations and changes in shape and size
  • Initially Buddha depicted symbolically by footprints, lotus throne and chakra
  • Later by life of Buddha as Jataka stories (synoptic narrative, continuous narrative and episodic narrative) , railing and toran of stupas
  • Jataka tales are a voluminous body of literature native to India concerns with previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form.
  • Events depicted – birth, renunciation, enlightment, Dhammachakrapravartana and mahaparinibbana (death)
  • Famous Jataka stories - Chhadanta Jataka, Vidurpundita Jataka, Ruru Jataka, Sibi Jataka, Vessantara Jataka and Shama Jataka.

Lion Capital

5 component parts:

  • Shaft (which is broken in many parts now)
  • Lotus bell base
  • Drum on the bell base with four animals proceeding clockwise
  • Figures of four majestic lions
  • Crowning element, Dharamchakra, a large wheel

The capital without the crowning wheel and the lotus base has been adopted as the National Emblem of Independent India.

4 lions shown back to back with strong facial musculature, inversed lines of lips, lines of mane are sharp – polished

Abacus has the depiction of a chakra (wheel) having twenty-four spokes in all the four directions and a bull, a horse, an elephant and a lion between every chakra is finely carved.

Abacus is supported by inverted lotus capital – each petal is sculptured keeping in mind the density

Yakshini@DidarGanj, Bihar

  • Tall, well-proportioned, free-standing sculpture in round made in sandstone with a polished surface.
  • Chauri is held in the right hand whereas the left hand is broken
  • Face has round, fleshy cheeks, while the neck is relatively small in proportion; the eyes, nose and lips are sharp
  • Necklace beads are full round
  • Holds a chauri (flywhisk)

✍ Manishika