Architecture in the Mauryan Period

Topics: Ashoka the Great, Chandragupta Maurya, India Pages: 6 (2075 words) Published: August 9, 2012
The Mauryan period is an important period in the history of Indian art and architecture, with the foundations for Indian art being laid, which would later reach their height during the golden age of the Guptas. Our main pieces of evidence and material come from the time of the great Mauryan king Ashoka. Some of the finest examples of Ashokan art, are the famous Ashokan pillars that he erected across the country. These columns were works of art, architecture and engineering. The pillar was made out of a single stone which was cut, shaped and polished. Adorning the pillar was a four lion sculpture which rested on a highly polished and chiselled capital depicting animals and flowers. The engineering skill required to make all this possible was indeed substantial, massive blocks of stone had to be hauled in from quarries that were often hundreds of miles away. In some cases they even had to haul the stone to the tops of hills. The fine chiseling and the lustrous polish are examples of well developed skills in this department. The artistic skills of the period are also reflected in the work on the pillar. Fine sculptures which realistically depicted movements were made. One of the best examples of such work is the Sarnath Pillar, which has four lions back to back at the top of the pillar. The remarkable accuracy and beauty associated with these sculptures is a fine example of the skill that the artisans of that period possessed. Mauryan architecture is also reputed to have been fabulous. The capital of Patlipatura had been described by many travelers as one of the most amazing cities of the ancient world. Unfortunately since the building material was essentially wood, not much of this has survived. Excavations have come up with a few structures like a hundred pillar hall. The Mauryans were adept at cutting caves out of hillsides, and were able to polish the inside walls so highly that they shone as if they were glass. Ashoka also constructed several stupas across the country, with the most famous being the sanchi stupa The pillar is an example of the engineering skill of the craftsmen of the Mauryan Empire. Sanchi is known for stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars dating from the 3rd century B. C. to the 12th Century A.D. Cave architecture of Mauryan Empire is evident in the stupas and chaitya halls which were built during the reign of Ashoka A.K. Coomaraswamy, the famous art historian and critic, has divided Mauryan art into two types: (i) official or court art (ii) indigenous art.Examples of indigenous art include two free standing stone images. One is the yaksha image from Parkham and the other, a yakshi sculpture from Besnagar. A good example of this style is the large image of a female chauri bearer from Patna. Another specimen is a yaksha image only the upper part of which has survived.The dimensions of the torso indicate that the original must have been over twelve feet in height. All these specimens show that the indigenous school of art was well developed. The patrons of popular art were probably the local governors and the more-well-to-do citizens.Official art in Asokan times is represented by the monolithic pillars on which the king's edicts were engraved. These pillars symbolise the highly developed technique in the cutting and polishing of the surface of stone.The capitals of these pillars were realistically modelled, and consist of groups of animals. One of the finest examples is the Sarnath capital. It consists of four lions which originally supported a dharmachakra.The lions rest on an abacus bearing in relief an elephant, a horse, a bull and a lion separated by four small dharmachakras.A remarkable animal figure of the Mauryan period is the elephant at Dhauli. It shows an elephant emerging from the rock and was probably made to draw attention to the inscription nearby.The Mauryan inscriptions, including those on pillars, are made of accurate and careful carving. A perfect example is the brief record...
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