Mauryan art encompasses the arts produced during the period of the Mauryan Empire (4th to 2nd century BCE), which was the first empire to rule over most of the Indian subcontinent.
It represented an important transition in Indian art from use of wood to stone.
It is also notable for a refinement in pottery.
One of the major features of Mauryan sculpture is the usage of rocks as building materials. The concept of religious sculpture was also predominant during the Mauryan Empire. In fact it has often been pointed out that the use of cut stone in the religious sculpture first came into vogue in the Mauryan era.
Mauryan sculptures have been dominated by Buddhist temples and caves. The caves have been clearly inspired by the Indian Vedic sculpture.
The other features of Mauryan sculpture include the stupas, chaityas and viharas.
Mauryan art may be said to exhibit three main phases. –
The first phase was the continuation of the Pre-Mauryan tradition, which is found in some instances to the representation of the Vedic deities (the most significant examples are the reliefs of Surya and Indra at the Bhaja Caves.)
The second phase was the court art of Ashoka, typically found in the monolithic columns on which his edicts are inscribed and
The third phase was the beginning of brick and stone architecture, as in the case of the original stupa at Sanchi, the small monolithic rail at Sanchi and the Lomash Rishi cave in the Baraba Caves, with its ornamentated facade, reproducing the forms of wooden structure.
Entrance to the rock-cut Buddhist temple (vihara), at Bhaja, Maharashtra, 2nd-1st c. BCE
Surya's chariot crushing a demon (left) and an elephant-rider, probably Indra (right)
Ashoka pillar at Vaishali, 3rd century BCE
Ashokan Pillar at Vaishali
Free standing stone pillars is also an important feature of Ashoka`s architecture. The stone pillars designed by this great Emperor were generally monolithic columns and the greatest example of such pillars was in Sarnath. The Ashoka Pillar - It is one of many pillars inscribed by Emperor Ashoka between about 243 B.C. and 242 B.C. and placed all over his empire. On these pillars are edicts covering a wide range of topics including religion, law, religious tolerance and the protection of animals.
This is the famous original sandstone sculpted Lion Capital of Ashoka preserved at Sarnath Museum which was originally erected around 250 BCE atop an Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath. The angle from which this picture has been taken, minus the inverted bell-shaped lotus flower, has been adopted as the National Emblem of India showing the Horse on the left and the Bull on the right of the Ashoka Chakra in the circular base on which the four Indian lions are standing back to back. On the far side there is an Elephant and a Lion instead. The wheel "Ashoka Chakra" from its base has been placed onto the center of the National Flag of India.
A four "Indian lion” Lion Capital of Ashoka atop an intact Ashoka Pillar at Wat U Mong near Chiang Mai, Thailand showing another larger Dharma Chakra / Ashoka Chakra atop the four lions thought to be missing in the Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath Museum which has been adopted as the National Emblem of India.
Silver punch-mark coins of the Mauryan empire bear Buddhist symbols such as the dharma wheel, the elephant (previous form of the Buddha), the tree under which enlightenment happened, and the burial mound where the Buddha died (third century B.C.E.)
Sanchi Stupa The Great Stupa is 120 feet across (36.6 meters) and, excluding the railing and umbrella, is 54 feet high (16.46 meters). The present stupa encases an earlier one of about half its present dimensions. The earlier one, built of large burnt bricks and mud, has been attributed to the Emperor Ashoka. The four gateways, or toranas , are the finest works of art at Sanchi and are among the finest examples of Buddhist art in India. The gateways were erected c. 35 BCE. The scenes carved into the pillars and their triple architraves are of episodes in the various lives of the Buddha.
Lomas Rishi Caves, Barabar Hills, 3 rd C. BC Lomas Rishi is impressive because its entrance is carved as a faithful imitation of a wooden building with a free standing barrel roof supported on posts and beams. Among its various wooden details are three smooth curved bands. The space beween the upper 2 bands is filled by aq lattice screen to admit light and air. The lower space has been magnificently carved with a procession of elephants.
(1st to the 7th century AD )
Map of Gandhar Region
The area was conquered by Greeks
The art found in the region was thematically Indian but stylistically inspired by the Greek realism
The Gandhara School of Art is also known as the Greco-Buddhist School of Art since Greek techniques of Art were applied to Buddhist subjects.
The most frequently used material by Gandharan artists was a soft indigenous schist that varied in color from light to dark gray, and often contained sparkling mica particles.
The most popular media, however, became an easy-to-work material terracotta and stucco. Because of the fragility of the material most statues were supported by attaching them to walls, giving them the appearance of a three-dimensional relief.
The most frequent subjects were representations of Buddha, Bodhisattwas, and attending monks or donors.
The human head usually appears with a perfect oval face, regular features, with almond-shaped and slightly protruding eyes, with gentle arching eyebrows, a straight nose, and beautifully cut lips with a subtle smile
The Buddha's influence is evident in the half-closed eyes suggesting meditation
The "ushnisa" or cranial bump, a predestination the Buddha was born with, is usually seen in the form of a knot or a roll of hair wrapped in silk on the dome of Buddha's head. The elongated ears indicate the heavy, rich jewelry the Buddha wore.
The most characteristic trait of Gandhara sculpture is the depiction of Lord Buddha in the standing or seated positions. The seated Buddha is always shown cross-legged in the traditional Indian way. Another typical feature of the Gandhara Art is the rich carving, elaborate ornamentation and complex symbolism.
Seated Buddha from Mathura, India 2nd century C.E. red sandstone 27 1/2 in. high ushnisha mudra chakra prana elongated ears halo of enlightenment urna
Boddhisattva – presented as a Prince
Emphasis on the drapery folds
Gandhara Buddha. 1st-2nd century CE.
Tokyo National Museum.
Emphasis on Hair Style and the sign on forehead
Realistic Approach of the Bactrian Greeks
Literal translation of the word Padmasana in pictorial representation
The Mathura sculptures incorporate many Hellenistic elements, such as the general idealistic realism, and key design elements such as the curly hair, and folded garment. Specific Mathuran adaptations tend to reflect warmer climatic conditions, as they consist in a higher fluidity of the clothing, which progressively tend to cover only one shoulder instead of both.
They were depicted as strongly built with the right hand raised in protection. The figures produced by this school of art do not have moustaches and beards as in the Gandhara Art.
Reddish limestone was the usual medium
smile directly at their worshipers
Sarnath Buddha Standing Buddha Late 4 th – early 5 th C Red Stone 2.17 m Mood – calm and inner tranquility The sanghati clings so close to the body that it all but disapperas and is defined only by a series of string like folds.
Ajanta Caves are considered to be one of the greatest Buddhists rock-cut caves in the world.
These magnificent caves of Ajanta are dated back from 200 BC to 250 AD.
Ajanta caves are renowned for its beautiful carved sculptures and stunning paintings which are considered to be the masterpieces of Buddhist architecture and craftsmanship. There are about 30 caves in Ajanta embellished with several architectural masterpieces of Buddha period. They contain several fascinating statues, wonderful paintings and rock murals depicting the scenes from the life of Buddha and Jatakas.
The sculptures carved throughout the different caves are associated with three main religions of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.