Licchavi Lyceum


Licchavi Lyceum

Art and Architecture of Maurya Period

In this article we will discuss the Art and Architecture of Maurya Period. The Maurya Empire existed from approximately 322 BCE to 185 BCE, was one of the earliest and most powerful empires in ancient India. The art and architecture of the Maurya period reflected the political, economic, and cultural developments of the time. However, due to the lack of extensive archaeological remains, much of the information about Mauryan art and architecture comes from literary sources and later archaeological findings.

Art and Architecture of Maurya Period
Lion Pillar at Vaishali

Pillars and Capitals

One of the most distinctive features of Mauryan art is the use of polished sandstone pillars with distinctive capitals. These pillars were erected by the emperor Ashoka and were primarily inscribed with edicts and messages. It features four lions seated back to back, which is now the official emblem of the Republic of India. The lions are placed on top of a cylindrical abacus with a bell-shaped base.

Iron Pillar
Iron Pillar at Mehrauli



Stupas were prominent architectural elements during the Maurya period. The most famous stupa is the Great Stupa at Sanchi, commissioned by Ashoka. The stupa was a large hemispherical mound, often containing relics or important Buddhist artifacts.

The Sanchi Stupa features an umbrella or parasol at the top, symbolizing protection. The railing around the stupa is adorned with intricate carvings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha and Jataka tales.

Rock-cut Architecture

The Mauryas were known for their rock-cut architecture. The Barabar Caves in Bihar, consisting of the Lomas Rishi Cave and Sudama Cave, are examples of rock-cut architecture from this period. These caves were dedicated to Ajivika ascetics. The caves are characterized by polished surfaces and architectural features carved out of the living rock.

Palaces and Buildings in Art and Architecture of Maurya Period

Unfortunately, very little is known about Mauryan palaces and secular buildings. The primary focus of Mauryan architecture seems to have been on religious and commemorative structures. Pataliputra, the capital of the Mauryan Empire, is believed to have been a grand city with well-planned streets and buildings, although not much physical evidence remains.

Artistic Representations

Mauryan art primarily focused on symbolic and religious themes. The sculptures and carvings often depicted Buddhist symbols, motifs, and narratives from the life of Buddha. Animals, especially lions, elephants, and horses, were commonly depicted in various art forms, reflecting the influence of Persian and Hellenistic artistic traditions.

Contribution of Art and Architecture of Maurya Period in the development of Indian Art Forms

The Mauryan period laid the foundation for subsequent developments in Indian art and architecture, particularly in the realm of Buddhist art. While much of the physical evidence from this period has been lost, the influence of Mauryan artistic and architectural elements can be traced through later periods in Indian history.