Licchavi Lyceum


Licchavi Lyceum

Post Mauryan Art and Architecture

Post Mauryan period is dominated by the rock-cut architecture. The period of the second century BCE also marked the rise of the main Brahmanical sects such as the Vaishnavas and the Shaivas which also led to building of Hindu temples and sculptures as well apart from Buddhist art.

Some of the prominent examples of the finest sculpture of Post-Maurya period are found at Vidisha, Bharhut and Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh), Bodhgaya (Bihar), Jaggayyapeta (Andhra Pradesh), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Khandagiri-Udayagiri (Odisha), Bhaja near Pune and Pavani near Nagpur (Maharashtra).

It’s worth note that till the development of the Gandhara and Mathura art school, Buddha was depicted mainly as symbols.

Year of Kanishka ‘S accession i.e. 78 CE also marks the beginning of the Saka era and Kushana art overshadowed Sunga art.

In south India, Satavahanas emerged as strongest power in post-Mauryan period. After Satavahanas declined, many small kingdoms emerged in South and the first among them was that of the Vakatakas.

Kalinga (present Odisha) also emerged important cultural place under king Kharavela. After the Vakatakas came the Chalukyas of Vatapi and Kalyani. The Chalukyas kept fighting with the Rashtrakutas (towards the north) and the Pallavas (towards the south). The Chalukya rule came to an end in 753 CE when the Rashtrakutas defeated them. Further down south, Cholas, Cheras and the Pandyas were always at war with each other.

Bharhut: Bharhut sculptures are tall like the images of Yaksha and Yakhshini in the Mauryan period, modeling of the sculptural volume is in low relief maintaining linearity. Images stick to the picture plane.

Bharhut Stupa was probably originally made by Mauryas in 300 BCE, but was later improved by later rulers like Sunga in 100 AD. Sunga added exquisitely carved railing around the Stupa which depicts scenes from Jataka.

Relief in Bharhut is provided with inscriptions also which is not found in later stupas. Though art made progress over simple art of Mauryas, figures are too crowded and relief is low. Yaksha and Yakshi are recurring themes. Queen Mahamayas’ Dream is also shown. Queen Mahamaya, mother of Buddha has a dream of him on the night of his conception. She had a dream that a young white elephant entered into her womb, after which she became pregnant.

Narrative reliefs at Bharhut (Madhya Pradesh) show how artisans used the pictorial language very effectively to communicate stories. In one such narrative, showing Queen Mayadevi’s (mother of Siddhartha Gautam) dream, a descending elephant is shown. The queen is shown reclining on the bed whereas an elephant is shown on the top heading towards the womb of Queen Mayadevi. On the other hand, the depiction of a Jataka story is very simple—narrated by clubbing the events according to the geographical location of the story like the depiction of Ruru Jataka where the Boddhisattva deer is rescuing a man on his back.

Such Jataka stories became part of stupa decoration.

Jataka tales: The Jataka tales are a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form.

The future Buddha may appear as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, he exhibits some virtue that the tale thereby inculcates.

Ajanta Caves: Situated in Aurangabad in Maharashtra.  These caves feature exclusively the Buddhist architecture. Caves were constructed as Viharas (Living place) and Chaitya (Prayer Hall).

Mural and Fresco painting were used for the decoration of Ajanta caves. Both Sung and Gupta dynasty worked for the painting in Ajanta caves.

Ajanta has twenty-nine caves. It has four chaitya caves datable to the earlier phase, i.e., the second and the first century BCE (Cave Nos. 10 and 9) and the later phase, i.e., the fifth century CE (Cave Nos. 19 and

It has large chaitya viharas and is decorated with sculptures and paintings.

Ajanta is the only surviving example of painting of the first century BCE and the fifth century CE. The caves at Ajanta as well as in western Deccan in general have no precise chronology because of the lack of known dated inscriptions.

Fresco painting: Fresco painting, method of painting water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster, usually on wall surfaces. The colours, which are made by grinding dry-powder pigments in pure water, dry and set with the plaster to become a permanent part of the wall, Fresco painting is ideal for making murals because it lends itself to a monumental style, is durable, and has a matte surface.

  • The outline was red in color.
  • Demonstrate naturalism
  • The color was made with local vegetation and available minerals.
  • Blue color was absent.

Ellora Caves:   Situated in Aurangabad in Maharashtra. It is located a hundred kilometres from Ajanta and has thirty-two Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jain caves.

These caves include all the three sects like Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism.  These caves are newer as compared to Ajanta caves.

It is a unique art-historical site in the country as it has monastries associated with the three religions dating from the fifth century CE onwards to the eleventh century CE.

Ellora is also famous for the largest single monolithic excavation in the world, the great Kailasha Temple.

Ajanta also has excavated double-storeyed caves but at Ellora, the triple storey is a unique achievement.

Mural painting is found on the Ellora caves.

Elephanta Caves: The Elephanta Caves located near Mumbai, were originally a Buddhist site which was later dominated by the Shaivite faith. It is contemporary with Ellora, and its sculptures show slenderness in the body, with stark light and dark effects, consists of two groups of caves – the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the god Shiva.

Bagh Caves: Located on the Bagh River in Madhya Pradesh. It is Buddhist caves similar to Ajanta caves.

Junagarh caves: Located in Gujarat.

The Borra Caves, also called Borra are located on the East Coast of India, in the Ananthagiri hills of the Araku Valley of the Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh.

The caves, one of the largest in the country, distinctly exhibit a variety of speleothems ranging in size and irregularly shaped stalactites and stalagmites. The caves are basically karstic limestone structures extending to a depth of 80 m (260 ft.), and are considered the deepest caves in India.

Art in Gupta age: The Gupta age saw a decline in Stupa architecture initiated by Ashoka.  However the temple architecture reached its climax during the Gupta age with Panchayatan style of temple architecture being the last one.

Famous Chinese traveller Fa Hien visited India during the regime of Chandragupta II.

The Allahabad pillar also gives an account of the rule of Samudragupta age.   The words of Sanskrit written on the Pillar of Mauryan age give an account of the military campaign of Gupta age. The founder of Gupta Empire was Chandragupta I.