Mauryan Architecture

Mauryan  Architecture

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  • Major architectural input of Mauryan Art was  wood. Hence,remains are very scant
  • Reminiscent of Persian Achaemenid Architecture.
  • Ananda Coomaraswamy has divided Mauryan Art in following way

Mauryan Palace

  • Remains are scanty because timber was the main material
  • Pillar fragment was discovered in Kumrahar (place in Patna) in 1903 .  72 pillars found in 1903 were arranged in neat chessboard pattern & 8 pillars were discovered later . Pillars were made of buff colored Chunar sandstone & smooth polished surface
  • Although they were made of same stone as free standing Ashokan pillars but they were thinner & shorter. All have hole on the top clearly for metal dowels that connected shaft to capital which in turn supported roof.
  • Some marks were found on their bases including crescent on hill (insignia of Mauryas) .
  • Discovery of large quantity of ash & pieces of burnt wood indicated that floor & roof were made of wood & structure was subjected to fire
  • There were no traces of walls & hall seems to be open on all sides
  • Spooner was struck by similarity between pillared hall at Kumrahar  & Darius’s hall of Public audience at Persepolis in Iran but Maurya structure is less elaborate than persian palace . Along with that, precise function of 80 pillared Mauryan hall is unknown
Darius Hall at Persepolis
Darius Hall at Persepolis


  • Stupas were known before the time of Ashoka too but Ashoka divided the existing body relics of Buddha & erected Stupas to enshrine them . Hence, Stupa became object of cult worship
  • In Buddhist Tradition, originally 9 stupas were erected – 8 over relics of Buddha & 9th on vessel in which relics were originally kept at Rajagriha, Vaishali, Kapilvastu, Allakapa, Ramagrama, Vethadipa, Pava, Kushinagar and Pippalvina.
  • Material used in initial Stupas
Core of Stupa Made up of Unburnt Bricks
Outer Face Made of Burnt Bricks & covered with thick layer of plaster
  • In subsequent century, stupas were elaborately built with certain additions like the enclosing of the circumambulatory path with railings, gateways & sculptural decoration. Thus, with the elaborations in stupa architecture, there was ample space for the architects and sculptors to plan elaborations and to carve out images
  • Three chhatra on the stupas represent triratnas of Buddhism i.e. Buddha (The enlightened), Dhamma (doctrine) and Sangh (order)
Plan of Stupa-l, Sanchi

1 . Barhut Stupa

  • Barhut is situated in eastern part of MP
  • Stupa at Barhut was made by Ashoka around 300BC but improvised & beautified by Shungas
  • Unlike Mauryan imperial art, inscription on railings were made by lay people&monks
  • Earliest stupa railings (vedika) to have survived
  • Sculpture mainly include Yaksha & Yakshinis
  • Has nine feet railing (vedika) & gateway(torana) made in imitation with wooden architecture
  • On railings are depicted stories of virtuous qualities of Budha & Jataka stories
  • Sculpture done here is low in relief and narratives are few in words
  • In one sculpture, story of Queen Mahamaya (mother of Buddha) is depicted where she is reclining on bed and elephant is shown on top heading towards womb

2. Sanchi Stupa

  • Sanchi is in  MP
  • Monuments present in the complex : Two stupas+ some temples  + Pillar edicts + monasteries
  • Stupa is the Oldest stone structure
  • It has long history
    • It was commissioned by Ashoka
    • Later , Pushymitra Shunga of Shunga Dynasty vandalised it
    • Again it was rebuild by Agnimitra Shunga who also added Railings (Vedika) to it
    • Later, it was repaired by Satavahanas who also added Toranas (Gateway) to it.
  • Nucleus is hemispherical brick structure built over relics of Buddha
  • Has upper & lower Paradakshinapatha or Pathways
  • It also has Four beautifully decorated Toranas depicting various life events of Buddha & Jataka stories
  • In contrast to Barhut, relief in it’s railings is high &  more naturalistic . Carving technique is also more advanced than Barhut

3. Dharmarajika Stupa (Taxila)

  • Several Stupa-Monastery sites are there in Taxila out of which Dharmarajika  (locally called Chir Tope) is most important
  • Belong to Maurya period

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