Post-Mauryan Trends in Indian Art and Architecture - Seeker's Thoughts

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Post-Mauryan Trends in Indian Art and Architecture


Post-Mauryan Trends in Indian Art and Architecture


Following the fall of Maurya in the second century BCE, various rulers established their dominion over areas once held by Mauryas - such as Shungas, Kanvas, Kushanas and Guptas in northern India and Satavahanas, Abhiras Ikshvakus and Vakatakas in southern and western India respectively.

Sculpture reached its pinnacle during this era. Stupas with both chaitya and vihara structures were constructed.




Sculpture is the branch of visual arts that works in three dimensions. Its designs may take the form of freestanding objects, reliefs on surfaces or environments from tableaux to contexts that envelop viewers, using materials worked through carving (the removal of material) modeling or moulding and casting processes that employ durable processes like carving or molding; contemporary sculptures often incorporate clay, wax metal glass plaster wood random found objects and even random found objects as media for its creations. Furthermore, sculpture is one of few art forms which operate through time: it combines concepts like permanence while relativeness simultaneously using stone with clay mutable clay sculpture.

In northern India during the Mauryan era, various sculptural forms emerged that represented Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Bodhisattva figures like Avalokiteshvara Padmapani Amitabha Maitreya were also popular subjects for sculpture during this time period.

After the collapse of Mauryanism, several smaller dynasties formed across north and western India. Gandhara (now Pakistan) and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh both emerged as important art production centres from around 100 AD onwards; Gandhara's sculpture merged with Bacteria and Parthia traditions (both Indo-Greeks), while in Mathura an indigenous form became more dominant; during this time period Buddha images morphed from symbols into human forms.

Gandhara sculptors went beyond creating traditional Buddhist statues by adopting a style known as the Tribhanga Posture for their statues of Buddha in Gandhara, with more softness than in Mathura school statues.

The Mauryas introduced stone masonry on a grand scale and produced highly polished pillars, including those found at Lohanipur and Didargunj in Patna; some of these still serve as benchmarks in Mauryan architecture today. Furthermore, many sandstone pillars featured intricate relief carvings for added decoration during this period; additionally there was also an explosion in pottery styles like Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW), which became immensely popular with royal courtiers and nobles.




Stupas are at the core of Buddhist religious philosophy, and can be found across India. Stupas act as physical embodiments of Buddha's teachings to foster spiritual liberation and kindness towards all living things; some even hold healing properties. Early stupas were simply burial tumuli erected over the cremated remains or bodies of ascetics, teachers or others who had shown profound spiritual insight. These sculptures resemble the shape of a mandapa with an ever-widening base that signifies the meditation posture assumed by enlightened sages. Stupas quickly became symbols of Indian Buddhist communities as well as wider Buddhist societies worldwide, drawing pilgrims in and inviting them to prostrate themselves while circumambulating clockwise around it, praying aloud, chanting prayers or placing written ones into slots at its base. Over time these structures became decorated with elaborate relief work - examples include Sanchi stupas (125 BCE), followed by Bharhut and Bodh Gaya which both featured examples in 1st century BC/CE; they later also became icons representing Buddhism worldwide. Stupas became prominent symbols representing Indian Buddhist communities, but also those around them worldwide.

Following the Mauryan period, numerous new stupas were constructed throughout India. Some were larger and more ornate than earlier ones; others featured statues of Buddha or deities depicted therein; still others served as monasteries called viharas - this period also witnessed an upsurge in religious sects like Vaishnavism and Shaivism in India.

Sanchi Stupa-1 in Mathura and Vengi in Andhra Pradesh are notable sites for sculpture development during this period, as are Sanchi stupa-2 and 3 in Andhra Pradesh. Sanchi stupa 1 features both upper and lower pradakshinaptha or circumambulatory paths with four decorated toranas (Gateways) depicting various events from Buddha's life as well as Jataka stories - this style of Gandhara art incorporates characteristics from Acamenian, Parthian, and Bactrian traditions into local tradition for visual effect.

At this time, sculptors specialized in polishing stone sculptures to give them a golden sheen. Furthermore, their technical skill in modelling sculptural volumes maintained linearity while giving the illusion of three-dimensionality.


Narrative reliefs


From the second century BCE forward, various kingdoms grew within the regions once part of Mauryan India: Shungas, Kanvas, Kushanas and Guptas in northern India; Satavahanas, Ikshavakus Abhiras Vatakas Vatakas Satavahanas in southern and western India and also Vaishnavas and Shaivas from southern and western India. This period also witnessed major Brahmanical sects emergence such as Vaishnavas and Shaivas; which were evident in sculpture depicting this trend as well.

At this point, the Mauryan period saw sculpture influenced by early Gandhara art. Gandhara Buddha images resembled early Yaksha images but had more Hellenistic characteristics. At this time, tall statues with figures modeled in low relief featuring linearity were prevalent.

Narrative reliefs of this period featured more naturalistic figures, while their poses were depicted more fluidly. Sculptors began selecting major episodes from Siddhartha Gautama's life to depict pictorially, beginning with Queen Mayadevi (Siddhartha Gautama's mother) dream. Their style was more advanced than in Barhut era reliefs.

One prominent characteristic of this period was the establishment of Buddhist and Jain monastic communities with prayer halls known as chaityas and residential halls known as viharas for monks to reside in.

As well as the establishment of chaityas and viharas, Brahmanical temples also began appearing during this time period. Sarvatobhadra-type structures (which can be entered from all sides) became typical. Temples became decorated with deities from various pantheons while Purana myths started being included into narrative representations.

Sanchi near Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Vidisha, Barhut and Bodhgaya in Uttar Pradesh; Jaggaypetta in Andhra Pradesh, Mathura in Uttar Pradesh Khandagiri-Udayagiri in Odisha and Bhaja near Pune in Maharashtra are prime examples of sculpture dating from this era. Additionally, cave tradition flourished; Ajanta Caves from 2nd Century BCE to 6th Century CE are well known as examples of low to mid relief Indian art that showcase the Jataka tales about Buddha's previous lives while Ellora Caves date back 5 centuries primarily featuring Jataka tales about Buddha from previous lives while Ellora Caves showcase Jataka tales about Buddha from his past lives - considered masterpieces by many art historians today.




Pottery is an age-old craft involving the shaping and firing of wet clays to produce chemical changes that harden it, hardening its form. Pottery has been used for functional or decorative objects for thousands of years; today it continues to experiment with form, surface texture and color while offering endless creative opportunities. Decorated glazed surfaces may also be decorated with designs carved, stamped incised impressed or stamped upon the clay surface before coloring with iron oxide pigments or carbonates as desired; additional additives like coarse additives such as sand grog can give finished wares unique characteristics or decrease shrinkage when drying time occurs.

Post-Mauryan pottery saw remarkable advancement during this era. With the introduction of the potter's wheel, ancient artisans could mold complex forms without needing to do it manually; this technique became especially critical when creating stupas or statues during this period.

After the decline of Mauryanism, various small kingdoms rose to power across India. Many were significant for Indian art and architecture - among these kingdoms were Shungas, Kanvas, Kushanas and Shakas in northern India; Satavahanas Ikshavakus Abhiras Vakatakas of southern and western India respectively; cave architecture flourished along with various Brahmanical sects such as Shaivaism and Vaishnavism arising.

Some of the most stunning examples from this period can be seen at Bharhut, Sanchi, Vidisha and Jaggaypetta (Andhra Pradesh), Khandagiri-Udayagiri (Odisha) and Bhaja near Pune. These sculptures of this period stand tall compared to their Mauryan-era counterparts of Yaksha and Yakshini; with linearity in low relief.

Some potters continued using traditional production techniques, burying clay pieces in pits before slowly baking it over hours or days. Unglazed pottery pieces would then be painted using either brushing or dipping techniques in various colors and patterns.

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