The Mauryan Art

The Mauryan Art

The period of the Mauryan Empire marks a new epoch in the history of India. It is said to be a period when chronology becomes definite. It was a period when chronology becomes definite. It was a period when politics, art, trade and commerce elevated India to a glorious height. A period of unification of the territories, which lay as fragmented kingdoms. Moreover, India contact with the outside world was established effectively during the period. The artistic remains of the Mauryan period come under the following heads.

Pillars and Sculpture

The best example is the Sarnath pillar the four lions standing back to back and the figure of four animals  (lion, elephant, horse and the bull) in relief on the abacus the inverted lotus and sacred Dharma Chakra (with 24 Spokes) – all indicate a highly advanced form of art.

Animals Represented on the Top of Asokan Pillars

Lauriya nandangarh : Single lion, row of Brahmagiri geese

Rampurva: Single lion a bull

  • Sankisa – An Elephant
  • Lauriya – Araraj – A Garuda or a Single lion
  • Koluha – Single lion
  • Sanchi Four lion set back to back
  • Sarnath – Four lion set back to back


  • The main purpose of building a Stupa was to enshrine some relics of Buddha or some great Buddhist monk. The best example of the Stupa is the Stupa at Sanchi.
  • He enlarged the stupa of Kanakamana a “former Buddha”


  • The caves primarily served as residence for monks or churches and assembly halls.
  • Caves in Barabar hills are the finest examples.
  • Lomas Rishi and Sudama Caves were denoted by Ashoka to Ajivikas.


  • Excavations have revealed a Royal Palace in ruined condition near Kumrahar.

Terracotta Objects

  • Mother Goddesses in clay have been discovered at Ahicchatra. They are found commonly at sited extending from Pataliputra to Texila.
  • Terracotta of Mauryan Period consists of primitive idols or images, votive reliefs with deties, toys, dice, ornaments and leads.

Folk Art

  • The examples include Yaksha of Parkhram, Chamargrahini of Didarganj, and Yakshini of Besnagar. These statues are made of stone.

Significance of Mauryan rule

  • The emblem of  Indian Republic has been adopted  from, the Lion Capital of Ashokan pillar at Sarnath.
  • Many Gurukuls and Budhdhist monasteries (Taxila and Bannras) developed with royal patronage.
  • Literary development: e.g., Arthashastra (Kautilya) ; Kalpasutra (Bhadrabahu) ; Kath Vatthu (Buddhist text); Bhagwati Sutra, Acharanga Sutra and Dasavalik (Jain Text)

Major Rock Edicts – Content

1st Major Rock Edicts

  • Prohibition of animal sacrificance and holding of festive gatherings.
  • Killing of three animals (two peacock and deer) in the royal kitchen

2nd Major Rock Edicts

  • Mentions the land of Chola, Pandyas, Satyaputras and Keralaputras.
  • Social welfare measures
  • Medical treatment for men and animals, construction of roads, wells, trees planting etc.

3rd Major Rock Edicts

  • Liberality towards  Brahmans and Sramanas.
  • Respect to mother and father, friend and relatives.etc
  • The officers such as Yuktas, Rajjukas and Pradesikas to go on tour every five years, in order to instruct people in Dhamma . Such tours referred to as “Anusamyana” (tour of inspection).

4th Major Rock Edicts

  • It speaks about the successful results achieved by the  practice of Dhamma in society and its impact in the creation of harmony.

5th Major Rock Edicts

  • Appointment of Dhamma- Mahamattas for the first time  in the 12th years of his reign. These special officers were appointed by the king to look after the interests of all sects and religions and spread the message of Dhamma.
  • Mention of the Greeks and other people of the west (Kambojas, Gnadharas, Rishikas, Pitinikas etc).
  • Promotion of the welfare of prisoners and release of those who have children’s, afflicted or are aged.
  • Welfare of prisoners and release of those of other relatives

6th Major Rock Edicts

  • Instruction to Dhamma Mahamattas to bring their report to the king any time
  • Speedy and efficient administration and transaction of smooth business.
  • King’s idea of promoting happiness and welfare of the whole world.
  • King’s wishes that his ideals of kingship should be followed by his successor.

7th Major Rock Edicts

  • Plea for toleration amongst all the sects. King wishes that all men should develop self-control, purity of mind, gratitude and firm faith.

8th Major Rock Edicts

  • Mentions of the Ashoka visit to Bodhi tree. Mentions of  Dhammayatras in place of pleasure tours to promote general welfare of the people.

9th Major Rock Edicts

  • Attacks expensive and meaningless ceremonies performed and pass a censure against ceremonies observed by wives and mother. Asoka instead lays stress on the practices of Dhamma.
  • The Girnar version states that the gift of Dhamma is emphasized as one through which heaven can be gained
  • Regard for slaves and servants, respect for teachers, restrained behaviour towards living beings, and donation to Brahmanas and Sramanas

10th Major Rock Edicts

  • The king desire fame and glory only to the extent that his people may obey Dhamma and follow the way prescribed in it.

11th Major Rock Edicts

  • Further explanation of the policy of Dhamma.
  • Respect to elders, abstaining from killing animals and liberality towards friend and relatives. Good behaviour towards son and servant, obedience towards mother and father, and generosity towards Sramanas and Brahmanas.

12th Major Rock Edicts

  • Appeal towards toleration among sects

13th Major Rock Edicts

  • Largest Ashoka’s edict and is of paramount importance in understanding the Ashoka’s policy of Dhamma.
  • Pleads for conquest by Dhamma instead of war.
  • Mentions of the Kalinga war and the king’s remorse over the war and mass killing and his subsequent adoption of Dhamma.
  • Mention names of five Greek kings – Antiochus,Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas and Alexander.
  • Mention names of a number of tribes within the territory of the empire.
  • Mention of Cholas and Pandyas.

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One response to “The Mauryan Art”

  1. Akash says :

    Respected sir/ma’am, i wish to know whether Mauryan Art was anywhere covered/ discussed in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper between the time interval of Sept 1 , 2014 and Till Present date.


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