(3rd century B.C. to 8th century A.D.)

General introduction of art Mauryan, shunga, Kushan, gandhara, and Mathura style and Guptas period)


Maurya art encompasses the art produced during the period of king Ashoka. he was the first emperor to rule over most of the Indian subcontinent. Indian art had undergone an important transition during his period as his stone came into use in place of wood. The royal art was patronized by him. he built pillars stupas and caves.

The elaborately carved animal on Ashoka pillar are the best-known works and among the finest is the lion capital of Ashoka from sarnath, as it is now the national emblem of India. Mauryan art had both court and popular art. court art is represented by the pillars and their capital. Popular rt is represented by its works of the local sculptors like (Chauri) whisk – bearer from Didar Ganj.

These pillars were carved in two type of stones some were  of the spotted red and white sandstone from the region of Mathura  , the others were of buff colored fine grained  hard sandstone usually with small black spots quarried in chunar near Varanasi. The uniformity of the style in the pillar capital suggests that  they all were sculpted  by craftsman from the same region .they were given  a fine polish characteristic of Mauryan sculpture .these  pillars were mainly   erected in the gangetic plains . they were inscribed  withn edicts of Ashoka  on dhamma or righteousness.


The gandhara school art flourished under Kushan emperor in the 2nd century A.D. according to hinayana ,the making of buddha image is prohibited ,like charan paduka (foot gears) and other symbols to propagate his religion and existence. The  Mahayana  religion came up in the reign of king Kanishka ,the great Kushan ruler. He started  the creation of bhagwan buddha’s image  and became the great patron of  gandhara art . there was a definite effect of Greek art on these  statues . these  statues were mostly  prepared at Peshawar , Rawalpindi  and Takshila ;on the whole this area was known as gandara the art of this period was named as  gandhara school, of art .






THEME: A sculpture of four lions standing back to back on an elaborate base that includes other animals. It was adopted as the national emblem of India in 1950.

DESCRIPTION: the sarnath lion capital the crowning piece of monolithic  Ashokan pillar was built in the 3rd century B.C. at the deer park in sarnath the outskirts of Varanasi . here buddha had preached his first sermon  after gaining the enlightment  and set the wheel  of law in motion dharma chakra pravaratana.

The capital made of polished sandstone  is more than two meters  7ft in height. It comprises of four roaring lions placed back to back on a round slab called abacus. The abacus is supported by a bell shaped inverted lotus base .on the side of the abacus  are carved four animals  lion ,elephant, bull and horse moving  in a clockwise manner. These animals carved with great skill alternate with four smaller dharma chakras  or wheels of law.

It is believed that the capital was originally crowned by a bigger ‘wheel of dharma’ dharmachakra  with 24 spokes  the broken pieces of which were found at the original site.the four lions   on top are highly symbolic and stylized  with very little hint of naturalness.this is clear in the hair carved along the neck  as a little flame  shaped bunches  and upper lip of the lions  shown by three cut lines . the magnificent modeling gives  them a great power  and dignity. Surprisingly  compared  to the majesty of of lions the animal on the round the bare  are done with great  naturalistic energy and are defined  carefully.petas of the lotus  have rhythmically  cut curves and contours .the surface of these pillars  has a mirror like finish.it Laos reveals the  aristocratic and international nature of the Mauryan art.

The great symbolism of the greatest Buddhist  virtues along with the great masterly  skill of sculpting of this piece  of art deserved to be  a national identity of great nation.






THEME:  a life size sculpture of yakshi holding a chauri.

DESCRIPTION: The statues  of yaksha and yakshis  the deities of fertility  and  abundance are excellent  specimens of  the Mauryan craftsmanship in fashioning the  human figure . the yakhsi from the Patna museum  is a striking example of 3rd century   created by a gifted sculptor .

The Didar Ganj Chauri bearers is named so because it was excavated from Didar Ganj an ancient locality of Patna in Bihar.it is beautiful female figure carved out of a single piece of stone standing 64” 5ft 4 inches tall. This classic life size sculpture was carved in the five grained buff colored sandstone delicately polished to a mirror like shine. though massive and bold in its execution this is a grand portrayal of the Indian ideal of feminine beauty. the careful attention to the detail is visible in the notable breasts, broad hips narrow waist and the creases on the lower abdomen  formed due to the weight of her breasts  the figure is wearing  elaborate jewelry in the neck  ears and the beaded matha patti  with a big round piece in the  center of hair partition at the forehead. There is a heavy garment below her waist draped elegantly with folds and pleats gathered in front. the pleats are neatly held in place by a beautiful in place and delicate jewel oddiynam .the most remarkable feature of the sculpture  apart from the shiny  polish is the peaceful and calm expression of her face .her composure creates  a powerful impact of rare and royal dignity.this beautiful didarganj  chauri bearer is a proud  symbol of Indian  artistic genius. It is considered the monalisa  of Indian art because of “the mysterious  half smile on her face.





SIZE:27.5 X20 X15cms.


THEME: A fine museum  quality schist stone head of Bodhisattva  in a thoughtful expression  carved with well defined features.

DESCRIPTIONS: in this Bodhisattva head the face is in oval shape  and is tilted to its right. The forehead plane is large having protruding half closed eyes downcast beneath arched brows. He has full lips, long straight nose, round chin and elongated earlobes. The hair forming the ushnisha are thick and curly covering the head with sharp wavy linear strokes. The small urna in the middle of the brow arches is carefully added to complete the iconography. the two arches of the eyebrows are smoothly meeting the outline of soft protruding areas of nose. the lips have a delicate smile of contentment and eyes are carved in soft rhythmic line. The slight ups and downs of the facial features give a sharp shade and light to the face.

The most striking feature of this sculpture is the I fluence of Greco – roman -Hellenistic elements in the treatment of sculpture giving it an Apollo like representation.it is a fusion of physical feature of the Greco-Roman sculpture with Indian expression of serene spirituality. A large number of buddha images are found in the gandhara region. this mixture of indigenous elements in gandhara distinguishes it from other   schools of art.



PERIOD:3rd century A.D.



THEME: Buddha seated in padmasan with Bodhisattva on both sides.

DESCRIPTION: This Kushan sculpture height 27X1/4-inch 69 cm. Was found at the katra mount at Mathura.

Buddha has two crowned Bodhisattva attendants on both sides padmapani holding a padma lotus and vajrapani holding a vajra thunderbolt. He is dressed as true Indian as a transparent muslin garment sangheti that covers only one shoulder and gathered in small stringed folds along the upper left arm.this feature of gathered transparent textile  also seen on the two Bodhisattva  figure is a distinctive characteristics of Mathura.

 Buddha is seated as a yogi in padmasan as crossed leg pose with soles turned upwards on lion throne under a bodhi tree. The face has a smiling friendly expression like all other Mathura Buddhas the buddha is backed by a large decorated   halo carved on the edges and decorated with simple motifs. He is attended by heavenly beings called gandharvas placed diagonally above the halo bearing whisks. The Abhay mudra of the right hand and the other angled arm resting on his knee gives an air of movement. there are no wavy impressions of hair on the head like most of the later buddha only a snail shell like knot on the head ushnishas .other lakshnas like  urna on the   forehead  between the eyebrows the wheel on the palm  and soles on the feet are clearly represented.

 Mathura sculpture from this period have light volume but a fleshy body.the beauty in the flexibility of delicately carved curves and contours give them an earthy look.the face is round with fleshy cheeks and shoulders are broad. the swell of the belly is sculpted with the quality of prana  or inner breath in the figure. The flying Gandharans give a spiritual importance to the sculpture. the lion throne has three lions carved in relief the one in center facing the front and the two on sides facing away from each other . the earliest style at Mathura Kushan ultimately led to the development of the supreme Buddha icon in the Guptas period.

The flying gandharvas give a spiritual importance to the sculpture. the lion throne has three lions carved in relief the one in center facing the front and the two on side  facing   away from each other . the details are minimal but the liveliness   in the figure makes it unique. this sculpture is an excellent early example of an entirely Indian buddha. The earliest style at Mathura Kushan   ultimately led to the development of the supreme Buddha icon in the Guptas period







DESCRIPTION: the main Jain deities consist of twenty four tirthankaras, the first being rishabhnath and the last Mahavir

. this image of swami Mahavira the 24th Tirthankara found in Mathura is seated   on a square pedestal in a meditative mood. This statue of Jain tirthankara in Dhyana mudra with one hand at the top and the other is made in the Buddhist and Jain style of Kushan period.

As taught by lord Mahavir, tri-ratna the three gems of action which are faith righteous action and truthful words free a man from the circle of life sized sensitively modeled sculpture with a gentle peaceful expression beneath bow shaped brows. the eyes with an intense spiritual gaze, the hair   arranged in snail shell curls rising to a lotus ushnisha complete this sculpture.







THEME :  Buddha preaching the first sermon  and turning the wheel of law  at the deer park in sarnath .

DESCRIPTION : Sarnath was  the most glorious site  of Buddhist sculpture in the gupta period ( C.E 320-550) where  Buddha gave his first sermon  in the deer park and set  the wheel of law in motion.

The Buddha sits in lotus position -PADMAASAN  with his hands in dharmchakra  pravartan mudra , the gesture of preaching  or ‘turning the law of wheel’ . the half closed eyes are those  of withdrawn meditation  in a thoughtful mood  but his hands are active  to bring his message to the world .

The sculpture has illustrated  all possible metaphors of  Buddhist iconography  – bow like eyebrows  ,lotiform ( lotus  bud shaped ) eyes and long earlobes.the buddha has an oval face  , round cheeks  fishey lips and heavy lidded half closed eyes  in a yogic gaze. This is a typical gupta buddha  with high arched eyebrows  and a bulging power lip  smiling gently at all humans .the body is slim and slightly elongated .the neck is carved with two lines indicating skin folds.the ouline  of the form is delicate and rythymic . the tight snail shell  curls on his heads  to form ushnisha are well finished .

 The panel below the throne depicts  a wheel in center  and a deer on either side disciples . the rear slabs below the halo represents the throne  decorated  on both sides with  mythical beasts and crocodile heads. The richly  decorated  halo is another special feature  of the art of the  gupta figure . the wide , artistically decorated  with floral motifs  between two circles of  pearl string like  carving has a flying  gandharva on each side . this gives his face  more emphasis  and adds on to the spiritual calmness.



Ajanta caves is the most famous UNESCO  world heritage site  and protected by archeological  survey of india . the frescoes  of ajanta are painting  in the ancient rock – cut caves  site , which is located in Aurangabad  district of Maharashtra  state 60 kms  away from Jalgaon  railway station . the art temples  of ajanta depicts  various emotions  and practices like love , patience , worship , sacrifice , sympathy and peace  in the form of architecture  ,sculpture and painting .

The bright history  of Indian paintings starts from  the wall of paintings  of ajanta frescoes and it is known as the  golden period  of art .

 Time – 50 A.D.  to 500 A.D. was the period of change  in religious situations in the country .

The common  man was tired of rigid religious  caste system as  and there was a general desire  to break free from restrictions  and to adopt  new universal religion . the Buddha and Mahavira swami enlightened people as former founded Buddhism and later came up with the cult of Jainism.

 Samrat Ashoka the follower of lord Buddha built stupas or chaityas and viharas for the Buddhist bhikshukhs .in viharas monks used to live and worshiped  in chaityas . the stories of past lives  of Buddha known as  jatak stories  were painted  in Bagh caves  and Ajanta caves.


This holy pilgrimage  of Indian paintings is situated  in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra  state from the railway station of Jalgaon ,pahur  and Aurangabad , there are bus routes  up to fardapur . there is a river bagora  at the distance of four miles  from the fardapur  which has so many  curves and on the last  curve of the river one can  see the Ajanta caves . there is a hillock  about 300 feet high in a crescent  moon formation or  in a horse shoe  nail formation which  seems like a natural place .these are the art temples  of ajanta  where the example   of love  patience , patience , worship , sacrifice , sympathy and peace  in the form of architecture  ,sculpture and painting. the beauty of calm  atmosphere  of this place give inspiration  to the Buddha bhikshus.  Art of  the painting  of  ajanta  has reached to its climax  due to the atmosphere . from October to December  the natural beauty of this  place  is  at the peak .


The caves are carved  out of the large rocks . there are  in total 30 caves in ajanta . previously  29 caves  were known and 30 cave is  very  small and incomplete . latter is the smallest cave  in which some scenes  of buddhas life has been  inscribed  and some statues  of Buddha are also there .

The caves are of two types :

  1. Chaitya or stupa caves :these were the places of worships  and religious discussions caves no. 9,10,19,26 and 29 are chaitya caves.
  2. Vihara caves or living caves : they were the living places  for Buddha bhikshus . cave no. 1 to 8 , 11 to 18 then 20 to 28 and 30th

Cave no.29 is the best stupa cave . cave no.1  otherwise is the best cave  and is the  21 feet long  and the most beautiful . the hand made paintings  were done in all the caves  but now they are visible only  in the  cave  no. 1,9,10,11,16 and 17. The paintings of other remaining caves have perished over  the years . the 9th and 10th  caves are supposed  to be the oldest ones   paintings of cave no. 8,12 and 13 have almost vanished  11th and 13th caves  were built in 500 A.D. 

Now only caves 1,2,9,10,11,16,17,19 and 21 have got some paintings but 17th cave has got  maximum number of paintings . however 9th and 10th caves were the oldest ones.

Technique of Ajanta frescoes and murals

Ajanta  frescoes  were done in tempera style .frescoes are paintings  which are done on wet plaster  in which colors become fixed  as the plaster dries  and is directly done on the walls and ceilings  of ajanta caves . ajanta murals are  well sized painting  done on any surface  but fixed on a wall.

Colors of Ajanta

Ajanta artist use only limited colors which were prepared from locally available pigment; natural white colors was prepared from lime or chalk stone, blue from Neel (indigo) trees yellow from pevady , red from red ruddle  ,yellow color from arsenic . rest all the colors used in Ajanta paintings were mixture of red, blue, yellow and white. black color was made from burning the mustard in the oil lamp.

Subject matter of Ajanta painting        

we find different aspects of life painted in Ajanta caves. lonely life of village, luxury life of cities, beggar, fisherman, fighting soldiers, hunters, bull fight, birds and animals etc.  are the specialties of Ajanta paintings.  The whole religious and philosophical life has been depicted in the background of these figures. Also themes of court life, feasting processions, men and women at work, festivals, various natural scenes including animals, birds and flowers have been depicted. the artist use shading to give 3D effect. Similarly, at Bagh caves ,150km away to the north of Ajanta, beautiful frescoes have been found. though the themes in these paintings are both secular and religious they do depict some aspect of Buddhist life and rituals. One of the most famous paintings shows a procession of elephants. another depicts a dancer and women musicians. these have been influenced by Ajanta style of paintings.

According to the scholars the paintings of Ajanta can be divided into three parts as regard to subject matter.

They are: – (1) ornamental (2) emotional or expressive (3) descriptive

The first  category includes  animals , birds  , flowers ,creepers, giants ,divine people ,snakes , gandharv, apsaras , garuda and yaksha

Buddha and Bodhisattva, king and queen, Buddha in different pose, his birth, death and divine events of his life come under the second category.

Third category consists of jataka stories which are maximum in number.

Characteristics of Ajanta painting

1.LINEAR BEAUTY: The line drawing has added great charm to Ajanta paintings and there’s a beautiful expression of emotion through line art. The pressure of the brushes creates the desired effect and adds additional charm to the paintings. the lines are powerful, flexible thick and thin according to the requirement. the shades of lines are different varying from red to the dark brown and then black.

2.EXPRESSION OF SENTIMENTS: The expression of emotion and thoughts is the soul of Ajanta paintings. composition gaiety, friendship, worship, request and restlessness have been beautifully depicted. human emotions like love, shyness, sorrow, fear, courage, anger, hate, strain and beauty have been vey successfully depicted in the Ajanta art.

3.DEPICTION OF WOMEN: Women symbolizes the beauty and the Ajanta artist have made them look graceful, polite and divine and also as goddess of art, mostly women are painted half nude but there is no vulgarity.

4.DECORATION ON ROOF :The roofs of ajanta  caves are also very beautiful decorated. animals , birds lotus ,god  and goddesses have been used in lovely decoration . the specialty in this decoration is that in spite of the limited means  available in the dark caves  and working in dim lights the artist didn’t compromise with the quality of work .

5.COLOR SCHEME: -The use of  limited colors in  creating a different color scheme  is the originality of ajanta paintings ,and moreover  the retention of brightness in color for about 2000 years is another  great feature .he whole painting has been done by gerua (ruddle ),neel ( blue color ),chalk and lime for white color and pavedy yellow ruddle for yellow color.

6.TYPES OF LIFE : Divine and common ,both the lives have been beautifully depicted in Ajanta art .royal and rural ,both scenes have been painted well.

Unit – 3

Temples Sculptures Bronze and Artistic Aspects of Indio-Islamic Architectures

Unit – 1

Prehistoric Rock Painting and Indus Valley Civilization