Architecture in India

India can proudly claim to be the only country in the world having the oldest and continued history of art in all possible artistic manifestations – architecture, sculpture, painting, etc. From the Mauryan (3rd century B.C) to Modern times, India has more than two thousand years long history of art. Indian art forms are classified on the basis of their religious contents – Buddhist, Brahmanical. Jain and secular and on the regional patterns such as the Dravidian, Nagar, Visar and in Chronological order – Maurya, Shunga, Kusana, Gupta, Pallava, Chola styles etc. The ancient Indian architecture is broadly classified on the basis of techniques of construction – rock-out or masonry. Similarly sculptures may be of stone or metals – particularly of bronze. The history of Indian paintings begins form the Ajanta wall-paintings. The later schools of paintings are arranged on the chronological and regional patterns – the Mughal, Rajputs, Pahadi and their sub-regional variations such as Jaipur, Kota, Kishangarh, Bundi, Kangra, Bashaoli schools etc.


  • Mauryan rulers Chandra Gupta Maurya & his grandson Ashoka built palaces in capital “Patliputra”.
  • Patliputra was made as capital of Magadhan Kingdom by King Udayin. He was the son of Ajatshatru.
  • Patliputra was originally a village called “Patligrama” Ajatshatru fortified it.
  • Before Patliputra, Magadhan capital was Rajgriha/Rajgi/Vasumati.
  • Patliputra was located at the confluence (merging) of 3 rivers that is Ganges, Son & Punpun. It was famously known as “water fort” (“Jaldurga” – Ancient time).
  • Patliputra was also known as Kusumpura & Kusum Dhwaja because of Kumsum flowers.
  • In Greek records, it was mentioned as “Palibothra”.
  • During medieval time, Shershah Suri built a fort here.
  • In 1740, it was renamed as “Azimabad” by Md. Azam, the grandson of Aurangzeb.
  • Patliputra served as capital for Indian Empire from 4th century BC to 6th century AD.
  • After 6th century AD when Patliputra lost its political significance. (Its place was taken away by Kannauj).
  • There was famous Buddhist monastery to Patliputra & this was destroyed by Turkish invader (ruler) during early part of 13th century AD.
  • Patliputra was also known as “Patna” as well because famous temple of Patan Devi is locates here.

Palace of Chandra Gupta Maurya

  • Chandra Gupta Maurya founder of Maurya dynasty built a palace in woods at Patliputra.
  • Megasthanes (Ambassador of Bactrian king Selucus Nicator) wrote in detail about magnificence about this palace. In his book ‘Indicia’. This book is not available at present but their references are found in later Greeko-Roman works such as “Indica Arian” & “Various histories Aelian”.
  • According to Megasthanes, palace of Chandra Gupta Maurya was far magnificent than. Persian palaces of king Darian seen by him at Susa, Ecbatana, Persipolis (All located in Iran).
  • Darrius was great ruler of Persia in 6th century BC.
  • This wooden palace was perhaps burnt down by palace as revealed by 30 cm thick layer of ash.

Palace of Ashoka

  • Ashoka built palace in stone in Patliputra. This palace was perfect replica of wooden palace build by his grandfather.
  • This palace builds on same spot where wooden palace was standing because 30 cm thick layer of ash produced by burning wooden palace found beneath it.
  • Details of Ashokan palace are known from archaeological excavation & literary reference.
  • Archaeologist D.B. Spooner carried out excavation during 1912-15 & discovered remains of stone palace at Kumarahar. (Located in Patna).
  • He found 72 pillars, 8 pillars were found later by K.P. Jayswal during 1951-55.
  • This palace was famous for its massive pillared hall having 80 pillars.
  • These pillars were monolithic. There height is more than 12 meters (9.75 m above the ground & 2.75 m inside the ground).
  • These pillars were gloosy polished.
  • The pillars are carved out Chunar (Mirzapur, district, U.P).
  • This center pillared hall of palace was used for holding court meetings & public audiences (Audience Hall).
  • The 3rd Buddhist council organized during reign of Ashoka was held in this hall.
  • This stone palace of Ashoka was used by later dynasties as well up to 6th century AD.
  • The Chinese traveler Fi Hien was amazed by beauty of this palace. He explained that this palace was work of spirit (made by God).
  • Fi-Hien wrote that Royal palace & halls which located in middle of city exists since the age of Ashoka who employed spirit in construction of palace. Its magnificence & elegance could have never been work of human beings.
  • Fi-Hien visited India during 399 AD – 415AD. He wrote a book titled as “Fu Kyo Ki”.

In this book Fi-Hien wrote detailed about socio-cultural, economic life in India. He didn’t mention name of Gupta King (Chandra Gupta II Vikramaditya) but he wrote that this king was having 2 capitals (Ujjain).

  • Pillars & other remains of this palace are preserved in Patna Museum. This museum is being renovated at present by Japanese support.


Forts of Harappan City

  • The earliest evidence of fort comes from Harappan City. The archaeological excavation carried out at Harappan cities has revealed that it was built by using Earth, Stone, and bricks.
  • Harappan cities were generally divided into two parts – lower town & upper town. The upper town was also known as Citadel.
  • At Surkotada & Kalibanga (Rajasthan), even the lower town was fortified.
  • At Chanhudaro (Sind), there was no fort.
  • This fort was used as defensive wall by Harappan to protect themselves from Flash/sudden flood, wild animals and attacks of others.
  • The gate of fort was manned by guards. There was provision of lightening as well.
  • During the last phase of Harappan cities, some gates of fort were closed permanently as indicated by evidences found at Harappa.
  • This was probably a response to some kind of serious threat faced by Harappan towns & cities.

Fort of Mauryan Age

  • According to Megasthanese, city of Patliputra was surrounded by wooden Palisade (wall). This wall was having 64 gates and 570 watch towers. It appears that the fort was well defended because soldiers used to stand in watch tower with bows & arrows.
  • According to Megasthanese, there was massive Moat (pit) of 60 feet deep & 200 feet wide outside fort.
  • Archaeological excavation carried out by A. Waddell during 1890’s & J.A. Page (1920’s) has discovered the remains of this wooden fort at Bulandibag & Gosainkhanda (Located both in Patna).

Buddhist Art

The history of Indian art begins with the Buddhism. The founder of the Buddhist art in India was the greatest Maurya ruler Ashoka. The Buddhist art is represented in the forms of the Stupas, the Viharas, the Chaityas and the images of Buddha in various postures and the stories of his life engraved on the stone slabs.


Stupa Architecture

  • The 1st reference of word ‘stupa’ is found in Rigveda where the terms is used to referred fare coming out of Altar (Hawan). It was not for any structure as such.
  • Stupa architecture commenced in 5th century BC when Mahatma Buddha died, Stupa architecture is an example of Buddhist architecture. Stupas were worshiped by Buddhist before the tradition of image worship commenced.
  • Stupas were built over relics of Buddha & Bodhisattva.
  • Bodily remains / items used by Buddha or Bodhisattva were placed in Hermika where stupa was build.
  • Stupa symbolized death / transience of world.

Types of Stupas

  • Stupas broadly divided into 5 types known as-
  • Relic stupa
  • Object stupa
  • Commemorative
  • Symbolic
  • Votive
  • Relic stupas was built on bodily remain (both hair and bone etc.) of Buddha or Bodhisattva.
  • These stupas considered to be most sacred.
  • Object stupas built on object / items used by Buddha / Bodhisattva. These could be bagging bow / sandle etc.
  • Commemorative stupas were built on memory of important event associated with life of Buddha / Buddhism such as-
  • In memory of when Buddha leaving home (Mahabhinish Karmna)
  • Buddha attaining enlightenment (Nirvana)
  • Buddha delivering 1st Sermana (Charmachakra parivartana).
  • In memory of Buddha’s death (Mahapaninirvana).
  • Symbolic stupas were built to symbolize the invisible presence of Buddha.
  • Since Buddha was God, he was supposed to be present everywhere. These stupas didn’t necessarily have relics.
  • Votive stupas were erected at place of Pilgrimage or near main stupas.
  • These are small in size when compared with normal stupa. These were erected by devout Buddhist / committee Buddhist to earn religious merit. These were also constructed for sake of name & fame by rich people.
  • Piprahva stupa (location – Siddhartha Nagar district, UP) is an example of Relic stupa.
  • Peshawar stupa erected by Kanishaka is an example of Object stupa which is erected on bagging bowl.
  • Dharmarajjika stupa erected by Ashoka at Sarnath is example of commemorative stupa.
  • Symbolic stupa found in allover India example Sanchi, Sarnath.
  • Votive stupa found at Bodh Gaya, Lumbini, and Sarnath & Kushinagar etc.

Salvation – Upanishadic / Hindu / Brahmanism concept soul

Nirvana – counter part of salvation by Jaina / Buddha – Buddha didn’t believe in soul.

Pagoda – term used for temple.

Example of Stupa Architecture

  • According to Buddhist text, Mahaparinibbana Sutta at the death of Buddha, he was cremated at Kushinagar & 8 great stupas were erected by 8 rulers of age over the remains of Buddha.
  • These 8 stupas were erected by-
  • King Ajatshatru at Magadha at Rajgirha.
  • By Lichhavi of Vaishali at Vaishali
  • Sakyas of Kapilvastu at Kapilvastu
  • By buliyas of Allakappa (Nepal Terai)
  • By Koliyas of Ramagrama
  • By Mallas of Pavapur at Pavapur
  • By Mallas of Kushinagar at Kushinagar.
  • By Moriyas at Pipplavana (Siddhartha Nagar, UP).
  • These 8 original stupas were opened by Ashoka & their relics were distributed into 84 thousands stupas build by him as informed by Buddhist text Avadana sutta.
  • Emperor Ashoka was great patron of Buddhism. He was follower of Shaivism before embracing Buddhism. Buddhism adopted by him after Kalinga war (Not immediately, after some year). He was converted into Buddhism by Mogaliputta Tissa.

According to some Buddhist text an 8 year Buddhist monk named Nigrodha converted Ashoka into Buddhism.

  • Ashoka build 84 thousands stupas as per the Buddhist text, the prominent one were located at Sanchi, Sarnath, Bharhut, Taxila, Amaravati & Tamralipati.
  • Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang saw Ashokan stupa at Kapisha (Afghanistan), Tampralipti, Pundravardhana, Karnasuvarna & Samatata (last 4 in Bengal).
  • During reign of Ashoka, the stupas were built in bricks (Hemisphere was covered with bricks) & the railing was made up of wood.
  • During post Mauryan age large numbers of stupas were built under the patronage of Kushanas, Satavahanas Ishavakus & Vakataka.
  • Kushanas ruled over modern Afghanistan, Punjab & Northern plains up to Mathura.
  • Satavahanas ruled over Deccan. At one time even Sanchi (North of Vindhyas) was under their control.
  • Ishavakus & Vakataka emerged after decline of Satavahanas kingdom in Deccan.
  • During Gupta period stupas building activities lost significance. Stupa architecture got replaced by Nagara style temple architecture.
  • Dhamekh stupa of Sarnath is the only example of stupas of Gupta Age (build by Agnimitra).

Details of Prominent Stupa

Piprahva Stupa

  • It was discovered by William Claxton Peppe in 1898.
  • He was an officer of British Indian government. He was owner of land where stupa was located. One day while he was working in his field, he came across relics of stupa. Further excavation discovered many parts of stupas
  • Piprahva stupa is considered to be oldest surviving / definitely known Buddhist stupas.
  • Discovery includes 5 small vases (pot) containing ash & jewels.
  • One of vase contains inscription that reads that ash belongs to Mahatma Buddha.

Bharbut Stupa

  • Satna district, Uttar Pradesh.
  • It was discovered by Alexander Cunningham in 1873.
  • These stupas have got destroyed completely, only its fragments are available.
  • Remains of this stupa are kept in Kolkata, Varanasi, and London & Satna museum.
  • These stupas were originally built by Ashoka in bricks. The railing was made up of wood.
  • During Shunga, period, stone railings & Tornas were added.
  • One of Torna contains an inscription of Shunga king Dhanabhuti.

Amravati Stupa

  • Locations Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh.
  1. In Ancient time, Amravati known as Dhanyakataka & Dharnikota.
  • Ashoka built stupa here.
  • Another stupa was built during Satvahana period. This stupa is known as Mahachaitya.
  • Ashokan stupas were repaired by Satvahana king Pulameyi – II in 1st century AD. He erected stone railing around stupa.
  • The stupa – built by Ashoka is no more at present. Only its fragment kept in museum of Kolkata, Madras & London.
  • Amravati stupa discovered by Col. Colin Mackenzie in 1797. He was an officer of East India Company.
  • On basis of fragment of stupa seen by him he prepared the line diagram of Slab & images.
  • This stupa was excavated by Sir Water Elliot in 1840.
  • Ayaka pillar / Stambha was special feature of Amravati stupa.

Nagarjunkonda Stupa

  • Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh.
  • This stupa was discovered by A.H. Longhurst in 1826.
  • This stupa was built in 3rd century AD by Ikshavakus King Virpurusha Dutt.
  • Nagarjunkonda was capital of Ikshavakus. This name is based on name of famous. Buddhist monk Nagarjuna he was born here. Earlier this place was known as Vijay Puri.

Sanchi Stupa

  • Raisen district, Madhya Pradesh.

There 3 stupas at Sanchi, total number of monuments at Sanchi are 50.

  • Sanchi stupa discovered by Sir Herbert Taylor in 1818.
  • Major Col carried out research on Sanchi stupa 1888. He cleared forest near this stupa & erected fallen gateway/torna.
  • One of the three Sanchi stupas was built by Ashoka. It is known as “Mahastupa”.
  • These stupas were built in bricks & their railings were made up of wood originally.
  • It was destroyed almost completely by shunga King Pushymitra Shung. He was founder of Shunga dynasty & he was very strong anti-Buddhist. Buddhist monuments were raised to ground. He announced reward of 100 deenar on head of each Buddhist monk.
  • Agnimitra, the son & successor of Pushymitra restored Ashoka stupa destroyed by his father. This stupa was enlarged to almost double of its original size by adding layers of stone. The wooden railings were replaced with stone railing & Tornas.
  • Sanchi stupa located near Vidisha one of his queens – Devi was from Vidisha. She was daughter of merchant of Vidisha. Ashok married her when he was governor of Ujjain. Construction of Sanchi stupa was overseen by Queen Devi personally.
  • King Agnimitra built 2 new stupas at Sanchi as well.
  • Sanchi stupas were excavated by General Alexander Cunningham & Frederick Maisey in 1870’s.
  • They took away relics found at Sanchi stupa as personal trophy.
  • These relics were later sold to Victoria & Albert museum, London.
  • These relics were purchased by Shrilankan Buddhism society (Mahaparnibbana Sutta).

These were brought to back to India. A new structure was built to house / keep these remains at Sanchi known as Chaityagiri Vihara.

  • These relics belong to Sariputta & Mahamoggallana.
  • Sariputta was chief disciple of Buddha. He remembered each & every word whatever Buddha spoken in entire life. He used to explain word spoke by Buddha. He was raised as successor of Buddha but unfortunately died within Buddha’s lifetime.
  • Mahamoggallana was another important disciple of Buddha.
  • Sanchi monument included in world heritage site list of UNESCO in 1889.
  • The Sanchi stupa is considered to be one of finest piece of Buddhist art & architecture.
  • The image found on Sanchi stupa through light on Buddhism as well as contemporary life. These images depict Buddha in divine forms (Buddha is never represented in human form).
  • Symbols associated with Buddhism (Dharmachakra, Lotus, Horse & Elephants)
  • Folk deities like Yaksha & Yakshinis are depicted while worshiping Buddha. The significance of their depict lies in the fact that Buddha was portrait higher than folk deities. Through these depiction people convinced that Buddhism was superior to their religion. It was a way of spreading Buddhism.
  • Jatka stories (stories of previous life of Buddha) are also depicted in images.
  • Men, women, birds, animal throwing light on common man is also depicted.
  • Buddha was depicted while performing various types of miracle.
  • These images not only through light on Buddhism life of Buddha, life of common people of age but also these are finest pieces of art.

Chaitya- Place of Worship

  • A chaitya, chaitya hall, chaitya-griha, or chaitya refers to a shrine, sanctuary, temple or prayer hall in South Asian religions. The term is most common in Buddhism, where it includes a stupa at one end.
  • The chaitya is the stupa itself, and the Indian buildings are chaitya halls, but this distinction is often not observed.
  • Outside India, the term is used by Buddhists for local styles of small stupa-like monuments in Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia and elsewhere.
  • In the historical texts of Jainism and Hinduism, including those relating to architecture, chaitya refers to a temple, sanctuary or any sacred monument.
  • Most early examples of chaitya that survive are Indian rock-cut architecture. Scholars agree that the standard form follows a tradition of free-standing halls made of wood and other plant materials, none of which has survived.
  • The curving ribbed ceilings imitate timber construction. In the earlier examples, timber was used decoratively, with wooden ribs added to stone roofs.
  • At the Bhaja Caves and the “Great Chaitya” of the Karla Caves, the original timber ribs survive; elsewhere marks on the ceiling show where they once were. Later, these ribs were rock-cut. Often, elements in wood, such as screens, porches and balconies, were added to stone structures. The surviving examples are similar in their broad layout, though the design evolved over the centuries.
  • The halls are high and long, but rather narrow. At the far end stands the stupa, which is the focus of devotion.
  • Parikrama, the act of circumambulating or walking around the stupa, was an important ritual and devotional practice, and there is always clear space to allow this. The end of the hall is thus rounded, like the apse in Western architecture. There are always columns along the side walls, going up to the start of the curved roof, and a passage behind the columns, creating aisles and a central nave, and allowing ritual circumambulation or pradakhshina, either immediately around the stupa, or around the passage behind the columns.
  • On the outside there is a porch, often very elaborately decorated, a relatively low entrance way, and above this often a gallery. The only natural light, apart from a little from the entrance way, comes from a large horseshoe-shaped window above the porch, echoing the curve of the roof inside.
  • The overall effect is surprisingly similar to smaller Christian churches from the Early Medieval period, though early chaityas are many centuries earlier.

Vihara – Place of Residence

  • Vihara generally refers to a monastery for Buddhist renunciates. The term evolved into an architectural concept wherein it refers to living quarters for monks with an open shared space or courtyard, particularly in Buddhism. The term is also found in Ajivika, Hindu and Jain monastic literature, usually referring to temporary refuge for wandering monks or nuns during the annual Indian monsoons.
  • In modern Jainism, the monks continue to wander from town to town except during the rainy season (Chaturmas), the term “vihara” refers their wanderings.
  • Vihara hall has a more specific meaning in the architecture of India, especially ancient Indian rock-cut architecture. Here it means a central hall, with small cells connected to it sometimes with beds carved from the stone.
  • Some have a shrine cell set back at the centre of the back wall, containing a stupa in early examples, or a Buddha statue later.
  • Typical large sites such as the Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad Caves, Karli Caves, and Kanheri Caves contain several Vihara.
  • Some included a chaitya or worship hall nearby. The Vihara was originated to be a shelter for Monks when it rains.

Cave Architecture

  • In the history of Indian architecture, the rock cut cave architecture enjoyed a place of great significance because these monuments were out of live rock (stone is not separated from hill) over centuries. A craftsman cuts caves using primitive technology. They used only hammers & chisel manually. The level of refinement of cave architecture is of extremely high order.
  • The cave architecture flourished in North as well as South India. These monuments were patronized by rulers as well as private citizen. In fact that contribution of individuals as much more in progress of cave architecture.
  • The cave architecture of India transcends religious boundaries because these monuments belong to Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism. These are not limited to any particular religion.

Stone Age Caves

  • The earliest caves in India belong to Stone Age. Similarly, many caves have been found in Himalayas, Vindhyas & Western Ghats.
  • Bhimbetka caves located in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh are the finest example.
  • Caves of this age are natural. These were not cut by mankind.
  • These caves are simple without any ornamentation. They are almost in their natural state. Because of this architecture significance of this caves are negligible.

Mauryan Age Caves

  • For the 1st time during Mauryan Age, artificial / man-made caves emerged. These caves were cut during reign of emperor Ashoka & his grandson Dasharatha.
  • Four caves were cut during reign of Ashoka in Barabar hills (Gaya district, Bihar) & 3 caves were cut during reign of Dashratha in Nagarjuni hills (near to Barabar hills, Gaya district).
  • These caves were donated to monk of Ajivaka sect.
  • This sect was founded by Makkhaliputta Gosala (6th century BC), contemporary of Mahavir, both of them lived together for some time.
  • The caves located in Barabar hills are-
  • Lomas Rishi Cave
  • Sudama
  • Karna Chaupar
  • Visva Jhompri
  • Caves located in Nagarjuni hills are-
  • Vadithi Cave
  • Vapiya Cave
  • Gopi Cave
  • These caves are simple, rectangular rock cut halls. The roof & door way are semi-circular in some of the caves.
  • These caves comprise 21 chambers. The front & back chamber. The front portion was used for religious congregation & back chamber was used for residential purposes by the monks.
  • Interior walls & roofs are polished. This polish is very much similar to polish found on Ashokan pillar.
  • These worlds famous by M. Forster through his book “A passage to India” in which he described the glory of this age.

Post Mauryan Cave Architecture

  • The cave architecture witnessed most remarkable progress during post Mauryan age. Large number of caves was nut during this period in Eastern as well as western India.
  • Caves of this age are highly ornamented.
  • Curved pillars are found in these caves along the walls & at the entrance.
  • Floral, Geometrical design, animal images & human images were also used in range number.
  • Many of cave of this age have painting on their walls, roof & pillars.
  • Entrance to cave is also highly decorated.
  • For the 1st time multistoried cave were cut during this age.
  • Tradition of double story cave commenced at Karley & at Ajanta even triple storied caves were cut.

Caves in Eastern India

  • In Eastern India, cave architecture flourished in Odisha. A large number of caves are cut in Udaigiri – Khandagiri hills located near Bhuvneshwar.
  • These caves were cut during reign of king Kharvela (193 BC – 170 BC).
  • These caves belong to Jainism.
  • These are in form of Chaityas & Viharas.
  • Chaitya refers to place of worship & Vihara refers to place of residence of monks.
  • Viharas were also used as educational institutions.
  • There are 18 caves in Udaigiri hills & 15 in Khandagiri hills.
  • Prominent caves in Udaigiri hills are – Ranigumpha, Ganesh Gumpha, Rosai Gumpha, Hathi Gumpha, Sarpa Gumpha.
  • The most important cave in this is Ranigumpha, because its double storied monastery.
  • Hatigumpha cave contains an inscription of king Kharvela. This inscription describes the achievements of the king. It’s one of the most important inscription of ancient age. It informs that king Kharvela organized successful military campaign against Magadha Empire. He brought back image of Jaina from Magadha that was carried away by Mahapadamnanda, founder of Nanda dynasty (193-170 BC).
  • Prominent caves in Khandagiri hills are – Ambika Gumpha, Tentuli Gumpha, Ananta Gumpha & Tatowa Gumpha.

Caves in Western India

  • In Western India, large numbers of caves are cut in Maharashtra state in Western Ghat. These caves belong to Buddhism.
  • They are in form of Chaityas & Viharas. Buddhist Chaityas known as Layana/Lena in Sanskrit literature.
  • These caves are found at Karley, Nashik, Junnar, Pitatkhora, Bedsa, Bhaja, Kanheri, Kondana in Western India
  • Karley is located in Pune district.
  • One Chaitya & 3 Viharas are located here.
  • The Karley Chaitya is most beautiful among all Chaityas. It was cut byt Bhootpal Srehti (Banker) of Vaijanti in 2nd century AD during regin of Satvahana king Pulameyi II as informed by inscription found on walls of these Caityas.
  • Double story cave were cut for 1st time at Karley.
  • At Nashik there are 17 caves out of which one is Chaityas & 16 are Viharas.
  • These Chaityas are known as Pandulena. It is believed to be having used by Pandava. It was cut in 1st century AD.
  • This Chaitya has gallery of music. There are benches near stupa. It is believed that magician used to sit there for play instrument.
  • There are 130 caves at Junnar. It is largest cave complex in India.
  • Kanheri is located near Borivali, Mumbai. In ancient time it was known as Krishnagiri.
  • Bedsa caves & Kondana caves exhibit the influence of wooden architecture. The pillars used in these caves tapper (wider at bottom) from bottom to top.
  1. Bedsa is located in Poona district & Kondan is located in Raigarh district.
  • Pitalkhara – Kandesh district.
  • In Buddhist text Mahamayuri its mentioned as Petangalya (13 caves).
  • Ajanta caves begun to be cut during this age.

Ajanta Cave

  • There are 30 caves.
  • 29 are in finished state & 1 cave is incomplete.
  • Location – Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
  • These are Buddhist caves; there are 5 Chaityas & 25 Viharas. These caves were cut from 2nd century BC – 8th century AD over period of 1000 years. Craftsmen worked generation after generation to cut these caves. These craftsmen were patronized by local rulers & merchants passing through area.
  • Ajanta was located on main trade route connecting North India to ports of Western coast. The merchants used to stop at this place to take rest. They used to sit in company of Buddhist monk to get knowledge & donations were made by them for cuttings of Chaitya & Vihara.
  • Cave number 10 is oldest & number 26 is last among finished cave.
  • Cave number 16, 17, 19 belong to Gupta period.
  • Early caves belong to Hinayana & later caves belong to Mahayana.
  • Cave number 16 is most beautiful.
  • Cave number 16 & 17 were cut by Varahdeva. He was a feudatory (subordinate ruler) of Vakataka king Harisena (475-500AD). This information comes from inscription found on walls of caves.
  • The Ajanta caves were discovered by Captain John Smith in 189 AD. He was an officer with Madras army. While he was on hunting expedition. He came across these caves.
  • In 1824, James Alexander made the world aware about these caves. He published details of these caves in journal of Royal Asiatic Society.
  • Ajanta caves were included in UNESCO’s world Heritage site list in 1983.

Cave Architect during Gupta Age

  • Tradition of cave architecture continued during Gupta Age. Caves of this age are found at Ajanta, Bagha, Udaigiri & Mandargiri.
  • Cave 16, 17, 19 at Ajanta was cut during this age.
  • Bagha is located in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. There are 9 caves at this place. These were cut during Gupta Age.
  • These caves belong to Buddhism.
  • These were discovered by F. Danger field in 1818 AD.
  • Udaigiri caves are located near Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh. These caves belong to Vaishnvism & Shaivism.
  • Huge images of Vishnu in Varaha form are found at the gate of some Udaigiri caves.
  • Mandargiri caves are located in Bhagalpur district, Bihar. These caves belong to Jainism.

Post Gupta & Early Medieval Age

  • Caves of this age are found in peninsular India at Ellora, Elephanta, Badami/Vatapi & in Pallava Kingdom.

Ellora Caves

  • There are 34 caves at Ellora.
  • These caves belong to Buddhism, Jainism & Hinduism.
  • Cave number 1 to 12 belongs to Buddhism.
  • Cave number 13 to 29 belongs to Hinduism.
  • Cave number 30 to 34 belongs to Jainism.
  • These are cut during 600 – 1000AD. These extend to over distance of about 2 km.
  • Ellora caves are the finest example of religious tolerance & liberal progressive outlook of Ancient India because caves belonging to all 3 faiths were cut simultaneously. The followers of all 3 faith work prominently contemporary without any atomicity.
  • Cave number 10 is a Chaitya. This cave has multistory entrance & pillars at the gate.
  • Cave number 6 has images of goddess Tara & Mahamayuri
  • Mahamayuri was similar to Goddess Saraswati; she was goddess of learning on Buddhism depcted on peacock.
  • Cave number 12 & 11 are triple storied.
  • Cave number 11 – “Do Taa” – because initially only two stories were known, the 3rd story is in form of basement discovered in 1876.
  • Cave number 11 has the images of Goddess Durga & Ganesh along with Buddhist images.
  • Cave number 15 is known as Dashavtara temple. It is dedicated to God Vishnu. It appears that initially it was planned to be as Buddhist Vihara but later on it was development was Hindu temple. These caves have beautiful image of Nataraja along with various incarnation of Vishnu.
  • Cave number 16 is most prominent at Ellora. It’s known as Kailasha temple.
  • The cutting of this temple commenced in 760 AD during region of Rashtrakuta king Krishna I.
  • The work continued for the next 100 years.
  • Craftsman removed more than 2 lacs of material by using their primitive tools.
  • Its biggest monolithic structure in world. Its height is 36.6 meter, length is 84.1 m & width is 47 m.
  • These temples depict the abode of God Shiva in Kailash Mountain.
  • Large number of image of Shiva in different form, images of Nandi & Shiva symbol is depicted.
  • There were paintings on wall of this temple but most of these painting got damaged at present.
  • Kailash temple has been cut in Dravidian style though it if monolithic.
  • Cave number 21 is known as Rameshwar cave / temple. It is oldest among all caves. It has beautiful image of Ganga.
  • Cave number 22 is
  • Cave number 25 is known as Kamharadam. It contains beautiful image of Sun God in his Chanat at dawn time.
  • Cave number 29 is known as Dhumar leng. Its planning appear to be unusual, it’s in cross shape. It contain image of God Shiva in various form.
  • Cave number 30 is known as Chota Kailash because its designing is similar to Kailash temple.
  • Cave number 32 Indra Sabha. This cave has beautiful.
  • In ancient time Ellora was known as Elapura.
  • Included in World Heritage site list in 1983.

Elephanta Caves

  • It’s an Island located at 10 km of Mumbai coast.
  • Originally known as “Gharapuri”. The name elephant was given by portugese.
  • Portugese reached here in 1534. At that time there was huge image of elephant on this Island near coast looking toward sea. The name elephant was given because of this image.
  1. At present this image is located in Lawn of Bhau Dajilad museum. (Earlier knonw as Victoria & Elbert) museum at Bhaikula, Mumbai). This lawn is known as “Jijamata Udyan (Victoria Garden).
  • There are 7 caves at Elephanta. Out of these 5 are Hindu & 2 are Buddhist.
  • These caves were worshiped by local before established of Portugese control over the Island. The Portugese didn’t allowed locals to enter into caves.
  • Hindu caves are dedicated to God Shiva & Vishnu.
  1. Beautiful Shiva image in trimurti, Maheshmurti, Ardanarishwar & Uma – Maheshwar form are found in this cave.
  • These caves were cut during 5th century to 8th century AD.
  • These caves were included in UNESCO’s world Heritage Site list in 1987.

Badami Caves / Vatapi

  • These caves cut during reign of Chalukya during 6th& 7th Badami was capital of Chalukya. 8 Hindu & 1 Jaina caves are located here.

Pallava Cave

  • Pallava ruled in Tamil land with their capital at Kanchipuram from 4th century to middle of 9th
  • Cave architecture was patronized by King Mahendra Varmana 1 & Narasimha 1 in 7th
  • Mahendra Varmana 1 was great builder. His title was Chaityakari. He started tradition of cutting the caves.
  • Caves cut during his reign are found at Mahendravad & Pallavavaram (Tamilnadu)
  • Mahendra – Vishnugriha, Mandapa, located at Mahendravadi & Panchapandava Mandapa (Pallavavaram) are finest example of cave architecture belonging to reign of Mahendra Varmana 1.
  • These caves are known as Mandapas / cave temples. They represented Mahendra style of architecture (The 1st phase of Pallava architecture).
  • Caves cut during reign of Narsimha 1 are located at Mahabalipuram.
  • Adivaraha Mandapa & Ramanuja Mandapa are the finest examples.
  • These caves belong to Mamalla style of temple architecture (2nd phase of Pallava architecture) Mamalla was title of King Narsimhna 1.
  • The caves belonging to Mahendra style are less ornamented & much less refined when compared with the caves of Mamalla style.
  • The pillars cut in the caves of Mahendra style are smaller & thicker whereas the pillars cut in Mamalla style are higher, finely caved.
  • These caves are rectangular halls. The back wall has one or more rooms. These rooms were used by monks for residential purpose & halls used for religious gatherings & worship.
  • Rows of pillar were cut along the walls as well as in front of gate.
  • Images of door keepers were placed near the main gate of the cave on both sides.

Medieval India

Indo – Islamic Architecture

  • The establishment of Turkish rule in India marked beginning of new phase in history of Indian art & architecture because Turks brought Islamic style of architecture with them. This style was significantly different from traditional Indian architecture style.
  • Under patronage of Turko-Afghan & Mughal ruler’s large number of monuments was built in India. These monuments were both religious as well as secular.
  • Mosque and Tomb were the examples of religious monuments.
  • Palaces, forts, Sarai/Rest house – public and ponds (Hauj Khas/Hauz) were the example of secular monuments.
  • Stone was the most common material used in construction activities during medieval age.
  • Most of monuments of medieval age are an example of court art.

Essential Elements of Islamic Architecture

  • The Islamic architecture was characterized by use of arch, domes & minarets.
  • Arch was used in construction of doors, windows.
  • Dome was used in the construction of roof.
  • Minarets were constructed in four corners of building. At times these minarets used by Ulemas (Islamic priest) to give call for religious gathering. Normally these minarets were built only for ornamentation purposes.
  • This Islamic architecture is also known as “Arcuate style” of architecture.
  • The traditional Indian architecture characterized by use of columns and Beans, was known as “Trabeate style of architecture”.
  • For ornamentation purposes, calligraphy, Arabesque & colored marble stones were used in Islamic style.
  • The verses of Quran were inscribed on the wall & roof by suing a typical angular Arabic script known as “Kafi”.
  • In Arabesque, leapers & creepers were cut on stone.

Emergence of Indo-Islamic Architecture

  • From the very beginning the monuments built during medieval age exhibited Indian style of architecture in terms of ornamentation & various other components. This influence was outcome of assimilation of Indian elements with Islamic elements.
  • Geometrical designs & floral designs were adopted from Indian style in Islamic monument for ornamentation purposes.
  • From very beginning perforated wall (Jali) was used in Islamic monument. It was mainly used to separate from female compartment through court because through Jali ladies can see activities going in court. These also used for ventilation purposes.
  • During Mughal period Chhajja (projection), Jharokha (Balcony), Chhatri (Canopy) were adopted from Rajput architecture. Chhajja was used to prevent the rhe rain water entering from windows & door as well as keep rain water away from wall.
  • Jharokha was used by emperor for a Jharokha-i-Darshan. The emperor used to stand in balcony every morning to show his face, so that people could be sure that emperor was alive.
  • Chhatri was built on wall of fort commonly.
  • Assimilation of Indian element with Islamic architecture gave birth to Indo-Islamic architecture. This assimilation was outcome of both conscious & unconscious efforts.
  • During the initial phase Islamic monuments were built by converting the already existing Indian monuments because it was quite easy to convert temple into mosque. (Saraswati Bhojshala – converted into mosque – still image of Saraswati are present on mosque).
  • The Turks came to India as conquers, they didn’t bring mason (craftsman) with them because of this Turks had to employ – Indian mason who were habitual in Indian style. As result of this some Indian features used became part of Islamic monuments unconsciously.
  • The Mughal ruler like Akbar were liberal & progressive, they consciously adopted number of Indian elements in their monuments such as Chhajja, Jali, Jharokha, Chhatri. As result of this, process of assimilation of Indian Islamic monuments reached new heights.

Evolution of Indo-Islamic Architecture

  • In the early monuments, Corbelled arch was used.
  • Balbari’s tomb was 1st monument having “true arch”.
  • Early monuments were constructed by using the material from existing Indian monuments.
  • For the 1st time during Khilji period monuments were constructed on fresh material.
  • Jamat-i-Kahan mosque built by Allah-ud-din Khilji was 1st monument constructed by using material specially queried for the purpose.
  • During Khilji period, the bricks being to be placed as headers & stretchers in the wall. This improved stability & strength of the building.
  • The use of white marble increased with passage of time.
  • For the 1st time, white marble was used in upper panels of Kutub Minar.
  • In Alai Darwaja built by Ala-ud-din Khilji white marble used on larger scale.
  • In Humayun’s tomb (Delhi), for the 1st time white marble used in large scale (Biggest Mughal Graveyard).
  • Taj Mahal was built entirely in white marble.
  • Quadrangular (4 side) design was used in early monument of medieval age.
  • For the 1st time pentagonal (5 sided) design was used in the tomb of Giyas-ud-din Tughlaq (tughalaqabad fort Delhi).
  • Tomb of Khan-i-Jahan Telangani was the 1st building having octagonal design.
  • Sultan Giyas-ud-din Tughlaq initiated number of changes in architecture. During his reign monument was built on raised platform to enhance the monumentality (to make the monument bigger). White marble used on larger scale in the construction of dome to enhance the beauty.
  • During reign of Firoz Shah Tughlaq a combination of arch, lintel and beam was used in construction of monument. Sloping walls known as “Salami” (Ramp) was also used to construction of monuments.
  • During Lodhi period, double dome was built for 1st the time. Its 1st use can be seen in tomb of sultan Sikandar Lodhi (Delhi).
  • Double dome became common feature of monument during Mughal period.
  • Finest of double dome can be seen in Taj Mahal. These domes were built by Ismail Khan Rumi of Constantinople.
  • Construction of double dome brought many benefit such as-
  • Babar brought “Charbag” style of architecture to India. In this style monument was built in the middle of park. Flowing water was used to enhance the beauty.
  • During reign of Shahjahan Charbag style was modified to some extent. The monument was shifted to one side of park. The monument was constructed on raised platform to enhance the beauty. The monument appear bigger Taj Mahal is the finest example.
  • During reign of Pietra Dura technique of ornamentation begun to be used. In this technology, design was carved on marble surface, then this carving filled with precious & semi – precious stone.
  • For 1st time this technology of ornamentation was used in tomb of Itimad-ud-daula (Agra).
  • Pita dura in highest form could be seen in Taj Mahal.

Indo-British Architecture

Architecture in India during British Rule/Indo–Saracenic Style of Architecture

  • This style of architecture emerged in India in 19th century during period of British rule. It combined the elements of Mughal architecture and modern.
  • It’s known as Indo-Saracenic style because the essential elements of Mughal architecture like arches, dome and minarets were emerged 1st time in Syria during 3rd to 7th century (pre-Islamic Syria).
  • These architectural elements were adopted by Persians & Turks in Asia. This moves to Europe as well (European Gothic style – o/c/ of same).
  • In Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, along with the use of arches, domes, minarets, volute roof, arcade (pillared corridor), spire (conical part over tower), turret (tower), Tracery (carving on stone) was used.
  • Monument of Indo-Saracenic styles were built by using advanced European civil engineering technology. Such as poured concrete, iron, and steel in construction.
  • Indo-Saracenic style of architecture manifested itself primarily in construction of public building such as railway station, legislative assembly hall, court building, museum & commemorative structure such as gateway of India & India Gate.
  • Chepauk palace (Chennai) designed by Paul Benefield is cathedral to be 1st monument of Indoa-Saracenis style.


  • The earliest example of pillar architecture comes from Harappan civilization.
  • Two kinds of pillars having found at Harappan settlement.
  • One is stone pillar having measurement was found at Dholavira (Gujarat).
  • This pillar probably used to check water level in reservoir.
  • Pillars made up of bricks were used by Harappan in their houses.
  • These pillars are square / rectangular in shape.
  • These are simple. Their only purpose was to support the roof.
  • The Mesopotamian people used round pillars in their houses.
  • Three types of pillars were made during Mauryan period.
  • The 1st variety was that of wooden pillar. These pillars were used in palace build by Chandra Gupta Maurya. These pillars known only from literacy reference.
  • The other 2 varieties of pillars were made up of stone.
  • Out of these 1st variety was used in stone palace build by Ashoka to support roof & 2nd variety represented Independent work.
  • A large number of pillars were erected by Ashoka throughout his empire.

19 such pillars have been discovered so far. The prominent discoveries are-

  • Sarnath (Near Varanasi)
  • Vaishali (Bihar)
  • Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Lumbini / Rumindei pillar (Nepal Tarai)
  • Rampurva (Two pillars – Champaran, Bihar)
  • Lauriya – Araraj (Champaran, Bihar)
  • Lauriya – Nandnangarh
  • Sankisa (Farukabad, Uttar Pradesh)
  • Ranighat (Khyber Pakhtunwa)
  • Kandhar (Afghanistan)
  • Delhi – Topra pillar (was brought to Delhi from Topra a place near Ambala by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq). It was installed at the top of a Mosque in Firoz Shah Kotla build by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq.
  • Delhi – Merat pillars (This pillar was originally located at Meerut. It was brought to Delhi by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq. It was installed in his hunting palace located at Vazriabad hills).
  • Allahabad pillar (the pillar was originally located at Kosambi. It was carried to Allahabad by Akbar who build for their. This pillar contain inscription of Ashoka, Samudra Gupta, Jahangir & many local ruler.
  • Amaravati pillar (Andhra Pradesh).
  • Ashokan pillars are monumental. The height of pillars about 12-15 m.
  • These pillars are in four parts that is monolithic shaft – a bell shape part, abacus, capital.
  • These pillars were installed at prominent places of religious, economic, political significance.
  • Royal order (edict) was inscribed on the shaft of these pillars. The idea was monumental character of pillar will attract people & visitors will read the inscriptions. In this way the Royal message would propagate among people effortlessly.
  • Ashokan pillars were cut at Mathura, Chuna (Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh). These were two prominent place of stone cutting industry.
  • At Mathura, white spotted red sandstone used & at Chuna blue grey stone was used.
  • From these two places pillars were transported all over Indian subcontinent. The weight of shaft of these pillars is more than 50 tons. This indicates the means of communication were highly developed during Mauryan Age.
  • Large number of pillars used in Persia in 6th century BC in the palaces builds by King Darius. These pillars are similar to the Ashokan pillars because of this number of scholars such as V.A. Smith and Stella, Kramiraishch have opined that Mauryan pillars / Ashokan pillars represented an act of build adaptation.
  • It was emphasized that the Mauryan art was an example of alien grafting.
  • The closer examination of forms & features of Mauryan & Persian pillars brings to light striking dissimilarities between two.

Similarities between Ashokan & Persian Pillars

  • Both are made up of stone.
  • Both have bell shaped portion
  • Capitals are there in both cases.
  • Both have glossy polish on them

Difference between Ashokan & Persian Pillars

  • Shaft of Ashokan pillar is monolithic, whereas shaft of Persian pillar is made of stone pieces joined together.
  • Shaft of Ashokan pillars tapers from bottom to top. This reflects an influence of wooden architecture.
  • Shaft of Persian pillar is cylindrical.
  • The outer surface in Ashokan pillar is smooth whereas shaft of Persian pillars have grooves.
  • Ashokan pillar were dug in Earth without any base Persian pillar were erected on bell shaped base.
  • There 2 bell shapes in Persian pillars whereas Ashokan pillar has only one bell shape.
  • Purpose of pillars was different in both cases.
  • Ashokan pillars were used for inscribing edict whereas Persian pillars were used to support roof.
  • Persian pillars have human capital whereas Ashoka have animal capital. The animal portage in this capital has religious-cultural significance in India. These capitals can’t be considered as an act of foreign imitation.
  • Earlier its believed that the polish found on Ashokan pillar was learnt from Persia but the recent researches have brought light that same polish was used on Northern black polished wear. The earliest date of this pottery is 800 BC.
  • Vasudev Saran Agarwal has found the method of making this glossy policy in Apastamba Sutra – a book of 6th century BC. These evidences confirm that the knowledge of making glossary polish in India was much older than Persia.

Post Mauryan Age Pillars

  • One pillar of this age has been discovered at Vidisa (Madhya Pradesh). This pillar was erected by Heliodorus. He was a Greek ambassador in court of Shunga king Kashiputra Bhaghadra.
  • This pillar was made up of red sand stone. It is quite similar to Ashokan pillars.
  • This pillar contains an inscription in which Heliodorus proclaimed himself as the follower of Bhagvatism (Bhagavati Bhakt).

Pillar during Gupta Age

  • Only one pillar of this age has been discovered. It is the Mehrauli pillar (Delhi). It is made of iron. This pillar was originally located near Udaigiri cave (Madhya Pradesh). It was brought to Delhi by Sultan Iltutmish during early years of 13th He erected this pillar near Qutub-Minar.
  • This pillar is about 7.21 m high & weight is about 6 tons.
  • The shaft of pillars is in single piece. Even today very few foundries can manufacture such a big single piece shaft.
  • The metal (iron) of this pillar has not got rust even after more than 1000 years remain in open because of this its metallurgy is an amazement even for modern scientist.
  • This pillar carries an inscription of King Chandra who has been identified with Chandra Gupta II Vikramaditya. These inscriptions describe military conquest & other achievement of King.
  • Pillar was manufactured in reign of this Chandra in about 400 AD.




Sculpture in Harappan Civilization

  • The art sculpture was highly development in Harappan Civilization. The archaeological excavation carried out at various Harappan settlements has discovered number of images.


  • The Harappan used stone, terracotta, metal as well as alloy to make images.
  • Steatite, alabaster and limestone were used for making the images.
  • The metal was copper & alloy was bronze.
  • These images are highly refined.
  • The size of images small to moderate number of life size (full size) image has been discovered during excavation.
  • Most of the images having found at Mohenjo-Daro, some at Harappa & Lothal & other places images are quite rare.
  • Images are in form of cult object (religious object) such as mother Goddess, toys, animals and human beings.


Prominent findings

  • Bronze image of dancing girl – Mohenjodaro.
  • Steatite image of dancing girl – Harappa
  • From Lothal 2 stone image of cow were found.
  • Youth with muscular body image was found at Harappa.
  • Image of beared priest found at Mohenjodaro.
  • At Chanhudaro & Harappa, bull cart, Ekka are found (bronze).
  • At Mohenjodaro, bronze image of buffalo & Ram are found.
  • At Daimabad (Maharashtra), 4 bronze objects were found. These are elephant buffalo, rhinoceros & a two wheel Chanat. These objects known as Daimabad hord.


Sculpture during Mauryan Age

  • During Mauryan age, art of sculpture flourished under patronage of state as well as due to private efforts.
  • The feature of court art & popular art were present in Mauryan age of sculpture.
  • The capital of Ashokan pillar is finest example of sculpture of Mauryan age. These capitals were cut under patronage of state.
  • Four lion sitting back to back were used as capital on sarnation & Sanchi pillar.
  • Single lion capital was there at Rampurva pillar, Vaishali pillar & Loriya Nandan garh pillar.
  • Bull capital was there on 2nd Rampurva pillar.
  • Elephant capital was there on Sonkisa pillar (Farukabad, Uttar Pradesh).
  • Chinese traveler Huen-Tsan saw horse capital on Lumbini pillar.



  • Evidences suggested that there was peacock capital on 2nd Loriya Nandangarh pillar.
  • Dhauli elephant is also prominent example of sculpture of Mauryan age. It was cut out of rock during Mauryan period. The location is close to Dhauli major rock edict of Ashoka.
  • Popular art were also highly developed during Mauryan age. The archaeological excavation carried out in the area from Taxila to Odisha large number of images made by common people having found. These are in form of Yaksha & Yakshini the folk deities or deities of common people.
  • One Yaksha image was found at Parkham (village near Mathura). This Yaksha was known as Manibhadra.
  • One Yaksha image was found at Baroda village near Mathura.
  • At Patna image of Chamar Grahinin Yakshini was found.
  • Yaksha image found at Vidisha, Shisupal Garh (Odisa), Kurukshetra, Mehrauli, Rajghat (near Varanasi).
  • Padmavati Yaksha image was found at Gwalior.



Art of Sculpture during Post Mauryan Age

  • During this age art of sculpture witnessed most remarkable progress because Gandhara School, the Mathura school & Amaravati School of sculpture flourished.
  • Artist made large number of images of Brahmnical, non-Brahmnical, Buddhist & Jaina deities.


Gupta Age Sculpture



  • The 3 schools of sculpture of previous period continued to flourish & Banaras / Sarnath School of sculpture emerged.
  • Images of God & Goddess were made for temples.
  • The sculpture of this age was simple sober & graceful.
  • This image exhibit fine synthesis between the symbolism of Kushana period & nudity of early medieval age.


  • The artist used both stone as well as metal of make images.
  • Lost wax method was used for making metal images.


  • The prominent finding of Gupta period includes Buddhist images discovered at Sarnath & Sultanganj, Mathura.
  • At Sarnath a 2 feet 4.5 inches images of Buddha sitting in Padmasana, (cross leg) & Dharmachakra parivartana mudra has been found.
  • From Mathura a 7 feet 2.5 inch high image of sitting Buddha was found.
  • At Sultanganj a 7 ½ feet high a standing image of Buddha was found it is made up of copper. This image was taken away from British. At present it is Birmingham museum London.


Art of Sculpture during Post Gupta & Early Medieval Age

  • During this period art of sculpture flourished along with temple building activities. Image of god, goddess, doorkeepers, animals etc. were made by using stone.
  • Finest example of sculpture come from Khajuraho, Bundelkhand (Madhya Pradesh) & Odissa.
  • In Jagannath temple of Odisha, the images are made up of wood.


Sculpture in Peninsular India

  • Caves of Ajanta, Ellora & Elephanta have large number of images.
  • The art of sculpture flourished along with temple building activities in peninsular India. The finest of images were made during whole period among these image the Nataraja images are best.
  • The Cholas maintained close economic relation with South-East Asian countries from there. Tin was imported by them to make bronze. Because of this bronze image could be made on large scale during Chola period.
  • During Chola & Vijayanagar age, the image of Queens & kings were placed in temple complex. They were worshiped like God & Goddess.


Medieval Sculpture (Rashtrakuta and beyond)


Sculptures were one of the most favored media of artistic expression in India. The subject matter of Indian sculpture is almost invariably religious based on legends and myths. The pivot of the early medieval sculpture is the human figure, both male and female in the form of gods and goddesses and their attendants.


Regional Variations in Style Of Sculpture

Medieval period (c. 8th–12th centuries) was marked by a large number of states and dynasties such as Pratiharas in the north, Palas in the northeast, Chandelas of north-central India, and Rashtrakuta in the Deccan etc.

Most of the dynasties of Medieval India followed Hinduism, though they also patronised Buddhism and Jainism. The consolidation of Islamic empire took place only in the late twelfth century. However, due to their religious beliefs did not patronize the art of sculpture.

The style of Indian art sculpture is largely determined not by a dynasty but by region. Every region and period produced its own distinct style of images, largely independent of any particular dynasty that happened to rule over a specific region.


Medieval Indian Sculpture in North India



The Gurjara-Pratiharas had a vast kingdom that embraced the territory of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh. The surviving structural temples of the eighth and the ninth centuries in Central India and Rajasthan belong to the Pratihara style. This style is derived from the Gupta style albeit with some regional variations.

The Pratihara temple walls are decorated with a single band of sculpted niches, pillars with lotus designs and elephants on walls carved beneath luxuriant scroll work. Notable sculptures of this period include Viswaroopa form of Vishnu and Marriage of Siva and Parvati from Kannauj, the image of Laksmi-Narayana etc. Beautifully carved panels are also seen on the walls of temples standing at Osian, Abhaneri and Kotah.



During the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Chandellas were the greatest power in Central India. They were great builders of temples and tanks, forts and palaces etc. The Chandellas constructed towering temples in central India, like the Kandariya Mahadev temple and Laxman temple at Khajuraho. These were sculpted with human representations of endless variety. The sculptor here preferred the slender taller figures with a considerable accentuation of linear details.

The sculptures of Khajuraho are great masterpieces of Indian sculptural art. Khajuraho, the capital of Chandellas was a principal site of sculptural activity and was a high point of building activity. The Khajuraho temples are famous for their erotic relief panels which may illustrate the tantrik practices of certain medieval cults. In these temples, the many charms of the female body are revealed in most contorted and provocative poses. Geometric and floral designs, too, are abundant.

Khajuraho’s sculptures are highly stylised with typical features: they are in almost full relief, cut away from the surrounding stone, with sharp noses, prominent chins, long slanting eyes and eyebrows.

Medieval Sculpture in Eastern India

Sculpture in Eastern India has its own distinct style of sculptural art though it shares a broad pattern of development with the rest of northern India. The figures in this region have a sense of mass and weight while the flatness of plane is less prominent. This is clearly seen in sculpture from Konark in Orissa.

Ninth century was the most flourishing period for sculptural art in this region. The sculptural art had become much more decorative towards the tenth and eleventh century. In the 13th century, when sculpture in northern India had assumed a wooden appearance, the sculptural style in eastern India remained graceful. In Bihar and Bengal, bronze sculpture was also developed during this time.



The style of the sculptures during the period between the ninth and eleventh centuries in Bengal and Bihar is known as the Pala style, named after the ruling

dynasty at the time, while the style of those of the mid-eleventh to mid-thirteenth centuries is named after the Sena kings.

The Palas were Buddhists by faith and patrons of many Buddhist monastic sites. The ninth-century Siddheshvara Mahadeva temple in Barakar is an example of the early Pala style. The Pala Style is marked by slim and graceful figures, elaborate jewellery and conventional decoration. Their sculptures from Bihar are somewhat thick and heavier in their general proportions of limbs than those from Bengal.



Medieval Sculpture in Western India


Sculptures in western India and Rajasthan were highly ornate, with the Jain Dilwara temples of Mount Abu attaining a marvellous architectural perfection in stone. They were built by Solanki rulers. The Dilwara temples at Mount Abu are the outstanding productions of the western school in the Jain tradition. They are not monuments of architecture but are sculptural masterpieces. The ceiling of the Dilwara temple, especially, is one of the world’s masterpieces of intricate sculptural carvings.

The traditions of the marble sculpture of Gujarat in Western India are seen in the abundance of intricately carved sculptures which decorate the Jain temples at Mount Abu, Palitana and Girnar. The beautiful image of the four-armed Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation, was customised in the 13th century A.D.


Medieval Sculpture in Southern India and the Deccan

In the South, the art of sculpture flourished under the patronage of many great dynasties such as Pallavas, Cholas and Rashtrakutas etc. The sculptural art in this region followed the classical tradition and simultaneously a freshness and vitality are also seen in the sculpture of this region.

Kailash temple at Ellora built by the Rashtrakutas and the Ratha temples of Mahabalipuram, built by the Pallavas are examples of famous rock-cut temples in the South. Most probably the stability and permanence of rocks attracted the patrons of art and builders who decorated these temples with beautiful sculptures.



Early Chalukyan activity takes the form of rock-cut caves while later activity is of structural temples.

The earliest example of Chalukyan art is probably the Ravana Phadi cave at Aihole which is known for its distinctive sculptural style. One of the most important sculptures at the site is of Nataraja, surrounded by larger-than-life-size depictions of the saptamatrikas: three to Shiva’s left and four to his right.

The figures of the Chalukyan period are characterised by graceful, slim bodies, long, oval faces they are distinctly different from contemporary western Deccan or Vakataka styles.



They created the greatest wonder of medieval Indian art in their Kailash temple at Ellora, a monolithic rock-cut architecture.

Another magnificent sculpture at Ellora is a panel depicting Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa. In this remarkable scene, the quivering of the mountain can be felt, and Parvati is shown greatly agitated, turning to Siva, grasping his hand in fear.



The Pallavas, who left behind magnificent sculptures and temples, established the foundations of medieval South Indian architecture.

Some of the outstanding sculptures that are credited to their patronage are the Mahishasuramardini, Girigovardhana panel, Trivikrama Vishnu Arjuna’s penance or the Descent of the Ganga, Gajalakshmi and Anatasayanam.



At the Brihadesvara temple at Thanjavur, the most mature and majestic of the Chola temples, the sculpture has attained a new maturity which is evident in the gracefully modelled contours of the figures, their flexed poses, delicate ornamentation, pleasing faces and certain freshness, all of which add charm to the work.

Gajsurasamaharamurti is one of the best examples of Chola craftmanship in the 11th century. It depicts the vigorous dance of the irate god after he killed the elephant – demon.



The decoration is elaborate, the emphasis being more on ornamentation than movement or the grace of the human body. Hoysala sculptures are somewhat squat and short, highly embellished, or almost over-loaded with ornamentation, but yet are pleasing to behold.

A spectacular example of the Hoysala sculptural art is portrayed in the carving showing Lord Krishna holding aloft the mountain Govardhana to save the inhabitants of Gokul from the wrath of Indra.


Vijayanagara was the last great Hindu Kingdom in south India. Several beautiful temples were constructed at places like Hampi, Kanchipuram, etc. during the regime of Vijayanagara Empire.

The Vijayanagara emperors caused excellent portraits to be carved by the sculptors to immortalise them in the vicinity of their favourite deities. One such fine example of this can be seen in sculptures of Krishnadevaraya at Gopura in Chidambaram. During this period representations in narrative forms of the Ramayana and Krishna, Bal Lila became favourite themes.


Sculptures under Sultanate and Mughal Rule

The spread of the Muslim power in India gave a set back to the art of sculpture. The Islamic law considers it sinful to produce the images of living human and even more sinful to have those of the god. Hence the Muslim invaders considered it their religious duty to forbid the making of images of gods or goddesses, human beings or animals. They resorted to large-scale destruction of the images and sculptural representation.

As a result, most of the sculpture pieces of the time were destroyed and only such sculptural pieces could survive which were buried underground or were located in inaccessible places. The art of sculpture suffered maximum at the hands of Muslim rulers during the medieval times.

Though traditions of stone sculptures continued, no major sculpture movement survived under the Mughal and the other Muhammadan rulers Under the Muhammadan rulers great impetus was given to architecture, but sculptures are rarely found and even those available are products of local chieftains. During the British regime, no proper patronage was provided to sculptors and the whole tradition of Indian art almost came to a standstill.

During the British regime also sculptural art suffered a great loss due to loss of patronage to sculptors and the whole tradition of sculptural art almost came to a standstill.



School of Sculpture

Mathura School of Art

Emergence – It was 1st and oldest among these three schools of art. The Mathura School of Art was an Indian form of art which flourished from the 1st to 3rd centuries A. D.

Important Sites– Mathura city and Jamalpur village are the most important sites. A large number of images has discovered at these places during excavation.

Mathura was main center of school but their images were exported almost throughout Gangatic region because image from this school found from Sanchi, Sarnath, Kushinagar & Shravasti (Uttar Pradesh).


Religion Associated

  • At first, the artist of Mathura made images of Brahmnical deities such as Vishnu, Surya & Shiva.
  • Shiva was depicted in various forms such as Ardhanarishwar, Uma – Maheshwar and Trimurti.
  • Images of Goddess Parvati were also made.
  • Surya was portrait in his Charit drawn by four horses at the dawn time.
  • Images of non-Brahmnical deities such as Krishna and Balrama were also made.
  • Folk deities like Yaksha & Yashikini were also represented in images.
  • Buddhist images were also made by artist of Mathura in large number.
  • Before tradition of image worship the Buddhist used to worship, stupa, Bodhi tree, empty throne, foot prints and Dharma Chakra (wheel).
  • In 2nd century BC no person had seen Buddha because of this artist used their imagination to make images of Buddha.

Foreign Influence

In the beginning, Mathura School was indigenous in nature.

  • Later on when Shakas & Kushanas established their rule over Mathura region, this school came into foreign influence. Influence of Greek-Roman art started visible on Mathura School.



Typical Features

The artist of Mathura School made beautiful images, among these images of Buddha & female images were most prominent.

  • Buddha was depicted either in Padmasana Mudra or in standing form Abhay Mudra has been used commonly. The head & face of Buddha are clean Shaven. Breasts are prominent upper half of body is half covered with the sheet moving across with right shoulder remaining bare.
  • The artist of Mathura attached greater significance to the depiction of inner beauty. The Buddha’s of Mathura reflect inner calmness & spiritual grace.
  • Facial expressions and emotions have been portrait with great success in the images of Mathura School.
  • The female images reflect freedom of movement and gesture. These images are in erotic form.



The Mathura School declined in 6th century AD because of the reduction in demand & loss of patronage.

  • By this time the secondary & tertiary economic activities had declined quite significantly. The level of prosperity was going down; availability of surplus with people was no longer that much so that they could patronize the artist.
  • Temple building activities had also lost significance. These entire factors severely affect the demand of image. As result of which, the Mathura School of art declined.


Gandhara School of Art

  • Emerged during later half of 2nd century BC.
  • The tradition of making images was adopted by artist of Gandhara School from Mathura.
  • It flourished in North-Eastern region of Indian subcontinent covering parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Takshila, Bimaran, Hadda, Jalalabad, Takht-i-Bahi, Bamiya, Shah Ji ki Dheri, Bagram were the prominent sites.
  • The artist of Gandhara made Buddhist image only Buddha and Bodhisattva were portrait in images.
  • Secular elements were absent.
  • Shakas & Kushanas patronized this school of art.
  • In the beginning image were made up of wood. Later on locally found dark grey stone was used for making images.
  • Artist used Stucco (plaster) and Terracotta as well for making images.
  • It was deeply influenced by features of Greeko-Roman art. The Hellenistic influence was clearly visible on Gandhar images.
  • Because of this Gandhara School is also known as “Greeko-Roman”, “Indo-Roman”, “Greeko-Buddhist” & “Indo-Greek” scholl of art.
  • Gandhara School declined in 5th century BC because of Huna invasion.
  • Hunas were war like tribe, they came from Central Asia. They attacked Buddhist monasteries. Their presence in North\-Western region obstructed trade & commerce being practiced through land route. All these factors doomed the faith of Gandhara School of art.
  • The images of Gandhara School are most beautiful. Buddha of Gandhara School appears to be like Greek God Apollo (God of beauty).
  • Artist pay great attention to minute details but image of Gandhara School facial expression and emotions Mechanical rigidity is visible in these images.
  • Muscular body, curly hair and transparent drapery (cloth) were used in Gandhara image.
  • Gandhara Buddha is portrait like kings & princes of Greeko-Roman world.
  • Buddha is wearing ornament & toga like dress.
  • Halo (light coming behind head) is depicted in image of Gandhara School.
  • Gandhara image were in great demand in India & outside world. When artist of Gandhara failed to meet this growing demand they outsource image from Mathura School.


Amravati School of Art

  • Later half of 2nd century BC.
  • It flourished in the valley of river Krishna, Godavari in Amaravati, Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Amaravati, Nagarjuni Konda, Goli, Ghantasala and Vengi were the prominent site. Vengi was most important site & because of this school also known as “Vengi School of Art”.
  • Only Buddhist images were found.
  • Secular images were also made. These are in the form of female images, trees, animals and birds.
  • In the beginning this school was patronized by Satavahanas. Later on Ikshavakus & Vakataka patronized it.
  • White marble used for making images.
  • It was indigenous in character from beginning to end. It was free from foreign influence.
  • This school of art shifted its center to Kanchipuram Mahabalipuram, Tanjore under Pallavas & Cholas. It didn’t decline for many centuries & continued to flourish at least 13th century (i.e. Chola period).
  • The Amaravati images are famous for their big size. Life size (6-7 feet) image were made in large number some of them are as high as 16 feet.
  • The artist of Amaravati School focused on depiction of famine beauty large number of female image in various posture & mood such as sitting, dancing, bending & flying having found.
  • The Yaksha & Yakshini of Amaravati School depiction love, grace & beauty.
  • Elegance of highest order can be seen in images of Amaravati School even birds & animals, men & vegetation haing treated very elegantly.
  • The images of Amaravati School were carried to Shri Lanka, Myanmar, Java, and Sumatra, Cambodia.





  • Pottery making in Indian subcontinent started around 8000 BC.
  • The earliest evidence of pottery was found at Chopani Mando (Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh). Its date is around 8395 BC.
  • During Neolithic age, wheel was invented & wheel turned pots begun to use. These pots were lighter in weight & far more refined.
  • As the usage of pottery increased number of pottery cultures emerged in India with the name of BRW (Black & Red Ware) pottery culture, Ochre colored pottery culture, painted Grey Ware (PGW), Northern – Black polished ware (NBPW) Red slipped ware & Aurentine Ware.


Black & Red Ware (BRW)

  • This pottery culture flourished during 2400 BC to 100 AD. It covered almost whole of India from Taxila in North-West to Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh to South to Bengal in East.
  • These pots were black from inside & near the rim the outer body was red in color.
  • This typical color combination was allowed through inverted firing method.
  • This pottery was used by Megalithic culture also in South India.
  • Color of this pot is light red. This pottery culture flourished in parts of Uttar Pradesh in Gangetic valley during 2000 BC to 1500 BC.


Painted Grey Ware

  • This was pottery of later Vedic Age. The color of pottery of grey to ash grey.
  • These pots have paintings in light blue color.
  • 42 designs of pots have been discovered.
  • The most common design was dish & bowl.


Northern Black Polished Ware

  • This was a pottery of 2nd
  • This pottery begun to use in around 800 BC but common used was from 6000 BC – 100 AD.
  • This was costly variety of pottery.
  • It was used in Taxila in North-West Bengal i.e. only in North India.


Red Slipped Ware

  • This was pottery of Kushana. These pots have layer of red color soil on them.
  • This pottery was used during early century of Christian era.


Aurentine Ware

This was Roman pottery. Its color is shiny red. The most common forms of pots are Jars & sprouts