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Questions on Mauryan Empire and Mauryan Art and Architecture UPSC | Indian History | General Studies I

Table of Contents:

  • Describe the Salient Features of Mauryan Art and Architecture. ( UPPSC 2022)
  • Discuss the significance of the lion and Bull figures in Indian Mythology, art, and architecture ( UPSC 2022)


Describe the Salient Features of Mauryan Art and Architecture. ( UPPSC 2022, General Studies 1)


Salient features of the art and architecture of the Mauryan period are as follows:


The Mauryan period is renowned for its distinctive pillars, known as the Ashoka pillars. These pillars were made of polished sandstone and featured elaborate capitals ( top portion). The most famous example is the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath, which is topped by the famous four lions in all four directions. The pillars were decorated with inscriptions and various animals, floral designs, and human figures.


Stupas are large, dome-shaped structures that serve as Buddhist sacred places. Emperor Ashoka, one of the prominent Mauryan rulers, played a significant role in the spread of Buddhism. He constructed several stupas across the empire. The most famous of the Mauryan Stupa is the Great Stupa at Sanchi. The stupas were typically built with brick or stone and relief sculptures depicting scenes from the life of Buddha.

Rock cut architecture: 

The Mauryan period witnessed the development of rock-cut architecture, where caves and chambers were carved out from solid rock. These structures served as monasteries, residences, and places of worship. The most famous example is the Barabar Caves in Bihar, which consist of several rock-cut chambers with polished interiors. These caves exhibit a blend of Mauryan and early Buddhist architectural styles.

Palaces architecture: 

Remains of Mauryan palaces architecture have not survived, however literary accounts of Megasthenes suggest that they were grand and elaborate structures. The palaces were constructed using wood, bamboo, and other perishable materials. The palace at Pataliputra (modern-day Patna) was one of the most notable examples.

Urban planning: 

The Mauryan period saw significant urban planning efforts, with the construction of planned cities and towns. The city of Pataliputra, the capital of the Mauryan Empire, is a prime example. It was strategically located and was well connected to the Ganga for water transportation.

The art and architecture of the Mauryan period reflected the empire's cultural and religious diversity, with influences from Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Greek traditions. These artistic achievements of Mauryans also laid the foundation for subsequent architectural styles in the Indian subcontinent.


Discuss the significance of the lion and Bull figures in Indian Mythology, art, and architecture. ( UPSC General Studies -I, 2022) 


In Indian mythology, art, and architecture, the lion and bull figures hold significant symbolism and cultural importance:

Significance of Lion:

Symbol of Royalty: 
The lion is often associated with royalty and power. In Hindu mythology, it is the means of transportation of Goddess Durga, representing her dominance over negative forces.

Strength and Courage: 
Lions are seen as symbols of strength, courage, and valor. They often adorn the thrones and emblems of rulers and kings, signifying their prowess.

Lions are depicted as guardians of sacred spaces, such as temple entrances, symbolizing protection and warding off evil spirits.

Influence on Art: 
Lion motifs are commonly found in ancient Indian sculptures, especially in temples and palaces, showcasing their enduring influence on Indian art and architecture.

Significance of Bull figure in Indian Mythology:

Nandi, the Sacred Bull: 
In Hinduism, the bull Nandi is the means of transportation of Lord Shiva and symbolizes strength, virility, and fertility. Nandi is often depicted outside Shiva temples.

Agriculture and Prosperity: 
The bull is also associated with agriculture and prosperity. In some regions, it represents the importance of cattle in agrarian society.

Yogic Symbolism: 
In yoga, the bull represents the uncontrolled mind, which the yogi seeks to tame and control through meditation and discipline.

Artistic Representation: 
Bulls are commonly carved into temple pillars, and their images adorn various ancient and contemporary Indian art forms.

Both the lion and bull figures have been integral to Indian culture for centuries, they provide wide meaning in religious, artistic, and architectural contexts. 

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