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10 Apr 2022

After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, various rulers controlled vast Mauryan Empire. Such as

In the North:

  • Shunga
  • Kanvas
  • Kushanas
  • Shakas

In the South

  • Satvahanas
  • Ikshavakus
  • Abhiras

In 2nd century BCE rise of main Brahamanical sects such as Vaishnavas and the Shaivas also shaped the art and architecture of that time.

The finest sculptures are found at various places and prominent rise in the rock-cut architecture. The art of sculpture reached its climax in the post-Mauryan period.

Rock-Cut Caves

Two types of caves:

  • Chaitya: These were the praying halls for the Buddhist and the Jain monks.
  • Vihara: These were the residential halls for the Buddhist and Jain monks.

Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in Odisha

  • These were made during the Kalinga King Kharavela (1st-2nd Century).
  • Hathingumpa Inscription in Brahmni Script are found in Udayagiri caves. Other famous cave is Ranigumpha cave.
  • There are 18 caves in Udayagiri and 15 in Khandagiri.


  • Larger and decorative stupas are seen.
  • Torans: A beautifully decorated gateway to the stupas. It was first used by the Shungas. The torans were decorated with intricate figures and the patterns.
  • Most famous -> Bharhut Stupa and Sanchi Stupa.

Bharhut (Madhya Pradesh)

  • The tall images of Yaksha and Yakshini along with narratives are found.
  • In one narrative relief, depicting Queen Mayadevi’s (mother of Siddhartha Gautam) dream.

Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh)

  • Stupa-I at Sanchi has upper as well as lower pradakshinapatha, four toranas depicting jatakas. Advanced carving technique is used in these stupas.
  • Asoka Lion Capital pillar and Salbhanjika- a lady holding tree branch are also found.

Schools of Sculptures

Mathura, Sarnath, Gandhara and Amravati schools of sculpture emerged as the prominent schools in different parts of India.

Gandhara and Mathura in North and Vengi in Andhra emerged as important centres in art production.

Gandhara School

  • Also called as the Greco-Indian School of Art.
  • It developed in western Punjab.
  • Greek and Roman sculptors influenced the local traditions of the region.
  • Buddha got human form in Mathura and Gandhara.
  • The emperor is depicted in divine form in Gandhara.
  • The sculpture tradition at Gandhara had confluence of Bactria, Parthia and local Gandhara tradition.
  • At Sarnath, the Buddha is depicted as sitting in Padmasana Asan.
  • In Gandhara, Buddha is depicted as sitting.

Mathura School

  • It was developed on the banks of Yamuna.
  • These sculptures were influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
  • Mathura Buddha images depict folds of drapery and the halo around the head is profusely decorated.
  • Whereas at Sarnath and Kosambi, transparent drapery and undecorated halo around the head is found.
  • Buddha image at Mathura modelled on lines of earlier Yaksha images whereas Gandhara has Hellenistic features.

Amravati School

  • Vengi in Andhra under the patronage of the Satvahanas in 200BCE.
  • Here, sculptures depict narrative art of the dynamic images. Tribhanga posture – the body with three bends is used extensively.
  • Images of Vajrayna Buddhism like Vajrapani, Amitabh, Maitreya and Padmapani are found.
  • Amravati has Mahachaitya; Nagarjunkonda and Guntapalle has rock cut cave.
  • In Karanataka, Sannati is the largest Stupa site excavated so far. It had stupa decorated with sculptural relief.

Differences Between Gandhara, Mathura and Amravati Schools







Indo- Greek art

Indigenous Art

Indigenous Art

Materials Used

Bluish-grey sandstone and later mud and stucco

spotted red sandstone

White marbels


Kushana Rulers

Kushana rulers

Satvahana rulers

Religions depicted


Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism


Features of Buddha

Human form of Buddha.

Seated in yogi position.

Eyes are half closed as in meditation.

Human form of Buddha.

Seated in padmasana position.

Folds of drapery shown on Budhha.

Halo over head is also depicted.


Narrative art depicting Jataka tales.