Point out the differences between the Asokan Pillar and the Achaemenian Pillar to show that the former is not an imitation of the latter.

Some art historians have emphasized foreign influence specially Persian (Achaemenian) influence on the court art of the Maurya Empire:
Some similarities include:

  • Ashoka got the idea of inscribing proclamations on pillars from the achaemenids.
  • It has been pointed out that the words dipi and lipi occur in the inscriptions of Darius as well as Ashoka.
  • Inscriptions of both kings begin in the third person and then move to the first person.
  • The foreign influence has been identified in the polished surface of the Ashokan pillars and the animal motifs. The stiff heraldic pose of the lions is seen as further evidence of western influence.
  • Maurya columns and Achaemenian pillars, both used polished stones. Both have certain common sculpture motifs such as the lotus.

However, historians have also drawn attention to the many differences between the Mauryan and the Persian arts:

  • The pillars of the Kumhrar hall do not have capitals whereas those at Persepolis have elaborate ones.
  • The Persian pillars stand on bases either shaped like a bell or a plain rectangular or circular block. On the other hand, in the Mauryan pillars, the inverted lotus appears at the top of the shaft.
  • The shape and ornamentation of the Maurya lotus is different from the Persian ones, the bulge typical of the former being absent in the later.
  • Most of the Persian pillars have a fluted surface while the Mauryan pillars are smooth.
  • The Maurya type abacus and independent animals carved in the round crowing the pillars are absent in the Persian context.
  • The Achaemenian shaft are built of separate segments of stone aggregated one above the other which is the work of mason. The shaft of the Mauryan pillar is monolithic which pertains to the character of the work of a skilled wood-carver or carpenter.
  • The Achaemenid pillars were generally part of some larger architectural scheme, composed of much too many component parts looking complex and complicated. While the Ashokan columns were intended to produce the effect of an independent freestanding monument with simpler specimen, more harmonious in conception and execution and gives the feeling of greater stability, dignity and strength.

There may be some similarities in specific features but the effect of the whole is completely different. Moreover while having pillars inscribed with his messages on Dhamma, Ashoka transformed them into epigraphic monument of unique cultural meaning. This brings out the major difference between both the art forms.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Point out the differences between the Asokan Pillar and the Achaemenian Pillar to show that the former is not an imitation of the latter.

Published: May 1, 2016 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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