The sculpture of the Maurya period clearly demonstrates the influence of foreign countries on Indian art. Examine critically.

The Maurya sculpture includes the Court art (pillars & their capitals) and popular art (Yakshas and Yakshinis, sculpture on cave entrances, gateways etc.). Since the first three Maurya kings have been documented well to have maintained friendly relations with west such as Achaemenids of Iran and Greco-Macedonians.  This may indicate the source of extraneous influences, and an adaptation of foreign art. Many historians have emphasized on foreign influence especially Persian on Mauryan Art because:

  • Inscription of proclamations on pillars was prevalent in the west Achaemenid empire
  • Polished surface of pillars and animal capitals were used in Persian empire.
  • Use of Aramaic script in Ashokan inscription in North-west

However detailed scrutiny reveals the differences. The Persian pillars stand on bases like rectangular block or bell shaped while Mauryan pillar have inverted lotus on top of pillar. Persain pillars have fluted surface while Mauryan have smooth surface. Motifs of Ashokan pillar have rich and variety in symbolism having connection with different religious tradition.
Thus, Persian influence on Mauryan art has been well accepted. Mauryan Sculptures were reflection of cultural contacts of India with Persian and Greeks which had existed much before the Mauryan period, but not a blind imitation of Persian art. Indian knew the art of sculpture and wood carving as reflected in Lomas Rishi cave entrance.

Question for UPSC Mains:
"The sculpture of the Maurya period clearly demonstrates the influence of foreign countries on Indian art." Examine critically.

Published: September 18, 2017 | Modified:October 14, 2019

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