Stupas

Art in the post-Mauryan period was predominantly religious. Two most important features concerning art and architecture of this period are the construction of stupas and development of regional schools of sculpture. Idols of the Buddha were carved out for the first time in this period.

On account of contact with the foreigners from northwest, a specific school of art called Gandhara School of art developed in this period. It was influenced, to a great extent, by the Greek style or art forms.

Stupas

A stupa was a large hemispherical dome with a central chamber in which relics of the Buddha or some Buddhist monk were kept in a small casket. The base was surrounded by a path for clockwise circumambulation (pradakshina), enclosed by wooden railings which were later made in stone.

Three prominent stupas of this period are at Bharhut and Sanchi (both in M.P), which were originally built by Ashoka but enlarged later, and Amravati and Nagarjunkonda (both in Andhra Pradesh).

The Bharhut stupa in its present form dates to the middle of the second century BC. It is important for its sculptures. Its railings are made of red stone. Three big stupas were constructed at Sanchi in this period. The biggest of the three, which was built originally by emperor Ashoka, was enlarged to twice its size sometime in the second century BC.

A number of stupas were also constructed in south India during this period but none has survived in its entirety. The Amravati stupa, situated at Amravati in Andhra Pradesh took its final shape sometime in the second century AD. The sculptures on stupas are drawn on the themes based on Jataka and other Buddhist stories.