Ancient India (300 BCE – 550 CE)

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Pataliputra capital
Lohanipur torso
Lion Capital of Ashoka
6th Pillar Edict of Ashoka
Mauryan era Statuettes
Mauryan statuette
Mauryan coins
The two Yakshas
Kandahar Edict of Ashoka
Katra architrave
Caturvyūha Viṣhṇu
Terracotta statue of Vishnu Caturanana
Yakshi bracket figure

Mauryan dynasty, founded by Chandragupta Maurya (324-301 BCE), ruled from the 4th-2nd c BCE. It is regarded as the first empire to have ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent. Its capital was at Pataliputra

Chandragupta Maurya gave up his throne and became a Jain monk, a Buddhist religion that pursues a method of acquiring perfect knowledge of self and universe and perfect joy through extrasensory means as sensory means are inadequate to aquire them. The method is summarized in its religious text Pravachanasara.


The Pataliputra capital, an early Mauryan (322-185 BCE) stone sculpture, displaying Persian and Hellenistic influences.

It is dated as 3rd c BCE and on show at Bihar Museum, Patna.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The Lohanipur torso is a damaged statue sculpted in polished sandstone,found in Lohanipur village, a central Division of Patna, ancient Pataliputra, Bihar, India.

It is assumed by some authorities to be the earliest Jain sculpture found. It’s similarity with the Harrapan red jasper torso, means others suggest it is from the Mature Harrapan period.

It is on show at the Patna Museum, who have cautiously dated it to the 3rd c BCE – 2nd century CE.

This is the Lion Capital of Mauryan emperoro Ashoka the Great at Sarnath, dated to c250 BCE.
Sarnath is 10km from Varanasi, and is where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The top image is a sandstone fragment of the 6th Pillar Edict of Ashoka in Brahmi. The Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, are found throughout the subcontinent. Ashoka’s edicts state his policies and accomplishments. It is predominantly written in Prakrit, but two of them were written in Greek, and one in both Greek and Aramaic.

The second image is a relief of Ashoka on his chariot visiting the Nagas (half-human, half-serpent deities) of Ramagrama, to take relics of the Buddha, but in this he failed. The relief is at Stupa 1, Sanchi (46 km from Bhopal).
Statuettes of the Maurya period, 4th-3rd century BCE. Musée Guimet, Paris
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Mauryan Statuette 2nd Century BCE. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Mauryan period was the first time in South Asia, that political unity and military security allowed for a common economic system and enhanced trade and commerce, with increased agricultural productivity. The previous situation involving hundreds of kingdoms, many small armies, powerful regional chieftains, and internecine warfare, gave way to a disciplined central authority.

A series of coins was a feature of this, the images show 4th-2nd BCE Mauryan coins

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The image shows a Yaksha and a Yakshi, possibly 3rd century BCE, found in Pataliputra. They are a broad class of nature-spirits, normally benevolent, but can be mischievous or capricious. They are connected with water, fertility, trees, the forest and treasure/ They appear in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist texts, sometimes like a helpful fairy at other times ready to devour travellers through a wilderness.
This is a bilingual Kandahar Edict of Ashoka, inscribed in Greek and Aramaic for king Ashoka, an Indian Rosetta Stone.
It is on show at the Kandahar. Kabul Museum.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The Katra architrave, possibly representing Brahmins and the cult of the Shiva Linga. Discovered at Mathura and dated as 2nd-1st c BCE.
The Caturvyūha Viṣhṇu: Vāsudeva and other members of the Vrishni clan. Vāsudeva, an avatar of Vishnu is in the centre with a heavy decorated mace on the side and holding a conch. His elder brother Balarama is to his right wearing a serpent hood. His son Pradyumna was to his left, but lost, and his grandson Aniruddha is on top.
This is on show at the Mathura Museum and is dated to 2nd c CE..

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This 5th c CE terracotta statue of Vishnu Caturanana (Four-Armed), has applied the attributes of Vāsudeva-Krishna, and added an aureole around the head.

It is from Uttar Pradash, dimensions are 26 x 10 x 4 cms and it is now at the Metropolian Museum of Art, NY USA.
This is a Shunga era bracket figure of a yakshi (aka shalabhanjika, a female earth spirit) from the East torana (gate) of the Great Stupa at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh. Four elaborately carved gateways were located at the cardinal points. The eastern gateway consists of two square posts crowned with a group of four elephants and two shalabhanjika, females figures grasping the branch of a tree

It is dated to 185-75 BCE.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

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