Classical period

Classical period (320 BCE–550 CE)

Monumental stone architecture


Further information: Pataliputra, Pillars of Ashoka, and Mauryan polish
The Pataliputra capital, discovered at the Bulandi Bagh site of Pataliputra, c. 4th–3rd BCE.
The next wave of building, appears with the start of the Classical period (320 BCE–550 CE) and the rise of the Mauryan Empire. The capital city of Pataliputra was an urban marvel described by the Greek ambassador Megasthenes. Remains of monumental stone architecture can be seen through numerous artifacts recovered from Pataliputra, such as the Pataliputra capital. This cross-fertilization between different art streams converging on the subcontinent produced new forms that, while retaining the essence of the past, succeeded in the integrating selected elements of the new influences.
Ashoka pillar at Vaishali, 250 BCE.
The Indian emperor Ashoka (rule: 273–232 BCE) established the Pillars of Ashoka throughout his realm, generally next to Buddhist stupas. According to Buddhist tradition, Ashoka recovered the relics of the Buddha from the earlier stupas (except from the Ramagrama stupa), and erected 84.000 stupas to distribute the relics across India. In effect, many stupas are thought to date originally from the time of Ashoka, such as Sanchi or Kesariya, where he also erected pillars with his inscriptions, and possibly Bharhut, Amaravati or Dharmarajika in Gandhara.[31]
Ashoka also built the initial Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya around the Bodhi tree, including masterpieces such as the Diamond throne ("Vajrasana"). He is also said to have established a chain of hospitals throughout the Mauryan empire by 230 BCE.[35] One of the edicts of Ashoka reads: "Everywhere King Piyadasi (Ashoka) erected two kinds of hospitals, hospitals for people and hospitals for animals. Where there were no healing herbs for people and animals, he ordered that they be bought and planted."[36] Indian art and culture has absorbed extraneous impacts by varying degrees and is much richer for this exposure.
Fortified cities with stūpas, viharas, and temples were constructed during the Maurya empire (c. 321–185 BCE).[13] Architectural creations of the Mauryan period, such as the city of Pataliputra, the Pillars of Ashoka, are outstanding in their achievements, and often compare favourably with the rest of the world at that time. Commenting on Mauryan sculpture, John Marshall once wrote about the "extraordinary precision and accuracy which characterizes all Mauryan works, and which has never, we venture to say, been surpassed even by the finest workmanship on Athenian buildings"

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