Thursday, September 23, 2010

Architecture in Ancient India

In ancient India, life was dominated by religion to a large extent and so it is of no surprise that ancient Indian architecture includes mostly religious structures. Since the people of ancient India also had a political purpose there were many secular structures in ancient times.

The first organized art activity in India belongs to the Mauryan period. The description of the city of Patliputra (modern Patna in Bihar)and the royal palace in the city by Megathsthenes, who came to India during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, suggests that the first Mauryan emperor built the buildings of the city. Other Mauryan architecture include the rock-cut Chaiya halls or cave dwellings in the Barabar and Nagarjuna Hills of Gaya in the sate of Bihar, the edict bearing and the non edict bearing Asokan pillars.

Stupas
Tradition has it that Stupas or tumuli were over the divided ashes of the Buddha. These stupas were built by Ashoka, the greatest Mauryan emperor, in honour of the Buddha in many parts of India and Nepal. The stupa in Nepal is in its original form. Chief among the stupas built by the great emperor are those at Bharhut and Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh and Amaravati in the state of Maharashtra.

Among the later stupas, those of Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh and Nalanda in Bihar are very famous. Sarnatha, near Varanasi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, was the place where the Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Nalanda, in the state of Bihar, was modified for seventh consecutive times.

Cave temples
The cave dwellings of Barabar Hills and Nagarjuna Hills of Gaya were dedicated by Ashoka to the monks of Ajivikas sect. Under the Satavahans, the largest caves were excavated. The most famous examples of cave temples is that of Ajanta and Ellora in the state of Maharashtra. Kailashnath temple, hewn from solid rock, is the foremost example of rock cut temple architecture in ancient India.



Mahabodhi Temple at gaya
Temple architecture
Most remarkable of the temples of the Gupta period was the temple of Deogarh near Jhansi. Dating back to the Mahabodhi temple at Gaya in Bihar is a famous temple of ancient India. Temple architecture reached its apogee in south India during the reign of Chalukya and Pallava rulers in the 6th -8th centuries. The zenith of the Pallava style was reached in the shore temple at Mamallapuram.

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