Mauryan architecture - Ancient Indian Architecture History
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Mauryan Architecture

Sanchi stupa
Sanchi stupa, 250 BC

When people in India began to follow the Buddhist religion, they needed new kinds of buildings that reflected Buddhist ideas. The earliest Buddhist building in India that we still have today is Sanchi, in central India. About 250 BC, the Mauryan emperor Asoka built a stupa there to keep some relics of the Buddha safe, the same way that later on King Louis IX built the Sainte Chapelle to keep relics of Jesus safe. The stupa was in the shape of a dome, but it was solid brick, like the earlier ziggurats of West Asia.

Probably people were also building Hindu temples out of wood during the Mauryan period, but because wood doesn't last well, we don't know much about these temples.

Ajanta
Ajanta (100s BC)

Beginning around 200 BC, people in western India, at Ajanta, began to cut Buddhist temples out of rock cliffs. Instead of cutting blocks of stone to build a temple, they carved the temple right into the rock, which was easier for getting the roof to stay up (compare this to the Chavin temple in Peru, a little earlier). These temples have a row of columns across the front, and a room in the back with statues of the Buddha in them.

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More about Indian Architecture (the Guptan period)
More about Buddhism

Bibliography and further reading about Indian architecture:

More about Indian Architecture (the Guptan period)
More about India
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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