Mauryan architecture – India

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Sanchi stupa, 250 BC

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.

Rock-cut temples at Ajanta, India

Rock-cut temples at Ajanta, India (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.

Learn by doing: make a special container for something that’s special to you
More about Indian Architecture (the Guptan period)
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Bibliography and further reading about Indian architecture:

More about Indian Architecture (the Guptan period)
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By |2018-04-12T00:07:55+00:00July 19th, 2017|Architecture, India|4 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Mauryan architecture – India. Study Guides, July 19, 2017. Web. January 22, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. James May 16, 2018 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    I am so scared of war and ads keep on popping out about war.

    • Karen Carr May 16, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Really? What sort of war advertises on the web? Ads for soldiers? For a game about war?

  2. Harry May 10, 2018 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I’m scared of bananas and an add keeps popping up with bananas in it

    • Karen Carr May 10, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Sorry about that! What’s so scary about bananas?

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