Post-Mauryan art in India – 100 BC to 300 AD

Home » Post-Mauryan art in India – 100 BC to 300 AD
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Relief from Saidu Sharif I, in the Swat Valley. Now in the Swat Museum, Pakistan.

Relief from Saidu Sharif I, in the Swat Valley. 50 BC – 50 AD. Now in the Swat Museum, Pakistan.

The Mauryan Empire collapsed about 150 BC, but India remained a rich place thanks to Silk Road trade. Indian artists kept right on carving new sculptures. Sometime around 50 BC – 50 AD, they started to carve narrative scenes that went together, like the panels of a graphic novel today. For example, they carved scenes from the life of the Buddha. This sort of graphic novel roll-out then appears a little later on Trajan’s Column in Rome (just after 100 AD).

Buddha's return to Kapilavastu, Swat Valley, Pakistan (ca. 50 BC to 50 AD)

Buddha’s return to Kapilavastu, Swat Valley, Pakistan (ca. 50 BC to 50 AD)

Here’s another scene from the life of the Buddha, from about the same time and place. Here the Buddha is returning to Kapilavastu, to see his father and his wife and child for the first time since he decided to give up his life as a prince. As was usual at this time, the relief doesn’t actually show the Buddha. But we can imagine him standing just about where we are, looking at his wife holding his baby in the palanquin, with a fancy Persian carpet thrown over the side.

By the 200s AD, when this carving was made, the style is very different from the Mauryan reliefs. Instead of a scene with a few large figures, now we have smaller figures and more crowded scenes. We might compare this style to the carving on the Roman Arch of Septimius Severus from the early 200s, or the Arch of Constantine, just a little later in 312 AD.

Relief from Amaravati. Museum caption: Drum-frieze from Amaravati, 3rd century. Palnad marble, 37.5 x 134.75 x 7 cm. London, British Museum, 1880,0709.90.

Relief from Amaravati 200s AD marble. Now in the British Museum (1880,0709.90).

Learn by doing: string glass beads into a bracelet
More about Buddhism
More about Indian mathematics
More about Guptan India

Bibliography and further reading about post-Mauryan India:

More about post-Mauryan architecture
More about Buddhism
Go on to the Guptan Empire
Quatr.us home

By | 2017-09-14T17:16:08+00:00 September 13th, 2017|Art, India|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Post-Mauryan art in India – 100 BC to 300 AD. Quatr.us Study Guides, September 13, 2017. Web. November 17, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr
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 Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

Leave A Comment