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Pillar and Sculpture


The pillars set up by Ashoka furnish the finest remains of the Mauryan art. The pillars with Ashoka edicts inscribed on them were placed either in sacred enclosures or in the vicinity of towns. The pillars are made of two types of stone-the spotted red and white sandstone from the region of Mathura and the buff coloured fine grained hard sandstone usually with small black spots quarried in Chunar near Banaras. The stone was transported from Mathura and Chunar to the various sites where the pillars have been found and here the stone was cut and carried by craftsmen. Each pillar has three parts: the prop under the foundation, the shaft of the column and the capital. The prop is buried in the ground. The shaft made of a single piece of sand stone supports the capital made of another single piece of sandstone. Thin round and slightly tapering shaft is highly polished and very graceful in its proportions. The capital which is the third part of the pillar consists of some finally executed animal figures such as the lion or the elephant.


The sacred dharmachakra with 24 spokes symbol engraved with animal seulpures in relief and the inverted or bell shaped lotus. The capital of the Sarnath Pillar is the magnificent and best piece of the series. The wonderful life like figures of four lions standing back to back and the smaller graceful and stately figures of four animals in relief on the abacus and the inverted lotus- all indicate a highly advanced form of art. The Indian government adopted this capital with some modifications as its state emblem. The sculpture of the Mauryan period is represented by the figures such as

  • The Yakshi of Besnagar in MP.
  • The Yaksha of Parkham near Mathura
  • The Chauri bearer from Didarganj in Bihar
  • The stone elephant from Dhauli in Orissa

Artistically these figures do not appear to belong to the same tradition as the animal capitals. They were probably carved by local craftsmen and not by the special craftsmen who were responsible for the animal capitals