The Mughal Architecture

The Mughal Emperors were great builders. They raised a large number of palaces, mosques and forts and other buildings which are notable for the magnificence of their style and designs. The Mughal style of architecture was a mixture of various styles, partly foreign and partly Indian.

Babur had a very poor opinion about Indian architecture. So he summoned many skilled architects from Constantinople to construct buildings at many places in India. But most of the buildings built by Babur have perished. The two that have survived are the mosque in the Kabuli Bagh in Panipat and the Jama Masjid at Sambhal.

Humayun, in spite of his life of stress and strain found some time to erect some buildings. He erected a new fortress town of Din Panah. He also constructed a mosque at Fatehabad in the Hissar district of Haryana.
Sher Shah Sun was a reat builder. Among the buildings constructed by him, his mausoleum at Sasaram is the most famous. In this building, there is a harmonious combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Cunningham was so much impressed by it that he Qonsidered it better than the Taj Mahal. Another important building of Sher Shah was the Purana Qua at Delhi. The mosque inside the building is a structure of such admirable architectural qualities as to entitle it a high place among the buildings of Northern India.

Akbar: Emperor Akbar had a thorough understanding of architectural details. He gathered artistic ideas from the expert artists of his court. The most prominent buildings of Akbar are those at Fatehpur Sikri, his capital from 1569 to 1584. The prominent among Akbar’s monuments are the Buland Darwaza, the Jama Masjid, the tomb of Shaikh Salim Chishti and the royal palace. The Buland Darwaza is 176 feet high. It is still the highest
Gateway in India and one of the highest in the world. The Jama Masjid described as glory of Fatehpur is one of the greatest and most beautiful mosques in India. But the most beautiful Mughal edifice at Fatehpur Sikri is the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti. Impressed by its finish and form, design and execution, the historians have said that the tomb stands distinguished from Itimad-ud-Daula’s tomb at Agra and the Taj Mahal. The other impressive buildings at Sikri are the house of Birbal, the house of princesses of Ambar, Sonahia Makan, the palace of Turkish Sultana and the Diwani-khas. Dr. V.A. Smith remarks that Fatehpur is a “romance in stone”.

Akbar also built a number of buildings at Agra. He constructed the Agra fort which was completed in 1572 A.D. The walls of this fort are 72 feet high and its circumference is one and a half mile. It has two gateways namely Delhi Gate or Elephant Gate and Amar Singh Gate. Inside the fort are Diwan-i-Aam and Dewan-i-Khas. Akbar also started the construction of a fort at Lahore. He built many palaces in this fort. Its walls had paintings of elephants, tigers and peacocks etc. These paintings show the influence of Hindu art. Later, Shah Jahan completed the construction of the Lahore fort. Akbar started the construction of his tomb at Sikandara near Agra but it was completed by Jahangir. About this tomb, Dr. Iswari Pal Prasad remarks that this building is unique among the sculptures of Asia.  Apart from the buildings and monuments mentioned above, Akbar’s style is visible in a number of forts, serais, schools, tanks and wells.

Under Jahangir. Jahangir did not take much interest in erecting buildings and monuments.  Nevertheless, two important buildings were erected in his times. One is Itmad-ud Daula’s tomb built by Nur Jahan in the memory of her father. It was wholly built of marble and is really a beautiful structure. The other is Jahangir’s tomb at Shadara near Lahore on the bank of river Ravi. It was also built by Nur Jahan.

Under Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan’s reign is most memorable in the history of India for the excellence of architecture. Shah Jahan was the “most magnificent builder”. He built palaces, forts and mosques at various places such as Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Kabul, Kandhar, Ajmer, Ahmedabad, Mukhlaspur and Kashmir. He carried the decorative art to perfection by making an extensive use of snowy marble in laid with precious stones.
The most magnificent of Shah Jahan’s buildings is the famous Taj Mahal at Agra. He raised, this building in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is a spectacle of supremely moving béauty It has been described as “a dream in marble” and the queen of architecture. Though Shah Jahan invited eminent architects from Shiraz, Baghdad, Constantinople, Bokhara and Samarkand, yet most of them were from Delhi, Lahore, Multan and Kanauj. It took 22 years to complete the construction of the Taj Mahal and its total cost came to about three crore rupees.

The other important building constructed by Shah Jahan was the Red Fort (Lal Qua) at Delhi. The fort has many beautiful buildings such as Rang Mahal, Moti Mahal, Hira Mahal, Diwan-i-Am and Diwan-i-khas. Shah Jahan called the Dewan-i- khas as a “paradise on earth.” Shah Jahan’s peacock throne, “Takhat-i-Taus” was placed in the Dewan i-khas.
Shan Jahan demolished some buildings in the fort of Agra which were built by Akbar and built some new buildings in their place. The new buildings were Diwan-i- Am, Diwan-i-khas, Khas Mahal, Shish Mahal, Suman Burj and Moti Masjid. All these buildings are made of marble. Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque is regarded as the “purest and the loveliest house of prayer”.

Shah Jahan laid the foundation of the city of Delhi and named it as Shah Jahan Abad. It was situated on the banks of the Jamuna.
Shah Jahan built a Jama Masjid opposite the Red Fort at Delhi. It is even more impressive and pleasing than the Pearl Mosque. It is a very large building and is made of red stone.

Under Aurangzeb. Being himself a puritan, Aurangzeb did not take much interest in the art of architecture. Moreover, as he remained busy in his Deccan campaigns, he could pay little attention to the development of architecture. In 1660 A.D., he constructed a Pearl Mosque in the Red Fort at Delhi. In 1674, he built a l3adshahi Mosque at Lahore. In 1679, he built the tomb of his wife Rabia-ud-Durrani at Aurangabad. This building shows that the art of architecture was on its decline during Aurangzeb’s times.

British Period: The British government in India also built great monuments. They got constructed the government buildings on the British pattern. The Victoria Memorial Hall, Writers Building and Fort St. William were built at Calcutta. They built Victoria Terminus
Railway Station (now called Chhatrapati Shivaji) at Bombay
which is a beautiful specimen of architecture. They also built most
magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Parliament House at New
Delhi. It was during this period that Shattar Manzil and Kausar
Bagh were built at Lucknow.

Medieval Art and Architecture During the Rule of Delhi Sultans

The Turks and the Afghans brought to India the styles and techniques of Persian and Central Asiatic architecture. These styles of art and architecture intermingled with the Indian styles which led to the development of a new style of architecture. The Turks used the dome and arch on a large scale in the buildings. The Delhi Sultans built the following important monuments.

Sultan Qutab-un-Din Aibek built Quwwat-ul Islam mosque at Delhi. It is a fine example of the IndoMuslim style of architecture. Aibek started the construction of Qutab Minar at Delhi but the building was finally completed by Iltutmish. Qutab Minar was originally intended to be a place for the Muazzin to call the faithfuls to prayer but later on, it became a tower of victory. It is essentially Islamic in form and design. It is very impressive and beautiful building. Aibek also laid the foundation of a mosque named Dhai Din Kr Jizonpada at Ajmer. Iltutmish built an Idgah and a Jama Masjid at Delhi.

Ala-ud-Din Khalji built a new city of Sri. He erected there a palace known as “The Palace of Thousand Pillars”. The palace was so named because the heads of a thousand Mongols were buried in its foundations. Ala-ud Din also built a fine mosque known as Jamait Khana. Another great building erected by him was the Ali Darwaza which is considered as the most treasured gem of Islamic culture.

The buildings of the Tughlaq period lack splendour. They are characterised by Islamic simplicity Ghyas-ud Din Tughlaq built the city of Tughlaqabad and his own mausoleum. Muhammad Tughlaq built the fortress of Adilabad adjoining the city of Tughiaqabad. Firoz Tughlaq was the most magnificent builder of all the Delhi Sultans. He built a number of palaces and cities. But the greatest monument of his reign are Kotla Firoze Shah, Kali Masjid, Lal Gumbad and his own mausoleum. The most important monument of the Lodhi dyrtasty is the Mothki Masjid built by Sikandar Lodhi.

Architecture in Regional Kingdoms

Many provincial governors were also patrons of art and architecture. They developed their distinctive styles of architecture. Bengal, Jaunpur, Maiwa and Gujarat have fine specimens of the architecture of those times. The famous Adina Masjid at Pand a built by Sikandar Shah was one of the largest mosques in the Muslim world. The Delhi Darwaza at Gaur (in Bengal) is a superb example of what can be achieved in brick and terracota. In Gujarat, architecture reached its highest development in the reign of Mahmud Baghera. The Jama Masjid built by Ahmed Shah and Mahmud Baghera at Champanir is a beautiful and lofty structure. The buildings erected by the Sharqi Sultans at Jaunpur present a synthesis of Hindu- Muslim architectural ideas. The Atala Devi Masjid which was completed in 1403 A.D. is one of the brilliant specimens of this style.
The Bahmani rulers were also great builders. Many magnificent buildings were constructed in the capital cities of Gulbarga and Bidar. Some of these were built in old style of architecture. But some are of Persian style such as the Masjid of Gulbarga and the Madras at Bidar. The Mausoleum of Ahmed Shah built by Ala-ud Din II at Bidar is a fine specimen of the art of this period. Its walls arid ceilings are decorated with paintings in brilliant colours in the Persian style. Some remarkable monuments of this Bahmani dynasty are found in Bijapur. The mausoleum of Mahmud Adil Shah, popularly known as Gol Gumbaz, shows the influence of Turkish art. Its enormous dome covers an area of 18000 square feet.

The rulers of Vijayanagar empire were famous for their patronage of art. They developed a distinct style of school of art, painting and architecture. They built palaces, public offices and temples decorated with sculptures and paintings. They are regarded as works of beauty and were admired by the foreign travellers. The city of Vijayanagar had a strong fortification and imposing gateways. Though it was completely destroyed by the Muhammaden invaders, its ruins are virtually “a vast open air museum of Hindu monuments”.

Vijayanagar was regarded as a city of temples. Of these, the temples of Pampapati, Vithal Swami, and Hazara Rama are very famous. They had huge gopurams and spacious mandapas. Many magnificent
temples were also erected in other parts of the kingdom. The temples at Vellore, Kanchipuram and Srirangapattam are notable. The Naiks of Madurai were also patrons of architecture. The temples at
Madurai and Rameshwaram stand witness to their keen interest in architecture. The art of sculpture also made progress. The art of making bronze images though began in the times of the Cholas, reached its 1ights during the time of Vijayanagar kings. The bronze image of Krishna Deva Raya is one of the best specimens of the art of this period.

Due to lack of state patronage, the Rajputs made no magnificent temples. However, some wealthy persons and communities built small temples in small towns and villages. Some specimens of Hindu architecture are found in Rajasthan. Rana Kumbha of Mewar erected numerous forts, palaces, temples and other buildings. Famous among them are the fort of Kumbhalgarh and the Kirti Satambha or Jai Satambha (pillar of
– victory) at Chittorgarh. The palaces at Chittorgarh are models of medieval Hindu architecture. There are ruins of buildings at Ambar near Jaipur belonging to this period. The palace of Man Singh at Gwalior is a remarkable specimen of the Rajput architecture of this period.

Famous Temples of Ancient India

In the south, the Chola kings were great patrons of art. They developed and perfected the Dravidian style of art and architecture. Their greatest monument in the Rajarajeshawara temple at Tanjore built by Rajaraja the great. Its construction was started in 1000 A.D. and was completed in 1010 A.D. Its main structure is 180 feet long and its great Shikhra (tower) is 190 feet high. The temple is crowned by a massive dome. Percy Brown remarks, “It is a landmark in the evolution of the building art in the South India”.

Another great monument of the Chola rule is the temple of Gangaikonda Cholapurama which was built during the reign of Rajindra I. Its design and style is similar to that of Tanjore temple. The main temple is built on a rectangle which is 240 feet long and 110 feet broad. The Mandapa of the temple is supported by 150 pillars. The walls of the temple are decorated with scenes depicting both gods and men. This temple is an excellent example of rhythm, dignity and poise. The temples in the south were also centres of social activity The village councils held meetings there. Schools were also attached to the temples.

In the reign of Pallava dynasty the temples had rock cut shrines. They were carved out of large rocks or cut into hill sides. The temple of Mahabalipuram near Madras (Chennai) is a famous temple of this type. There are many rock cut temples in the town of Kanchipuram.
The famous works of art of the Rashtrakuta period are Kailas temple, the Trimurti of Elephanta Caves and the Dasavatara temple. The magnificent Kailas temple at Ellora with its chamber of pillared halls cut out of the solid rocks was built in the time of Krishna I. The caves around the temple have stone cut images which depict scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The temples of this type are a fine combination of the Northern and Dravidian styles. The Hoyasalas built a magnificent temple
at Halebid near Belur. The rulers of the Hoyasala dynasty built the Hoysaleshwara temple at Dwarsamudra (modern Halebid) in 1150 A.D. It is made of greyish soap stone and is really tharmful. The exteriors and interiors of all the walls and doorways are decorated with beautiful sculptures.

The Bronze Sculptures of the Chola period

The art of sculpture reached its heights in the south during the Chola period. Sculptures formed an important part of every temple. The huge statue of Gomateshwar at S.ravana Belgola in Karnataka, the carvings of the Kailas temple at Ellora and the images in the Elephanta caves built by the Rashtrakutas are fine specimens of art of sculpture. The Chola period is famous for its images of metals. The bronze images produced during the Chola rule are full of grace and simplicity. The image of Nataraja Lord Shiva is a fine specimen of art of sculpture.

North Indian Temples, Forts and Buildings

The kings in the Northern India also contributed to the development of temple architecture. All the kings and the feudatory chiefs built temples. The Jagannath Temple at Pun (Orissa), the Lingaraja temple at Bhuwaneshwar and the Sun temple at Konark are fine specimens
of temple architecture. The Parsawnath Temple, the Vishwanath Temple and the Kaindriya Mahadev Temple at Khajuraho are the magnificent specimens of temple architecture of the Rajput period. The Dilwara Temple at Mount Abu in Rajasthan dedicated to the Jam Tirthankaras is built of pure marble. The well-known Shiva Mandir of Ellora built by the Rajput kings has won the admiration of the modern artists. The Solanki rulers of Kathiawar built many shrines and temples at Ahilwara in Gujarat and at Mount Shatranjya in Kathiawar. The temple of Tejpala is also a fine example of temple architecture. The Rajputs built magnificent forts and
palaces. The most famous forts are at Chitor, Mandu, Gwalior and Jaipur. The palace of Raja Man Singh at Gwalior and Hawamahal palace at Jaipur are beautiful monuments of art and architecture.


The art of sculpture made a great progress during the Rajput period
During the reign of Palas and Senas, statues were built of black stone. Dhiman-ina and Vitapala were the two prominent sculptors who adorned the court of Pala kings. One of the finest examples of art of sculpture was the great statue of Gomateswar at Sarvana Belgola. The statues of Nataraja, the dancing posture of Shiva, particularly those in bronze are considered as masterpieces of art of image making of this period.

The influence of Greek Culture on Indian Art

India’s contact with Western Asia and the Greeks also influenced Indian art. The Greeks greatly contributed to the development of Taxila, Gandhara and Mathuta as the centres of art in India. They gave birth to the Gandhara School of Art. Its style is partly Indian and partly Greek. Stone images and statues of the Buddha were carved. Indian architecture was also influenced to some extent by the Greeks. But not a single monument of the Greek style has survived. A temple of high pillars probably belonging to the first century A.D. has been discovered at Taxila.

The Indians learnt much about the art of making coins from the Greeks. Before the coming of the Indo-Bactrians and Indo-Parthians to India, the art of coinage in India was in an infant stage. It is evident from the fact that the coins of Chandragupta Maurya were rough and crude in form. Indians made punch-marked silver and copper coins. The Greeks circulated beautiful coins minted in India. These coins had pictures engraved on the obverse and the reverse. Like the Greek rulers, the rulers in other parts of India started manufacturing beautiful coins.

Art and Architecture During the Kushan Rule

The reign of Kanishka is famous for the progress of art in ancient India. The craftsmen produced many unique pieces of art in his times. Mathura, Sarnath, Vidisa, Gandhara and Taxila were the most famous centres of art.

(A) Gandhara School of Art: The Gandhara School of Art which developed in the times of Kanishka occupies a prominent place in the cultural history of India. Art was applied to architecture, sculpture and painting which flourished in the Gandhara region (modern Rawalpindi and Peshawar regions) from the first century A.D. to the 5th century A.D. It developed under the Kushans, especially Kanishka. It is also called Indo-Greek art because Greek techniques were employed to illustrate Indian thought and religion. Although the techniques were borrowed from the Greeks, the original conception of the Buddha figure was basically Indian. It was essentially Indian in spirit. This Art is also sometimes called the Buddhist Art of Gandhara because it produced mostly images of the Buddha and the Boddhistavas. Some features of Garidhara Art were as under:
1. The Buddha has been shown sitting and appears to be a king rather than an ascetic.
2. The Buddha has been shown sitting in the golden throne in the Gandhara Art whereas in other Indian styles he is shown sitting in the Padamasana.
3. The right shoulder of the Buddha has been shown naked. Moustaches have also been shown.
4. The hair of the Buddha are fashioned in the Greeco-Roman style.
5. Beautiful engravings, decorations, symbols and a halo round the face of the Buddha have been shown in the images.

The Gandhara sculptures have been found in the ruins of Taxila and in many ancient cities of Afghanistan and in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan. The standing figure of Buddha from Hoti Mardan has Indian features, but its size and presentation of the head and drapery show the influence of the god Apollo.

Fine figures of the Buddha and Buddhistavas are paintings portraying every incident of his life and previous births are remarkably executed in blackstone. of the Buddha forms the inspiring motive of this art. In fact, the Gandhara Art is the living commentary on the life and deeds of the Buddha.

(B) Mathura Art: Mathura was also an important centre of art during the reign of Kanishka. The king beautified Mathura with number of monasteries, statues and sculptures. The well known relic of this period is a portrait statue of Kanishka. The statue is, however headless. At Mathura, besides the images of the Buddha and Boddhistavas, the idols of Hindu gods like Shiva, Vishnu, Surya and Jam Tirthankaras were also produced.

Chaitya at Peshawar: Peshawar being the seat of government, Kanishka built many buildings here. The most important monument of Kanishka in Peshawar is a relic tower of bronze called Shah Ji ki Dehn It was a hige stupa or a monastery. Hieun Tsang says that it consisted of a basement in five stages, a superstructure of carved wood in thirteen storeys and surmounted by gilt copper umbrella.

Founding of the new cities

Kanishka is said to have founded the city of Kanishkapüra after his own name. It was near modern Baramula. It is believed thai the Sirsukh city of Taxila and its monasteries and buildings were founded by Kanishka.


The art of coinage was also much developed during the Kushan rule. A large variety of copper and silver coins belonging to this period have been discovered. These coins have figures of Greek, Persian and Hindu kings. A gold coin bearing the image, of Kanishka has also been discovered. All the copper coins have images of Kanishka engraved on them: These coins throw light on the administration of Kanishka and also indicate that the art of coinage was greatly developed at this time.

The Imperial Guptas

The Gupta period is marked by great activity in the spheres of art and architecture. A large number of Brahmanical temples were built. The inscriptions show that the temples were dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Parvati. Monasteries were given over to the Buddhist Sanghas and even temples were built for the spiritual culture of the Jains. Among those which have survived, the following are well-known.

1. The Dasavatara temple at Devgarh in the Jhansi district. It had originally a pyramidical top about 40 feet in height. Its walls are decorated outside with terracota figures showing scenes from Hindu mythology.
2. The temple at Bhitargaon near Kanpur
3. Vishnu temple at Tigawa in Jabalpur district
4. Shiva temple at Bhumara
5. Buddhist shrines at Sanchi and Bodhgaya
6. The Shiva temple at Khoh (Nagod state) containing a beautiful Elsamukhi Linga
7. A beautiful Parvati temple at Nachna-Kuthara (Ajaygarh state) etc.

Dr. Bhasham points out that the Gupta temples show the same general pattern. Pillars were usually ornate with heavy bell shaped capitals. All the Gupta temples were small in size and most of them had flat roofs.
Several Buddhist buildings, stupas, chapels and monasteries have been discovered at Jaulian, Charsadda and other ancient sites near Pushkalavati. One of the Stupas found at Jarasandha-ka-Bamh at Rajgir and the Dhamek Stupa at Sarnath belong to the 6th century A.D. The Stupa at Sarnath is 128 feet high and has four niches for the Buddha images. Narasimha Gupta Baladitya built a magnificent brick temple of Buddha at Nalanda. It was about 300 feet high and was greatly admired by the Chinese travellers who visited this place. The main structure has entirely been destroyed and only its basement has been unearthed.

Arts, Crafts and Architecture in Ancient India

The development of Indian art is the result of evolution which began with the Harappan culture. The study of the ruins unearthed during the excavations show that the buildings at Harappa and Mohenjodaro were constructed according to some definite pians. They were made of pucca bricks. The houses had floors, courtyards, doors, windows and narrow stairways. The city of Mohenjodaro had an imposing Great Bath. “It is a swimming bath on a scale which would do credit to a modem seaside hotel.” The solid nature of the structure is proved by the fact that it has been strong enough to last for five thousand years. The most remarkable building excavated at Harappa is the Great Granary. This large godown is divided into two blocks, each having six big halls. These godowns must be serving the purpose of government store houses. The above account shows that the art of building had reached a high degree of perfection. At the time when the citizens of Indus valley freely used kiln-burnt bricks, the people of Egypt were ignorant of it and that of Mesopotamia (modem Ixaq) very seldom used it. A large number of figurines of both males and females made of bronze, stone and clay have been discovered at many places. The Indus valley people were skilled in this art and fashioned these figures stylically. The image of a dancing girl and the terracota figure of a woman named as the Mother Goddess are popular pieces of art. The seals discovered in the Indus valley are most puzzling and most important. The seal named Pashupati unearthed at Harappa shows the figure of a male god with horns and three faces. It throws light on the religion of the Indus people. Another seal “Bull seal” shows a stout humpee rahami bull. The modelling of the fleshy limbs is remarkable for its artistic beauty. The seals give us much information about the culture of the Indus people. They tell us about their agriculture, animals, ids, dress, ornaments, hair style, arts and crafts, religious beliefs and their script.

The Mauryan Period

India witnessed a remarkable progress in the field of art during the Mauryan period. The first Mauryan ruler Chandragupta built a number of monuments and palaces at Pataliputra. They were built of wood and they have perished. But some monuments of Ashoka have survived the ravages of the time. They form the earliest artistic records of Indian civilization.

Founding of new cities

The traditions tell that Ashoka built two great cities. Kaihana in his famous work writes that Ashoka laid the foundation of the town of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. He built 500 Viharas. The Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang who visited India in the seventh century A.D. mentions 100 Viharas which he saw there. In 250-24 B.C., when Ashoka visited Nepal, he built a city named Lalitpattam and constructed five stupas there.

The Palace of Pataliputra

Ashoka built a magnificent palace at Pataliputra. Chinese pilgrim Fahien who visited India in the 5th century AD writes that he found Ashoka’s palace and an assembly hail at Pataliputra. They were built by Asuras. They created stone walls and gates and engraved beautiful pictures on them which no other craftsman in any part of the world could make in those days.


Ashoka built stupas all over the country. The Buddhist traditions tell that he built as many as 84000 stupas in as many towns. They were situated at Taxila, Srinagar, Thaneswar, Kanauj, Mathura, Ayodhya, Prayag, Kausambhi, Kapilvastu, Benaras, Vaishali,Gaya etc. Some of his stupas were as high as hill tops. Only a few of them have been discovered. The be’t known is the Great Stupa of Sanchi near the ancient city of Vidisa (in modem Madhya Pradesh). It is 56 feet high with a diameter of 110 feet. At the top is a small stone umbrella, a symbol of royalty. There are carvings on the railings and gateway of the stupa which throw much light on the every day life, customs and dresses of the people of those days. There is another stupa of Ashoka at Bharhut (near Allahabad). It is about 68 feet high. The stupa was completely destroyed but some of its remains are preserved in theCalcutta (Kolkata) museum.


Ashoka also built beautiful pillars (Lats). He built a number of monolithic pillars to commemorate some special events of his reign. Some of them have been discovered at Rammendai, Sarnath, Sanchi and Nigliva. Each of these pillars consists of two parts, namely the shaft and the capital. The workmanship of the Sanchi pillar is a “masterpiece in point of both style and technique”. The artistic beauty of the figures of the four lions standing back to back and the smaller figurines of animals in relief on abacus, have envoked admiration of all critics of art. Dr. V.A. Smith observes, “It should be difficult to find in any country an example of sculpture superior to or even equal to this beautiful work of art”.


A number of caves belonging to the Mauryan period have been discovered in Barabara hills near Gaya. The one called Sudama Cave was dedicated by Ashoka to the monks of the Ajivika sect. The caves were cut out of solid rocks and are wonderful monuments of patient skill and hard labour. These caves were used by the monks for residential purposes. These also served the purpose of shrines and assembly halls.

Small Pieces of Art

Some small pieces of art belonging to the Mauryan period have been discovered at Parkham near Mathura. One of these is a male figure and is seven feet in height. Besides, a female figure from Besanagar and some figures from Didarganj arid Patna are notable. According to Dr. Kumara Swami, these peices of art are the specimens of folk art.

Art of Polishing

The art of polishing was highly developed during the time of Ashoka. The walls of the rock-cut caves in Barabar and Nagarjuna hills are still shining like mirror. The polish of Ashoka’s pillars has astonished even the thodern craftsmen. They are so shining that they seem to be made of brass. An English priest Bishop Herber wrote in the beginning of the 18th century that the “Topara Pillar of Ashoka which was brought to Delhi was cast of a black metal.”

Art of Engineering

The Ashoka monuments also reveal that the people had acquired much knowledge of engineering technique in those times. The handling of monolithic shafts weighing 50 tons and more than 30 feet in height involved great engineering skill. We learn that Feroze Shah Tughlaq removed an Ashokan pillar from Topra near Ambala and brought it to Delhi. Its transportation required the labour of 8400 men pulling at the 42 wheeled cart on which it was carried. It was also during the Mauryan Age that the construction of a remarkable lake called the Sudrashana Lake near Junagarh was taken up by artificially damming up some of the streams. Dr. Radhakumad Mukerji observes that the engineers of the Mauryan times were also expert town planners. Megasthenese’s account shows that Pataliputra city was built according to well thought out plan by the Mauryan engineers.

Art of making Ornaments and Coins

Some ornaments have been discovered in the excavations at Taxila which prove that the art of making gold and silver ornaments was much advanced in the Mauryan period. The Greek writers tell that art of ivory carving and making ivory ornaments also flourished during this period. But the art of making coins was not well-developed as the coins of this period are crude in form.

Thus, we see that art, crafts and architecture made tremendous progress during the Mauryan Age. According to Rawilson, Indian art in Mauiyan times “reached a standard of technical and artistic perfection unsurprassed save perhaps in Athens, anywhere in the ancient world up to
that time?” But unfortunately with the collapse of the Mauryan empire; the art also declined.

Jainism and Buddhism

The Jainism probably arose in the later Vedic period and was only revived by Vardhmana Mahavira “the great hero” in the 6th century B.C. Mahavira was the 24th in the line of ‘path finders’ (Tirthankaras). The word Jainism is derived from the word JINA meaning spiritual conqueror. There are two principal sects of the Jainas known as Swatambaras and the Digambaras. The former are clad in white while the latter go naked. The Digambaras
firmly believe that whoever owns anything is not fit for attaining
salvation. Jainism believes in the transmigration of soul. The goal of
life is to help soul attain its salvation. Salvation could only be achieved
by following right faith, right knowledge and right action— the Three
Jewels or Three Ratnas.

It is believed that Buddhism began as a religion and became a
philosophy in its encounter against Brahmanism. Buddhism rejects
ritualism and emphasises on morality The real message of the Buddha
is to be found in the Four Noble Truths. The first truth is that life is
painful. The second is that the pain is caused by Trishna or Desire, a
constant craving for sensual delight, pleasures and material gains. The
third is that suffering could be removed by removing its cause i.e.,
when man becomes free from desires. The fourth is that suffering can
cease if one knows the right way. Buddhism was split into two sects—
Hinayna and Mahayana. The four noble truths are common to both.
The followers of Mahayana raised Buddha to the status of God and
began to worship him just like the Hindus. Images of the Buddha were made and placed in the Buddhist churches. The Mahayana monks preached and wrote their sacred books in the Sanskrit language instead of Pali.

Puranic Bralimaniam was another important faith which emerged in the country. It had faith in Puranas, Dharamshastra such as Manu Samriti, Vishnu Samriti and two great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. It is also styled as Sanatan Dharma or Eternal Religion because the Dharamshastra and the Puranas are without beginning and ever lasting. The Puranic Hinduism was divided into several sects most important of them being Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism.

Vedant Darshan: In the later period of ancient Indian history, a new religious sect called Bhakti saints emerged in the South. The followers of Bhakti cult worshipped their favourite gods. It gave rise to the Vaishnav and Shaiv religions. Shankaracharya, the greatest Indian religious philosopher propagated love of God and composed many devotional
poems. He elaborated the subtle and the most profound philosophy of Upanishadas. He restored the Brahmanical Hinduism and the authority of the Vedas to the position of intellectual leadership. He taught the
unqualified monism of the Vedas. He reformed the method of worship from the uncivilised and indecent practices of the Tantrics. He gave a pleasant and elevating system of worship of the deities— Shiva,
Shakti, Surya, Vishnu, Ganpati and Shamukha. He established four maths or monasteries in four corners of India i.e. at Shringeri, Pun, Dwarka and Badrinath.

Coming of Islam to India: Islam took birth in Arabia in the beginning of the 7th century. Indians came into contact with Islam in the
late seventh century A.D. through the Arab traders. Later, the Sufi saints came to India with Arab traders to spread the message of Lotus flower Symbol of Purity Islam. The Sufism had gained ground in India before the establishment of the Muslim rule in India by Maimud Ghazni. The Sufi saints condemned blind faith and useless rituals which had crept into Muslim society They had firm faith in One God. They asked their followers to shun wealth and life of luxury. They had firm faith in non-violence. They held that social evils could be eradicated only by peaceful methods. They preached love of mankind and universal brotherhood. The Sufis were successful in converting a large number of Hindus to Islam, especially the low castes. The Sufi movement spread all over India.

Bhakti Movements: During the Medieval period, Southern as well as Northern India witnessed the growth of the Bhakti movement. It aimed to purge Hinduism of its evils and to save it from the onslaughts of Islam. A series of Hindu saints and reformers started religious reform movements which adopted the method of devotion (Bhakti) to achieve salvation. Thus began the Bhakti movement. The most famous and popular among the reformers were Rama Nanda, Kabir, Sadna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Ravi Das and Guru Nanak. The Bhakti movement greatly influenced the social, religious, cultural and political life of the people. It saved Hinduism from degeneration. It condemned the caste system, untouchability wasteful rituals and ceremonies to restore Hinduism to its ancient glory The Bhakti movement thus protected Hinduism and it began to flourish. The Bhakti reformers preached universal brotherhood. As a result, people were no more inclined to embrace Islam and thus growth of Islam was checked.

Religious Traditions in India

Religious traditions also bind men together. Belief in God is not a blind force but has an active and logical philosophy of life. Religion has always been the backbone of Indian society. During the times of national crisis, it was the religion that saved Hindu society from disintegration.

Dedicating oneself to upliftment of people is regarded as the highest religious duty because active social service means seeing God in the suffering humanity Such excellent ideals have given strength to the Hindu society and religion.

The earliest source of information regarding Hindu thought is Vedas, which signifies not a single work but a whole Vedic literature. This literature consists of two parts viz, Mantras and Brahmanas. The Upnishadas which are the main philosophical inspirations are included in Brahmanas but owing to their unique importance in the history of Indian thought they are treated separately. The Bhagvat Gita which is a part of the Mahabharata, contains the essence of the Upnishadas.

The six systems of Hindu philosophy can be traced to the Brahma sutras, the Upnishadas and the Bhagvat Gita. These six major Darshans (systems of philosophy) give different views about God. Nayaa and Visheshika accept the existence of God. The two Mimansa (Uttar Mimansa and Purava Mimansa) rely on the Vedas. The Sankhya system is materialistic and does not believe in the existence of God. The Yoga which is practically independent, is not really theistic.

Heritage-Social and Cultural Traditions

The social and religious traditions in a society are the products of three main factors— environments, personalities and social groups. The course of action that famous figures of history take and the environments and the society in which they are placed give birth to traditions, social, religious, economic or political. Such traditions develop gradually and imperceptibly during the course of time. Let us study some social traditions of our country.

Family: The family was the pivot of Indian society. Joint families were common. The relations between the members were cordial. They shared a common life and the entire property belonged to the family. The head of the family was highly respected. He could punish the wrong deeds of any family member. The decisions of the eldest male member were final even in the matters of marriage. But in the modern age, these traditions are fading away. Due to the changes in the life style of the people, the joint families are breaking. The eldest member of the family is no more shown the same respect.

Position of Women: In the early Vedic Age, the women enjoyed highly respectable position in the society. Among the composers of the Vedas, names of some ladies such as those of Ghosha and Sikata Nivavara are also mentioned. All the religious ceremonies were performed by the husband and wife together. Every mother was the mistress In the household matters. Marriage was a sacred ceremony. Women had the freedom in the choice of their partners, which is proved by the performance of Swayamvara. Polygamy was rare. Widow remarriage was not prohibited. Thus the standard of female morality was very high and women enjoyed an honourable position in the society.

But there was a marked decline in the position of women in the later Vedic Age. She could not inherit property. She could not take part in political activities. A daughter began to be looked ‘upon as a source of misery while a son was a light in the highest heaven. The practice of polygamy had increased their sorrows and miseries. Position of the women in the medieval age further deteriorated. She was generally treated as inferior. Her husband was her only hope and resource. If he died, she had to remain widow. Her only chance of happiness was to bear his son. Several high castes such as Rajputs committed female infanticide. There was the practice of purdah both among the Muslim and Hindu women. Early marriage was very common. The girls were given in marriage at the age of 7, 10 or at the most 12 years. The practice of Sati was not uncommon especially among the upper caste Hindu women.

Simple Life: In the ancient times, the Indians lived a very simple life. Most of the people were vegetarians. Their food consisted of parched grams, cakes, curd, and various vegetables and fruits. The rise of Jainism and Buddhism further encouraged the people to become vegetarians. Even today, most of the Hindus are vegetarians.

The people wore simple clothes. A dhoti and another sheet sufficed for men. Sirnilar1) a simple croset and dhoti were the dress of women. The dhoti or saree was artistically worn. The clothes were made of cotton or wool. The rich wore artistic clothes generally embroidered with gold.
People led a merry pastoral life. Men and women enjoyed themselves in festive assemblies with music and dance. Dicing, drinking and gambling were the common vices.

Caste System: In the early Vedic period, the caste system in its rigid form did not exist. The word Varuna distinguished the Aryans from the non-Aryans. The modem caste names Kshatriyas and Brahmans were used in different sense altogether. Kshatriya means strong, Vipra means wise and Brahman means merely a composer of hymns. In the same family, father, mother and sons followed different occupations. But in the later Vedic Age, the whole society was divided into four Varunas or castes— Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. The Brahmans occupied the highest place in the social organisation. Philosophers, scholars, teachers and priests were Brahmans. Next came the Kshatriyas. They were administrators, soldiers and leaders in war. The bulk of the people who were engaged in agriculture, industry trade and craft and cattle breeding were called Vaishyas. The lowest caste in the society was that of Sudras. They depended only on physical strength for their livelihood and served the other three classes. They were also looking after agriculture.
The most unfortunate feature of the Hindu society of the ancient times was the class of untouchables. They performed the menial and unclean jobs. They were criminals, hunters, fishermen, leather workers, sweepers, liquor venders etc. and were grouped as Chandals. They lived outside the villages or the towns, as their professions compelled them to do so. Gradually, distinct changes came in the social structure. The number of castes multiplied and caste rules were more rigidly observed. Now small occupational groups took the place of the older and bigger caste groups. The narrow outlook created by rigid caste system was a stumbling block in the growth of national spirit.

The Ashram system: An important tradition which began in ancient times was the Ashram System. The Grayhya Sutra and Dharam Shastras laid down a series of acts which an average man or woman was expected to perform in the whole span of his life. A man’s life, for instance, was divided into four Ashrams or periods, each of 25 years span. The first period (Brahmacharya) upto the age of 25 years was to be spent as a Brahmacharya. During this period, he was to undergo rigorous dis,cip line, learning various arts and crafts according to his tastes and requirements. During the second period called the Grahasth Ashram, a man was to live a householder’s life. He was to marry and look after his family. During the third period called the Vanprasth, he had to wean himself away from his wife and children and lead the life of a recluse. He was to render every type of social service to society and to make preparations for the Sanyas i.e. renunciation of the world. During the last period called Sanyas Ashram, he was to live as a hermit in the woods and meditate on God and attain Moksha or Nirvana.

These four Ashrams were laid down as an ideal way of leading life for human beings. There is ample evidence in the Vedic literature that some Aryans put into practice such a life. In fact, the best of the philosophical works in Sanskrit literature were produced by the ascetics and hermits who lived in the woods and meditated on the spiritual problems of life hereafter.

Asceticism: Another notable tradition of Indian society was the glorification of the ascetic way of life. An ascetic was a person who did not allow himself worldly pleasures. He believed that the life of
Tapas (austerity), Brahmacharya and detachment might lead to even greater results than the rituals and Yajnas. He renounced the worldly life and retired to the jungles to meditate on spiritual aspects of life.
This asceticism was widely preached in ancient times and it is practised by some even in the modem age.

Sanskrit language: Another important Indian tradition is reverence for the Sanskrit language. It developed in the Vedic age and deeply influenced all languages of India in vocabulary and structure. Its influence has gone so deep that scholars regard all other Indian languages as variations from the common language i.e. Sanskrit.

The earliest religion in India is Hinduism. It is rooted in the Vedas. It has developed throughout the centuries on the basis of the moral and religious ideas of many prophets, saints, philosophers and law givers of ancient
and medieval times. It is a synthesis of spiritual principles, moral precepts and practical rules of conduct. It is a way of life rather than a set creed. It is based on universal love, tolerance and sacrifice. In spite of multiplicity of gods such as Indra, Varuna, Agni, Vayu, Prithvi, Prajanaa, Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva etc. the Hindus believe in One Supreme God. The Supreme God is the creator of all, including the gods. Common belief in several hundreds of gods is an indication of the Hindu sense of tolerance and
belief in the all pervading nature of the Supreme Being. He is uncreated, self luminous, eternal spirit and the final cause of the Universe
and the power behind all force. To the Hindus, religion means the realisation of the Supreme.

Spirit: The study of scriptures, performance of rituals and practice of charity have no meaning without realising God. He is to rise above love and hatred, pleasure and pain, good and evil etc. Every man can do it by controlling his senses and the Hindu scriptures assert that every one including women and children can do it.

The personality of individual must be fully developed. A rich and vigorous life based on the four fold ideals— Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha must be pursued. Enjoyment of material goods and satisfaction of emotional and cultural need, is, therefore, inseparable part of true religious life. The Védas, the Puranas and the Epics prescribe optimistic and creative life. At the same time, man must not be a slave of passions and pleasures. Dedicating oneself to social service and upliftment of the common

Toleration: During the medieval period, in spite of the fundamental differences and tension between Hindus and Muslims, there began to flow a general current of mutual harmony and toleration in different spheres of life. In course of time, both the communities began to realise the futility of war and persecution. Gradually, a spirit of harmony and co-operation developed between them. The healthy spirit of mutual toleration found expression in the growing veneration of the Hindus for the Muslim saints. A desire for mutual understanding induced Muslims to study and translate the Hindu Sanskrit literature in the Muslim courts like those of Zainul abidin in Kashmir and Hussain Shah in Bengal. Muslim preachers and saints began to study Hindu philosophy like Yoga and Vedanta. A spirit of harmony, toleration and co-operation was visible in the growing attempts of some Muslim nobles to adopt Hindu customs while living in Hindu environment.

Tradition of Live and let live: Since times immemorial, India has been following a policy of coexistence or live and let live and not war with other countries. India sent its missions to other countries for moulding the civilization and culture of the vast regions in the continent of Asia which lie beyond the Himalayas and the sea. This cultural and colonial expansion of India beyond its natural frontiers is often termed as Greater India.

Preservation of Natural Heritage of India

In the modern age, man is playing havoc with his natural heritage. We have indiscriminately destroyed our forest wealth. In the earlier periods, large parts of our country were covered with forests. The enormous growth of population has led to the shrinkage of forest area. Extensive forest areas have been cleared for agriculture. Overgrazing of the cattle has led to the erosion of soil. Cutting of trees for timber and fuel have exhausted our forest resources. Deforestation has adversely affected climate of the country and eroded the soil. Deforestation causes floods and renders vast tracts of land waste and barren.

The government is taking some measures for preserving the existing forest areas. New forests are being developed in many parts of the country Grasslands are being regenerated. Improved methods of silviculture are being employed. The forest departments in different states are planting fast growing plants. Area under forests must be increased to increase forest wealth. The government has reserved some areas called Bio-reserves for the preservation and protection of the flora arid fauna of the country .

Some of them are:
1) Nilgiri Bio-reserve which has an area of 500 sq. km.
2) Nanda Devi Bio-reserve in Uttaranchal.
3) Nokrek in Meghalaya.
4) Andaman-Nicobar Bio-reserve.
5) Valley of Flowers in Uttaranchal
6) Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu
7) Thar desert in Rajasthan
8) Rann of Kutch in Gujarat
9) Kaziranga and Manas Park in Assam

The other problem of preserving natural heritage is-the conservation of the wildlife. India has a rich wildlife. It has about 81000 known species of animal life. It has 2500 species of fish and 1200 species of birds. But man has ruthlessly destroyed the wildlife in India. Many rare species have become extinct. Our rich wildlife heritage which took centuries to develop is disappearing speedily. We must preserve it. Many of the animals and wild beasts are found only in India such as swamp deer, the one horned rhinoceros, the bison, Kashmir stag, nilgais, the Bengal tiger etc. Indiscriminate hunting of the wildlife has brought these species to the verge of extinction. Wildlife is a gift of nature and is a thing of beauty. The Government has passed Wild Life Protection Act which provides for the protection and conservation of these species. The Government has set up National Parks, wildlife sanctuaries and zoological gardens. The Project Tiger has been started to protect the tigers. There are 16 Tiger reserves in the country. Some of them are

1)The Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh)
2)The Corbett National Park (Uttaranchal)
3)Sanjay National Park in Chhattisgarh