Mauryan architecture exhibits influence of Greeks as Achamaemenian Empire shared borders with Mauryan Empire as well.
Monolithic Pillars and Capitols and capitols, bell shape of capitol was perhaps influenced by Persian architecture. The monolithic pillar edicts of Asoka with their bell-shaped capitals are somewhat like the victory pillars of the Achamenian emperors which have been found in Persepolis.
In Mauryan pillars shaft is made of monolith stone, while in Achaemenid pillars it is made of multiple sandstone pieces. The Mauryan pillars are rock-cut pillars thus displaying the carver’s skills, whereas the Achamenian pillars are constructed in pieces by a mason.
Further, Achamenian pillars were not independent, but Mauryan pillars were.
Mauryan pillars were made up of Chunar sandstone, taken from Bihar.
Pillars were erected to mark victories or were symbols of state. Examples are – Bull capitol and Sarnath capitol. Lion capital at Sarnath (now our national emblem) is the most famous of the capitals. This pillar symbolizes Dharmchakraparbartna or first sermon by Buddha. Capital at Ramparva is another one apart rom the ones at Nandangarh, Lauriya etc.
Stupas start during this period with Buddha relics, though there are evidences that they were built during the Vedic period as well. Ashoka is known to have built 84,000 stupas to commemorate various events of Buddha’s life. Stupas at Sanchi and Sarnath were started by Mauryans which were later improved by the other rulers. They were made of brick and were simple with little carvings.
The ‘rock cut cave architecture’ also made real beginning during Maurya period. Two distinctive features were added by Mauryas – polishing inside the caves and development of artistic gateways. Barabar Hill near Bodh Gaya contains four caves, namely, Karan Chaupar, Lomas Rishi, Sudama and Visva Zopri. Sudama and Lomas Rishi Caves are the earliest examples of rock-cut architecture in India. The Lomash Rishi (with its impressive entrance) and the Sudama caves are examples of such architecture. Lomash Rishi cave was donated to ascetic of Ajeevika sect. These caves cut from solid rock were provided by Ashoka for non-Buddhist monks. Other examples include Nagarjuni Caves, also near Bodh Gaya in Bihar, which has a group of 3 caves (that were also donated to ascetics of Ajeevika sect).
In ‘sculptures’ also significant progress was made during Mauryan period. Exquisite Yaksha and Yakshini figures sculpted out of stone and terracotta are prime examples of Mauryan art. Mention of Yaksha and Yakshinis – which are divine figures in folk traditions – are found in many lore of Hindus, Jains, Buddhism etc and even mentioned in Dravidian texts like Shilpaddikam (Yaksh figures are found in many Buddhist stupas, all 24 Jain Teerthankaras are associated with Yakshinis). The most well known of these is the Yakshi from Didarganj, Bihar. Most important characteristic of the Mauryan sculptures is their highly polished surface which is a marvel even today.
One of the major features of Mauryan sculpture is the terracotta images. Hindu female deities made out of clay have been excavated from Mauryan sites. The forms of the mother goddesses are quite stylish. The sculpture of Sanchi Stupa and the sculpture of Dhameka Stupa in Sarnath are other examples.
In field of pottery also, Mauryas excelled to the peak and their pottery is known as ‘Northern Black Polished Ware’ in which black color was used with highly lustrous polish. It was a luxury ware and was very mature in its finishing over earlier styles.
There are no traces of secular or royal buildings made during Mauryan period, but Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador of Selucas Nikator who visited the Mauryan court described Chandragupta Maurya’s palace as an excellent architectural achievement. It was a large palace carved out of wood and this was the reason that such buildings couldn’t survive.