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Gandhara Architecture was the special form of Buddhist Architecture in India. Ashoka started setting up Stupas, Edicts, Monolithic Pillars, Shrines, Vast Palace, Rockcut Chambers, Monasteries as Buddhist Architecture in India.
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Home :: Buddhist Information Guide :: Buddhist Architecture in India

Buddhist Architecture in India

Buddhism has a history dating back around 2,500 years old. The religion (or a way of life indeed) was established, spread across and got millions of adherents around the world. Having its foundation in India, Buddhism reached countries like China, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, Burma, Ceylon, Combodia etc. However, due to some historical reasons, the system of belief went through a phase of decline but again in the 20th century, it began to rose. Today, Buddhism has its followers all across the globe. It's not because Buddhism is a religion or a faith, but because it is a philosophy, a way of life.Great Departure Stone, Gandhara

The Indian architectural brilliance and the worthy efforts of the master craftsmen of the bygone eras can never be complete without the excellent pieces of Buddhist architecture. Indians, that are and eclectic mix of cultures and traditions, are known for the harmonious combination they share among themselves. Tourists and devotees from far and wide pour into the country to visit the Buddhist sites and experience the architecture that represents Buddhism.


Gandhara Architecture - The Genesis of Buddhist Architecture
Gandhara Art was an outcome of the amalgamation of the Indian Art and the Greek Art. It later gave rise to the specialized form of Buddhist art and architecture. The Gandhara Art led to the formation of Buddhist cult objects, Buddhas and other Buddhist decorations and ornaments. During this phase, Hindu coins were only few and the monasteries were used to be built in stone. Sculptures decorated only the lower level of buildings. The first Buddhist stupas that were built during this period were actually votive stupas illustrated with clay images of birds, dragons, sea serpents and humans. A standing or seated Buddha was the characteristic feature of the Gandhara sculptures.


Magnificent Buddhist Sculptures
The Mauryan King Ashoka the Great had adopted the teachings of Buddhism after the self-reproach that followed from the battle of Kalinga. The king followed the basic principles of Buddhism himself and also made an endeavour to make his subjects follow the noble paths of the religion. To get the message of Buddhism across, King Ashoka began setting up sculptures that fall under the following categories.

¤ Edicts (Stone pillars bearing inscriptions)
¤ Stupas
¤ Monolithic Pillars
¤ Shrines
¤ Vast Palace
¤ Rock Cut Chambers


StupaOf all the six types, the most important were the edicts and the stupas that we can see today. The edicts built by Ashoka were nothing but cylindrical pillars that had declarations from the king with regard to Buddhism. The pillars were built in bricks and were so tall that they could be seen from a distance. A stone lion sat atop the pillar. Originally, there were 30 edicts in all but today only 2 of them stand.

Buddhist stupas were large halls surmounted with a dome. The stupas comprised of pillared gates, railings, umbrellas and lion thrones. These huge structures were built to inspire awe among the common people who, at that time, lived in small wood-built houses. The stupas were firstly built with bricks. But very soon Ashoka realised that these were not tough enough against the adversities of time. Therefore, he started building the stupas in stone. The most famous stupa is at Sanchi, built originally by Ashoka. In 150 BC, some renovation work was done on it and additions were made. Buddhist monasteries, temples and cave temples were the other popular forms of Buddhist art and architecture.




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