From Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC-1750BC) to Mauryan dynasty (Third century B.C.), we see a gradual development in art and crafts. Artists of the Harappan period were extremely skilled. Mauryan period marked a new beginning in Indian history. Highly polished quality of the sculpted pillars from the Ashokan period are treasure of Indian art. Alongwith this technically improved style, there was also the tradition of popular folk art, which continued in the form of crude mother goddess figures. After the Mauryans, when the Sungas came to power, they continued with the artistic activity and we got the great Stupa and sculptures of Sanchi in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The Kushans, who had come from outside India, helped in the progress. During this period, we see the development of the sculpted portraiture for the first time. Gupta period is regarded as the golden period in Indian Art History. Refinement came in the representation of the human figures. Some of the most important art centres during this period were Mathura, Sarnath, Ujjain, Ahichhatra and others. Gupta sculptures show the perfect balance and blending of the style, the skill, the mastery and the imagination. The religious sculptures show a divine quality. The slight tilt of the lip, the full roundness of the figures, accurate carvings and simplicity became the stylistic stamp of the Guptas. Along with the religious, secular sculptures were also produced in a large extent. Famous paintings of Ajanta were done during this period. Beside paintings and sculptures, the new development in art was the Cave and Temple architectures. Some of the important sites in this respect are the Udaygiri caves in Madhya Pradesh and the Nachna and Bhumara, where temple architectures started. In a nutshell it can be said that Gupta period is classical period of the Indian history


  •  After studying this lesson, the learner will be able to:
  • describe in brief the art of this period from 3000 BC to 600 AD
  • state the names of enlisted art objects of this period;
  • distinguish the materials used, sites, sizes, colours and place of collection of the enlisted art objects;
  • identify distinctly the names of enlisted art objects of this period; and
  • differentiate and identify the characteristics of the enlisted art objects.

Title : Dancing Girl
Medium : Metal
Date : Harappan Period (2500 BC)
Finding site : Mohenjo – Daro
Size : 4 inches (Approx)
Artist : Unknown
Collection : National Museum, New Delhi


This statue is made of metal and is probably one of the finest examples of the artistic and technical skills of Indus Valley craftsmen. This female figure at the same time shows the fine skills of metal casting and artistic refinery. The figure is lanky, thin and rhythmic in character. Some very interesting points can be noticed in sculpture. First of all, while she has been shown without clothes, in her left hand she has bangles till almost her shoulder, very much like we can find in the tribal people of modern days in Gujarat and Rajasthan region. Second important thing to notice is the hairstyle. While the other mother goddess figures, which have been found from this civilization, have a queer and elaborate hair style. This figure shows a much contemporary style. Her hair is tied in a bun. Also to be noticed is its curious posture. She stands in a resting posture with her right hand at her waist and her left hand on her left thigh. The casting is perfect. It shows accuracy of the artists in metal casting during that period. There is tremendous monumentality in this particular sculpture. That means, though this is approximately 4 inches in height only, it seems to be a larger one to us. This is what makes it really unique. The craftsmanship and artistic skills have been blended successfully in Dancing Girl


 Title               :     Rampurva Bull Capital

Medium        :    Polished sandstone

 Date              :     Mauryan Period (3rd century BC)

 Finding Site  :   Rampurva

 Size                :  7 ft (Approx.)

 Artist             : Unknown

 Collection     : Indian Museum, Kolkata


Emperor Ashoka engraved his edicts and teachings of Lord Buddha on pillars, rock surfaces and tablets. Ashokan pillars have been found in almost every region of India except extreme southern region. His pillars consisted of three parts – a base, an elongated shaft, and the decorated crown of the pillar, called the Capital. Capitals are mostly consisted of one or more animal figures, an inverted lotus, which serves as the base of these animal figures. A thick disc kind of structure known as abacus is between the animals and the lotus. Bull Capital is one of the most famous ones among the Ashokan capitals. It is also known as Rampurva Bull Capital, after the name of the place from where this is found. This particular one is comprised of a bell shaped inverted lotus as the base, the abacus and on the top the animal part – a majestic bull. There are plant designs around the abacus. Scholars are of opinion that these motifs had either come from earlier Middle East or Post Greek Style. The designs are very minutely and accurately carved. The figure of the Bull dominates over the lotus and the abacus. Though the part of the stone in between the four legs is not carved out, it doesn’t disturb the strength or beauty of the bull. We can feel the weight and the power of the animal and there lies the success of the artist. In fact the ornate quality of the lotus base and the abacus create a contrast with the plain representation of the bull. The carving of the Bull obviously shows mastery of the Indian sculptor over their subjects. What is unique about this Bull Capital, is its extremely polished quality. This is one of the most important characteristics of the Mauryan sculptures from Ashokan period. According to the scholars, the technique of high polish was learnt from the sculptors of Middle East.


 Title             :  Black Princess

Medium       :  Wall Painting (mural)

 Date             :  Gupta Vakataka Period (2nd century AD to 6th century AD)

 Finding Site  :  Ajanta

 Size                :  20 ft x 6 ft (Approx)

Artist              :  Unknown


 The caves of Ajanta are situated near Aurangabad district in Maharastra. The caves are named after the nearby village Ajintha. The caves, including the unfinished one, are thirty in number. Some of the caves served as the Chaityas (worshipping places) and most of them were Viharas (Monasteries). Ajanta paintings were done in two phases – first, the Hinayana phase (where Lord Buddha is represented in symbols) and the second, the Mahayana phase (where he is shown in human form). Most of the Ajanta paintings were done in the Vakataka Period. Ajanta paintings occupy a unique position in the history of Indian painting. Ajanta paintings are not done in Fresco. Fresco is a technique, where colours are mixed with water soluble binders and painted on either dry or wet plaster. But Ajanta artists have used traditional technique oftempera. The themes of Ajanta paintings were primarily religious in nature. But at the same time they also gave enough scope to the artists to show their creative and imaginative skills. The best part is that, even being religious paintings, they can be enjoyed by common people. Black Princess is, no doubt, one of the best examples of the Ajanta paintings. The free flowing line, subtle rhythm of the body contour, the slight tilt of the face and the carves of the eyes, all show the mastery of the artist and his control over the brush. Even the damaged painting gives a clear picture of how beautiful the colours were. There is a lyrical quality in the painting. The softness of the body contour, subtle bending of the neck and the simplicity give an heavenly quality to the painting. The colours used have been very earthly and devoid of any loudness.