July 13, 2024


Art Is Experience

Mauryan Pillars – Differences

Mauryan Pillars – Differences

The influence of West Asiatic factors in the art and culture of the period cannot be seriously denied in view of the close contact existing at this time between India and other West Asiatic countries. But it is rather difficult to regard the Mauryan pillars merely as imitations, or adaptations, of the Achaemenid proto-types. There are tangible differences between the two in their respective functions, as well in their conceptions and styles. Unfortunately, such differences have usually been ignored. Not belonging to any architectural composition, the function of the Mauryan pillars is totally different-a difference that is also reflected in their design and form. The Mauryan pillar, unlike the Achaemenid, does not stand on any base, nor does it exhibit the channeling or fluting which is invariably characteristic of the latter. Moreover, the shaft of the Mauryan pillar is, without exception, monolithic; the Achaemenian invariably composed of separate segments of stone aggregated one above the other.

Again, in technique, the Mauryan pillars partakes the character of wood-carver`s or carpenter`s work, the Achaemenian, that of a mason. Finally, the design as well as the shape of the capitals is different, due, no doubt, to the new conception of the Mauryan pillars as standing free in space. The supposed resemblance of the so-called `bell` in the Indian pillar with that of the Persepolitan is merely superficial. It should be remembered also that the member, with which analogy is drawn, usually appears in the Achaemenid column at the base and not as the capital, as in the Indian pillars. The double curves of the Indian member surmounted by animal sculptures in the round exemplify rather a new order of capital which is distinctive of India alone. This lotiform member, representing either an inverted lotus or a purna-ghata, is entirely in accord with Indian tradition and it would be futile not to recognize its Indian origin. The real affinities with the West are recognized in the use of such decorative motifs as the honey-suckle, the acanthus, the `knop and flower` pattern, etc. But in view of the wide divergences in form, design and conception, a borrowing from the Achaemenian pillar design cannot truly explain the Indo-Iranian affinities. India had long been a part of the West Asiatic culture complex and the key to the problem lies, as Coomaraswamy observes, in “inheritance of common artistic traditions.”

Finally we can conclude by saying that the indigenous and original contribution to the creation of this item of Mauryan art is therefore undeniable. Equally undeniable is also the fact that on their lustrous varnish, in their adoption and adaptation of the bell-shaped capital, in the higher place of conception and driving idea and in the general monumental and dignified quality and appearance they exhibit, the Mauryan columns seems to reveal clearly the debt they owe to Achaemenian art, as well as to Hellenistic Art so far as the crowning member of the columns and part of the general effect are concerned. The twisted rope design, the bead-reelcable design and so on to mark the transitions, the acanthus leaf and palmette and other designs to decorate the abacus may have however been derived from the older and common West-Asiatic art-heritage.