The decline of Mauryan empire saw the emergence of small dynasties in various part of India. Shungas, Kushanas and Shakas in the north and Ikshavakus, Abhiras, Vatakas in southern and western India. The period also marked the rise of the main Brahmanical sects such as the Vaishnavas and Shaivas.


  • They became larger and more decorative. Stones were increasingly used in place of wood and brick.
  • Under Shunga patronage, the core of the Great Stupa was enlarged to its present diameter of 120 feet, covered with a stone casing, topped with a balcony and umbrella, and encircled with a stone railing. The Torans or Gateways were decorated with images of auspicious fertility spirits, known as yakshas and yakshis, the gateways also feature narratives depicting moments from the past lives and the final existence of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.


  • From the first century CE onwards, Gandhara (now in Pakistan), Mathura in UP and Vengi in Andhra Pradesh emerged as important centres of art.
  • The Gandhara School of Art was diffe­rent from the Sanchi and Bharhut Schools of Art.
  • In the older schools the dress and ornaments were seldom used but in the Gandhara School of Art an excessive use of dress and ornaments were made and every attempt was made to show each and every fold and turn of the dress.
  • Again, in the Bharhut and Sanchi Schools of Art not much attention was paid to refinement and polish but these were the chief characteristics of the Gandhara School of Art.
  • Thirdly, the earlier school portrayed scenes from Buddha’s life but he himself was never carved in stone. His existence was shown by symbols like Bodhi-tree, foot-prints, a vacant seat or the umbrella. Hence-forward the lifelike statues of the Lord began to be made in large numbers by the Gandhara artists.
  • Fourthly, under the earlier schools not much attention was paid to portray the physical features of the human being very accurately but now every attempt was made by the Gandhara sculptors to show the physical features (muscles, nerves, nails, moustaches) as naturally as was possible.
  • Buddha in the symbolic form got a human form in Mathura and Gandhara.

Gandhara School of Art

Gandhara School of Art
  • It was developed in the western frontiers of Indian continent in the first century AD during the reign of Kushana emperor Kanishka. Both Shakas and Kushanas were patrons of Gandhara School.
  • The greek invasion brought with it the Greek and Roman influence, which ultimately influenced the local tradition of that region resulting in the Gandhara school also known as Greco-Indian School of Art.
  • Early Gandhar school used bluish-grey sandstone while the latter period saw the use of mud stucco.
  • It had mainly Buddhist imagery, which was influenced by the Greco-Roman pantheon.
  • The Buddha is shown in a spiritual state, with wavy hair. He wears fewer ornaments and is seated in yogi position. The eyes are half closed as in meditation. A protuberance is shown on the head signifying the omniscience of Buddha.
  • The ears are elongated especially the earlobes.
  • The treatment of the form bears linearity and the outlines are sharp.
  • The surface is smooth and the image is very expressive.
  • The expression of calmness is the centre point of attraction.
  • In all the Buddha depicted in the Gandhara Art is shown making four types of hand gestures and this is a remarkable feature in this art. The gestures are as follows:
    • Abhayamudra: Don’t fear
    • Dhyana mudra: meditation
    • dharmachakramudra: a preaching mudra
    • Bhumisparshamudra: Touching the earth.

Mathura School of Art


Mathura School of Art


  • Flourished on the banks of river Yamuna in the period between 3rd and 1st century BC. The sculptures were influenced by the stories and imageries of all three religions of that time – Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
  • The school shows a striking use of symbolism in their images. E.g. Shiva is shown through linga, the halo of Buddha is larger and more decorative than in Gandhar school.
  • The sculptures were made using spotted red sandstone.
  • Buddha is shown with smiling face and in a delighted mood. The body is muscular and he is wearing a tight dress. The face and head of Buddha are shaven. and he is seated in padmasana with different mudras.

Amravati School of Art

  • It developed on the banks of river Krishna, under the patronage of Satvahana rulers and was completely indigenous.
  • The sculptures were made using white marbles.
  • The school puts heavy emphasis on the use of narrative art rather than focussing on single images as was in other two schools.
  • Since the sculptures are generally part of the narrative art, there is less emphasis on the individual features of Buddha. The sculptures generally depict life stories of Buddha and the Jataka tales.
  • Like Sanchi, the early phase is devoid of Buddha images but during the later phase (2nd and 3rd CE); the Buddha images are carved on the drum slabs and at many other places.
  • The sculptural form in this area is characterized by intense emotions.
  • Bodies are shown with three bends (Tribanga), and the sculpture composition is more complex than Sanchi.

Comparison of Gandhara, Mathura and Amravati School of Art

Gandhara Mathura Amravati
Place of Origin Western frontier of India On the banks of Yamuna – Northern India On the bank of Krishna river – Deccan region
Influence Strong Greek and Roman influence Indigenous but later got merged with Gandhara School Indigeneous
Material used Early school used bluish-grey sandstone, later use of mud and stucco Spotted red sandstone White marble
Patrons Kushana Kushana Satvahanas
Buddha Spiritual Buddha, with way hairs and elongated ears. Wears fewer ornaments. Eyes are half closed as in meditation. Delighted Buddha and no spiritual look. Body is muscular and he has broad shoulders and he is wearing tight clothes. The head and face are shaven. It mainly depicts Jataka stories, thus less emphasis on individual features of Buddha.
Halo Generally not decorated Halo is much larger and is profusely decorated