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Discuss the major forms of Buddhist architecture found in India.


Discuss the major forms of Buddhist architecture found in India.


  • Introduce briefly about beginning of Buddhist architecture.
  • Discuss the major forms of Buddhist architecture along with examples.
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

The Buddhist school of architecture gained popularity in 3rd Century BC during Mauryan period, emperor Ashoka established Buddhism as his state religion and opted for the architectural monuments to spread Buddhism in different places.

The major structures associated with Buddhist architecture are:

Stupas: The Stupas holds the most important place among all the Buddhist structures. A Stupa is a dome-shaped monument containing Buddhists’ relics or some significant artefacts of Buddhism. The best examples of stupas are at Amaravati, Sanchi, Barhut and Gaya. Sanchi stupa is one of the most striking architectural remains of ancient India.

Chaityas: Chaitya is a hall of worship for monks. It is rectangular in shape with many columns and a semi-circular roof. The main door has a large window, the only source of sunlight. There is a stupa at the end of the hall. Some very beautiful rock-cut chaityas are in at Ajanta, ElIora, Karle, Bagh, Barabara hills.

Viharas: Vihara (Monasteries) consist of a central hall with small cells all around, which is the dwelling place of monks. During Ashokan period, these were plain rooms. At a later stage, they were decorated with artistic columns and other pieces of sculpture. Examples of viharas are: Nalanda, Taxila, Nagapattinam, Ajanta and Ellora caves.

Temples: Temples or Pagodas are multi-story Buddhist towers, erected as a memorial or shrine. They are symbols of five elements of the universe – earth, water, fire, air and ether, and along with them consciousness, which is considered the ultimate reality. They are full of carvings and sculptures, are mainly pyramidical in shape. The most prominent temple is Mahabodhi temple. Other major Buddhist temples are at Sanchi (450 CE), Taxila and Sarnath.

Pillars: Pillars erected during Mauryan times were highly influenced by Buddhism. Monolithic shaft, beautifully sculpted capitol and abacus are striking features of these pillars. Fragments of pillars are found at Sanchi, Sarnath, Amaravati etc. The lion-capital pillar at Sarnath is the most magnificent piece of Mauryan pillars.

The Buddhist architecture is a unique blend of spirituality and craftsmanship, providing valuable information on the rich social and cultural heritage of India.

Subjects : History and Culture

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