[History] Gupta Age - Golden Age of Indian Architecture

  • Beginning of temple architecture and also reached its climax in the gupta age
  • Greatest development in caves were mural paintings
  • Guptas were Bramhanical by religion but they also showed their exemplary tolerance for both Buddhism and Jainism
  • Early Gupta period shows emphasis on Hindu art and later also Buddhist and Jaina Art, Buddhist Art reached its climax during this stage.
  • Under Hinduism, 3 deities were worshiped->
    • Vishnu -> Vaishnavas (Northern and central part)
    • Shiva – Shaivas (Southern part)
    • Shakti – In southern Malabar region and eastern India
Development in cave architecture took the form of cave paintings

Ajanta caves-
  • Near Auragnabad in Maharashtra
  • 29 caves discovered in 19th century(1829)
  • Period of development 200BC to 650 AD
  • Out of 29, 4 chaityas and 25 Vihars
  • They are carved on a perpendiculat cliff(unlike ellora which is on sloping side). As they are on perpendicular side, there are no countryyards
  • All three forms of art are combined in these caves – Architecture, sculpture and paintings – Mural painting
Techniques involved in preparing painting –
  • First step: A layer of clay mixed with cow dung and rice husks was first spread on the rough surface of the rock
  • Second step: A coating of lime plaster is done
  • Third step: Surface was kept moist until the color was applied. ( Hence they are called Fresco paintings)
  • Outlines are drawn in red color and then all colors are used except blue as it cant be obtained from the hills.
Theme : Inspired by Jataka stories
  • Chinese Buddhist traveler Fa-Hien and Hiuen Tsang refer to Ajanta in account of their travel to India
  • Out of 29 caves, 5 belong to Hinayana period and rest 24 belong to Mahayana period.
  • Cave number 16 is the most elegant architecturally
Famous Fresco paintings of Ajanta:
  • Dying princess
  • Flying apsara
  • Preaching Buddha

Ellora Caves

  • Has 34 caves
  • These caves are associated with all three religion unlike Ajanta
  • 17 caves – Hinduism Dominant , 12 – Buddhism and 5 – Jainism
  • excavated or craved out on sloping side of hill, hence most temples have courtyard
  • Cave no 10 is a chaiyta dedicated to lord Vishwakarma, indicating its dedication to patrons saint of craftsman
  • Cave 14 – Ravan ki Khai
  • Cave no 15, Dashavtaram cave
  • Cave 16 – Kailash Temple is architectural wonder as it is craved out of monolith (Kailash leni)
  • Ellora has even triple storied caves – Ajanta has only double storied
Jain caves
  • Indra Sabha
  • Jagannath Sabha( smaller than Indra Sabha. Same techniques of painting used that is mural and fresco painting
Bagh cave
  • Near Bagh river in MP, there is 9 Buddhist caves dated around 6th century AD similar to Ajanta caves.
Junagadh Caves
  • In Gujarat
  • Main feature – UparKot that is citadel.
  • Uparkots are 30 to 50 feet high. Artificial platform connected by staircase to the hall
Nasik caves
  • 25 Buddhist caves belonging to Hinayan perion dated around 1st century AD called as Pandav Leni . Spiritual presence of Buddha denoted by thorn and footprints.
Mandapeshawar caves
  • Dated to 8th century AD
  • Only Brahmanical cave converted into a christian cave


  • One new school was added that is Sarnath school
  • As name suggest – developed at Sarnath
  • Use of cream color sand stones
  • Nakedness was lacking- more dress and properly covered
  • Halo is more decorative
  • Even metal sculptures were developed during this age – eg. Sultanganj Buddha (7.5 ft in height)


  • less number of stupas constructed
  • Best example – Dhamekh – Stupa near Sarnath

Temple Architecture

  • Temple architecture began and also reached at its climax during Gupta age
  • Development occurred in 5 stages
First Stage:
  • Flat roof temples
  • Square Temples
  • Shallow Pillared approach at the front
  • On low platforms
  • eg – Temple number 17 in Sanchi
Second Stage:
  • Continues – Flat roof, square, pillared approach – not shallow
  • Now on high or upraised platforms
  • Covered ambulatory around the sanctum sanctorum
  • Even instances of 2 storids temples are found
  • Ex. Prabhavati Temple in MP
Third Stage:
  • Continued – square temple, pillared approach, High platform or covered ambulatory
  • Flat roofs not seen
  • Low and square Shikhars(curve-linear tower
  • Introduction of panchayatan style of temple making
  • Ex. Dashavatara temple at Deogarh(UP), Durga temple at Aihole, Karnataka
  • Nagar style is successor of Third stage of temple making
Fourth Stage:
  • Rectangular temples
  • Rest all features continued
  • temple at Solapur
Fifth Stage:
  • Circular Temples with shallow rectangular projects
  • Rest all features continued
  • Ex. Maniyar Math at Rajgir

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