Art in the post-Mauryan period was predominantly religious. Two most important features concerning art and architecture of this period are the construction of stupas and development of regional schools of sculpture.
Idols of the Buddha were carved out for the first time in this period.
On account of contact with the foreigners from northwest, a specific school of art called Gandhara School of art developed in this period.
It was influenced, to a great extent, by the Greek style or art forms.
A stupa was a large hemispherical dome with a central chamber in which relics of the Buddha or some Buddhist monk were kept in a small casket.
Three prominent stupas of this period are at Bharhut and Sanchi (both in M.P), which were originally built by Ashoka but enlarged later, and Amravati and Nagarjunkonda (both in Andhra Pradesh).
The sculptures on stupas are drawn on the themes based on Jataka and other Buddhist stories.
ROCK CUT ARCHITECTURE
Apart from the stupas, this period also marks a progress in rock cut architecture.
A large number of temples, halls and places of residence for monks were cut out of the solid rocks near Pune and Nasik in Maharashtra under the Satavahanas.
The place of worship generally had a shrine cell with a votive stupa placed in the centre. This place was known as a chaitya and the rock cut structure used as the residence for monks was called a vihara.
Schools of Sculptural Art—
There were three major schools of sculptural art which developed in this period. These were: Mathura school of art, Gandhara School of art and Amravati school of art.
The Mathura School—
The most prominent contribution of the Mathura school to the contemporary art was the images of Buddha which were carved for the first time perhaps in this art form.
Mathura has also yielded large numbers of sculptures of Jaina deities besides the ayagapatas or stone slabs to place objects of worship.
During the Kushana period a number of sculptures of brahmanical deities were carved, which included Kartikeya, Vishnu, Kubera.
The Gandhara School of Art—
The Gandhara region was situated in the northwestern part of the Indian Subcontinent. This region was successively ruled by the Greeks, Mauryas, Sungas, Shakas, and Kushanas for many centuries.
The school of art which developed here around the beginning of the Christian era has been called variously as Graeco-Roman, Indo Greek or Graeco-Buddhist.
The chief patrons of Gandhara art were the Shakas and Kushanas.
The Amravati School of Art–
The Amravati school of art flourished in the region of Andhra Pradesh between the lower valleys of rivers Krishna and Godavari.
The main patrons of this art form were the Satavahans but it carried on even later, patronized by their successor Ikshavaku rulers.
This art is said to have flourished between 150 BC and 350 AD.
The thematic representations include the stories from the life of the Buddha.
An important characteristic of the Amravati school is the ‘narrative art’.