Many of the architectural traditions in India owe its origin to both Buddhism and Jainism. Between fifth to fourteenth centuries, developments in Buddhist were equally vibrant, and often went hand-in-glove with Hindu ones. Sites such as Ellora have Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments Syllabus of Art and culture in UPSC mains GS paper 1 has Architecture of the Jain & Buddha era


  • Important Monuments


The pre-eminent Buddhist site in India is Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya is a pilgrimage site since Siddhartha achieved enlightenment here and became Gautama Buddha. While the Bodhi tree is of immense importance, the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya is an important reminder of the brickwork of that time.

Remember: The first shrine at Bodhgaya, located at the base of the Bodhi tree, is said to have been constructed by King Ashoka

The design of the Mahabodhi temple is unusual. It is, strictly speaking, neither Dravida nor Nagara. It is narrow like a Nagara temple, but it rises without curving, like a Dravida one.


Nalanda university

  • The monastic university of Nalanda is a mahavihara as it is a complex of several monasteries of various sizes
  • Most of the information about Nalanda is based on the records of Xuan Zang—previously spelt as ‘Hsuan-tsang’— which states that the foundation of a monastery was laid by Kumargupta I in the fifth century CE
  • There is evidence that all three Buddhist doctrines— Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana—were taught here and monks made their way to Nalanda and its neighboring sites of Bodhgaya and Kurkihar from China, Tibet and Central Asia in the north, and Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma and various other countries from the south-eastern parts of Asia.
  • The excavated ruins of the institution indicate that bright red bricks were used in its construction.
  • It has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site

Sirpur in Chhattisgarh

  • It is an early-Odisha style site belonging to the period between 550 and 800, with both Hindu and Buddhist shrines
  • Such sites later developed in other regions such as- Lalitagiri, Vajragiri and Ratnagiri


  • The older stupas were enlarged during the time period between Mauryas and Guptas
  • The famous amongst these are- Sanchi, Bharhut and Amaravati
  • Stupa has a cylindrical drum or a circular anda over which one can see harmika and chhatra. The circumambulatory path, Pradakshina path, is enclosed by railings called vedika.

Bharhut stupa

  • Located in MP
  • A brick stupa was constructed at the site during the time of Ashoka
  • The carvings of these stupas depict the Jataka tales and stories
  • A stone railing was constructed here during the time of Sungas
  • An important feature of this site is that the narrative art is accompanied by an inscription which is not found elsewhere
  • Bharhut stupa is made of red sandstone

Sanchi stupa

  • It is the most-well preserved stupa amongst the three
  • The foundation of this stupa was probably laid by Ashoka
  • It was enlarged during the time of Sungas
  • During the rule of Satavahanas, toranas were added
  • The railings depict the Jataka tales
  • The Sanchi Stupa is made out of locally quarried sandstone.

Amaravati stupa

  • It was completed around 200AD
  • It has carved panels telling the story of the life of Buddha
  • Its surfaces were carved in the Bharhut style but some features of the Mathura and Gandhara sculptures were also adopted
  • White marble limestone was used in the construction

Nagarjunakonda stupa

  • It is AP
  • It belongs to Saka-Satavahana era
  • It reflects Mahayana Buddhism
  • Excavations have unearthed stupa, chaityas, mandapams

Facts --

  • Largest stupa: Kesariya stupa, Bihar
  • Oldest stupa: Great stupa at Sanchi
  • Dhamekh stupa: place where Buddha proclaimed his faith
  • Chaukhandi stupa: consists of an octagonal tower built by Emperor Akbar to commemorate his father’s place to the Stupa


  • It was the ancient Indian term for a Buddhist monastery.
  • Originally, viharas were dwelling places used by wandering monks during the rainy season but eventually they evolved into centers of learning and Buddhist architecture through the donations of wealthy lay Buddhists.
  • Life in “Viharas” was codified early on. It is the object of a part of the Pali canon, the Vinaya Pitaka or “basket of monastic discipline.”
  • Typical large sites such as the Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad Caves, Karli Caves, and Kanheri Caves contain several viharas.


  • It refers to a shrine, sanctuary, temple or prayer hall in Indian religions.
  • Most early examples of chaitya that survive are Indian rock-cut architecture
  • Chaityas have a gigantic hall with high vaulted roof, with a lot of sculpture work on the pillars and the entrance
  • The largest Chaitya-Griha among all Buddhist monuments in India is the Karle caves.
  • Many Chaityas show a stupa at the back. Chaityas were carved either as rectangular halls or apsidal vault-roof or apsidal vault pillarless halls

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