ART AND ARCHITECTURE
On seeing the royal palace, a Chinese traveller remarked, "These palaces are so beautiful and excellent that they appear to be the creation of God rather than of men". Chandragupta Maurya built his capital and palace, apparently of wood, at Pataliputra. Asoka further improved the walls and buildings of the capital and built attractive edifices. The palace is said to have been destroyed in a fire.
The Mauryas introduced stone masonry on a large scale. A palace, remains of which have been found at Kumrahar near Patna, probably had an SO-pillared hall, and the stumps of pillars testify to the skill of polishing attained by the artisans of the time.
It was during Asoka's reign that the art of sculpture and rock-cutting attained great heights. The four rock-cut sanctuaries on the Barabar hills and three on Nagarjuni hills near Gaya, Bihar, bear testimony to this. The seven sanctuaries are among the earliest examples of rock-cut architecture and sculpture in India. Asoka's pillars represent the best of Mauryan art. These are built out of single rocks and bear capitals decorated with animal, bird or human figures.
The Asokan pillar at Sarnath from which independent India has adopted its state emblem is a major work of art. Asoka also constructed stupas or solid dome-like structures of rock or brick for preserving the relics of Buddha. Some of the stupas survive to this day. Mauryan art is also represented in caves built during the period. Caves were constructed out of hard, refractory rock and were used as assembly halls on religions occasions. It was in the Mauryan times that burnt bricks were first used in north-eastern India.
Chandragupta and Bindusara favoured Sanskrit and brahmanical learning, but Asokan inscriptions were composed mainly in Prakrit language and in Brahmi script though he also used Kharoshthi and Greek scripts in the North-West. Works such as Arthashastra of Kautilya, the Knlpasutra of Bhadrabahu, and the Buddhist scripture Kntha Vathu belong to this period.