The Neolithic and other prehistoric men of Bihar handed down their
art tradition to their progeny in the historic period. Many structural
relics are still in existence to fill up the gap separating the prehistoric
men for their historic descendants.
The early Mauryan buildings and works of art were mostly
wooden. Wood was the basic material of Mauryan architecture. The Pillars
and fortifications of the ancient city of Pataliputra were all of wood
and revealed workmanship of a high order. Literacy sources, Sanskrit and
Pali furnish indubitable evidence of the existence of a highly developed
art other than sculptures in Pre-Ashokan Magadha.
Chandragupta's palace stood in all its Mauryan splendour
when Megasthenes visited the capital. A series of hypostyle halls containing
pillars of wood, clasped around with vines embossed in gold and ornamented
with designs of birds and foliage in gold and silver. The city of Pataliputra
situated along the banks of the Ganges was surrounded by a stupendous
timber palisade with loopholes for archers and protected externally by
a wide and deep moat. At intervals were
bastions with towers over five hundred in number. It was entered by
as many as sixty-four gates. A change in this pattern of architecture
occurred when magnificent monuments executed in stone began to appear
in Bihar during the Mauryan period.
The use of burnt bricks and of 'Sudha' of lime was known
to the ancient Magadhans. Houses were provided with pillars, windows and
stairs. The 'Jatakas'
are full of references to towns, palace and pavilions. Fortified cities
and palaces had a wall around them interspersed with gateways and watch-towers
and ditches outside. The cities had well planned streets and different
classes of people occupied special quarters set apart for them. The walls
of the buildings were often decorated with paintings which included figures
of human beings, creepers, flowers, animals and birds, mountains and sea.
The Stupa formed an important part of the architectural
achievement of Mauryan Bihar. The word stupa means 'something
raised', and came to be used as a Buddhist architectural term for a mount
containing the relics of Buddha. Ashoka was the builder of cities,
Stupas and Viharas
excavated in hard rocks, rock-art Chaitya-halls, palaces and pillars of
stone. The pillars are said to be the master pieces of Mauryan Art. The
masons of Magadha delineated the natural forms of animals and plants in
stone and reduced and shaped larger masses of rocks into pillars.
The beginnings of Indian art, to a class of colossal
stone statues are all Pre Ashokan and Pre-Mauryan. These statues represent
the folk art of the times and were admittedly inspired by the animistic
worship of popular deities known as Yakshas and Yakshinis, Nagas or Nagis,
earth-spirits, water spirits etc. The statues made of the buff-coloured
sandstone of Chumar quarries and bearing a distinctive metallic polish,
have been kept in the
Indian museum, Calcutta.
The fairly large size Yakshi statue discovered
by accident, at Didarganj Patna is in the same tradition and represent
the highest watermark of sculptural art in the indigenous tradition. In
her right hand, the female figure holds a 'cowry'
and the lower part of her body is richly covered with ornaments and folded