Jainism, which were part of the shramana tradition, in 4th century BCE, the religious and social scenario of gangetic valley began to undergo changes. As both the religions were opposed to the 'varna' and 'jati' system of Vedic age, they gained patronage of the Kshatriya rulers who had grown wary of brahmanical supremacy. As the Mauryas established their power, we see a clear demarcation of architecture and sculpture developed under state patronage and those that were developed by individual initiative. Thus, Mauryan art can be classified as follows:
The Mauryan rulers commissioned a large number of architectural works for political as well as religious reasons. These works are referred to as Court Art.
The Mauryan Empire was the first powerful empire to come to power in India. The capital at Pataliputra and the palaces at Kumrahar were created to reflect the splendour of the Mauryan Empire. The palace of Chandragupta Maurya was inspired by the Achaemenid palaces at Persepolis in Iran. Wood was the principal building material. Megasthenes described the palace as one of the greatest creations of mankind.
Similarly, Ashoka's palace at Kumrahar was a massive structure. It had a high central pillar and was a three-storey wooden structure. The palace walls were decorated with carvings and sculptures.
During the time of Ashoka, the inscriptions of pillars-as a symbol of the state or to commemorate battle victories - assumed a great significance. He also used pillars to propagate imperial sermons as well.
On an average of 40 feet high, the pillars were usually made of chunar sandstone and comprised of four parts. A long Shaft formed the base and was made up of a single piece of stone or monolith. On top of it lay the capital, which was either lotus shaped or bell shaped. The bell shaped capitals were influenced by the Iranian pillars, as was the highly polished and lustrous finish of the pillars. Above the capital, there was a circular or rectangular base known on the abacus on which an animal figure was placed.
Example: Lauria Nandangarh pillar in Champaran, Sarnath pillar in Varanasi,etc.