History Optional Paper- 1 Solution – 1993: Q.1 (c)

Q.1 (c) Write a short essay on: “Similarities and differences between the Maurya columns and Achaemenian pillars.”


Similarities between the Maurya columns and Achaemenian pillars

(1) Both were built of stones.

(2) Both used polished stones.

(3) Both have certain common sculpture motifs such as the lotus.

(4) Ashokan pillar edicts are somewhat similar to pillar edicts of Darius (king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire).

(5) Carved animals can be found in both the cases.

(6) It has been suggested that Ashoka got the idea of inscribing proclamations on pillars from the achaemenids.

Differences between the Maurya columns and Achaemenian pillars

There are differences between the two in their respective functions, conceptions, style, design and form.

(1) The stone columns of the Mauryan Pillared Hall were without capitals whereas the columns of the pillared halls of Perspolis have elaborate capitals.

(2) Achaemenian (Persian) columns stand on bases, either shaped like a bell (that is, inverted lotus), or on a plain rectangular or circular block. While the independent Mauryan columns have no base at all.

(3) The bell form that is used as supporting base in Persian columns serves as capital on top of the shaft in Mauryan ones and makes altogether a different aesthetic effect.

(4) The shape and ornamentation of the Maurya lotus is different from the Persian ones, the bulge typical of the former is absent in the latter.

(5) The Achaemenian shaft is fluted in all cases except one. But Mauryan columns are smooth.

(6) The Achaemenian shaft are built of separate segments of stone aggregated one above the other which is the work of mason. The shaft of the Mauryan pillar is monolithic which pertains to the character of the work of a skilled wood-carver or carpenter.

Hence in technique, the Mauryan pillars partakes the character of wood-carver’s or carpenter’s work, the Achaemenian, that of a mason.

(7) The Achaemenid pillars were generally part of some larger architectural scheme, composed of much too many component parts looking complex and complicated. While the Ashokan columns were intended to produce the effect of an independent freestanding monument with simpler specimen, more harmonious in conception and execution and gives the feeling of greater stability, dignity and strength.

(8) The capitals of the Persian columns are crowned with a cluster of stylized palm leaves and have two semi-bulls, lions, or unicorns seated back to back, or an upright or inverted cup, with double volute on the top.
The Mauryan type of abacus (platform above the bell) and the placing of independently carved animal motifs on the top of abacus is absent in the Achaemenian context.

(9) While Darius pillars propagated military victories and military might of the Achaemenid monarch, Ashoka’s pillar edict shows his quasi-benevolent message of a caring emperor.


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