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Gupta Period – Art and Architecture

By evolving the Nagara and the Dravida styles, the Gupta art ushers in a formative and creative age in the history of Indian architecture with considerable scope for future development.

Rock-cut Temples

  • The rock-cut caves continue the old forms to a great extent but possess striking novelty by bringing about extensive changes in the ornamentation of the facade and in the designs of the pillars in the interior.
  • The most notable groups of the rock-cut caves are found at Ajanta and Ellora (Maharashtra) and Bagh (Madhya Pradesh). The Udayagiri caves (Odisha) are also of this type.

Structural Temples

  • The structural temples have the following attributes:-

(1) flat-roofed square temples;

(2) flat-roofed square temple with a vimana (second storey);

(3) square temple with a curvilinear tower (shikara) above;

(4) rectangular temple; and

(5) circular temple.

  • The second group of temples shows many of the characteristic features of the Dravida style.
  • The importance of the third group lies in the innovation of a shikhara that caps the sanctum sanctorum, the main feature of the Nagara style.


  • Stupas were also built in large numbers but the best are found at Samat (Uttar Pradesh), Ratnagiri (Odisha) and Mirpur Khas (Sind).

Sculpture: Stone Sculpture

  • A good specimen of stone sculpture is the well-known erect Buddha from Sarnath.
  • Of the puranic images, perhaps the most impressive is the great Boar (Varaha) at the entrance of a cave at Udayagiri.

Metal statues

  • The technology of casting statues on a large scale of core process was practised by the craftsmen during the Gupta period with great workmanship.
  • Two remarkable examples of Gupta metal sculpture are:-

(1) a copper image of the Buddha about eighteen feet high at Nalanda in Bihar and

(2) the Sultanganj Buddha of seven-and-a-half feet in height.


  • The art of painting seems to have been in popular demand in the Gupta period than the art of stone sculptures.
  • The mural paintings of this period are found at Ajanta, Bagh, Badami and other places.
  • From the point of technique, the surface of these paintings was perhaps done in a very simple way.
  • The mural paintings of Ajanta are not true frescoes, for frescoes is painted while the plaster is still damp and the murals of Ajanta were made after it had set.
  • The art of Ajanta and Bagh shows the Madhyadesa School of painting at its best.

Terracotta and Pottery

  • Clay figurines were used both for religious and secular purposes.
  • We have figurines of Vishnu, Karttikeya, Durga, Naga and other gods and goddesses.
  • Gupta pottery remains found at Ahchichhatra, Rajgarh, Hastinapur and Bashar afford proof of excellence of pottery.
  • The most distinctive class of pottery of this period is the “red ware”.

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