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 (three-storey wooden structure) 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. The palace walls were decorated with carvings and sculptures.
Pillars were constructed as a symbol of the state or to commemorate battle victories. Ashoka 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 as the abacus on which an animal figure was placed.
The shaft of Achaemenian pillars were made up of various pieces of sandstone cemented together and were generally attached to the state buildings unlike the Mauryan pillars that were independently erected by royal diction.
This period saw the emergence of rock-cut cave architectures. During the Mauryan period, these caves were generally used as viharas, i.e. living quarters, by the Jain and Buddhist monks. The caves during Mauryan period were marked by a highly polished finish of the interior walls and decorative gateways.