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The Pillars of Ashoka

The pillars of Ashoka are columns that are erected by the great Mauryan king Asoka during his reign in the 3rd century BC. He created them once he converted to Buddhism after witnessing the dreadful carnage of the Kalinga war. They are a series of columns that are dispersed throughout the Indian subcontinent and carry inscriptions addressed to monks and nuns. Of all the pillars erected by him, there are only 20 of them that still survive. Out of these 20, only seven well-preserved animal sculptures are present.

Several of the pillars were relocated by the Mughal Empire rulers and the animal capitals were removed. Firuz Shah Tughlaq relocated two pillars to Delhi. The pillars average between 12-15 m and weight upto 50 tonnes each. The pillars were dragged through a vast amount of distance before they were erected. The pillars were meant to commemorate the presence of the King at that place. Most of the pillars erected were monolithic i.e., they were carved out of one stone. The most amazing feature of this Mauryan art is the crowning animals that are shown either seated or standing. Ashokan pillars contain animal capital as opposed to the Persian pillars that had human figurines.

India's national emblem which has a carving of four lions and is used in almost all the government documents was once at top of the Ashoka's pillars at Sarnath.


By: Neha Maheshwari




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