Iron pillar, stupas and buildings of stones and bricks

The Iron Pillar

The iron pillar at Mehrauli, Delhi, is a perfect example of the skill of Indian crafts persons. It is made of iron, it’s height is  7.2. m, and weighs over 3 tonnes. You will be amazed to know that the pillar has not rusted in all these years.

Building of bricks and stones

The skills of Indian crafts persons are also evident in the structure like stupas.  The word  stupa  means a mound. However you will find stupas of various shapes and sizes like round and tall, big and small. There is a small box placed at the centre or the heart of the  stupa. This may contain bodily remains (such as teeth, bone or ashes) of the Buddha or his followers, or things they used, as well as precious stones, and coins.

This box, is known as a relic casket, laid deep beneath the earth. Later, a layer of mud brick or baked brick was added on its top. The dome like structure was sometimes covered with carved stone slabs. A path, known as the pradakshina patha,  was laid around the  stupa. This was surrounded with railings. Entrance to the path was through gateways. Devotees walked around the  stupa,  in a clockwise direction, as a mark of devotion. Both railings and gateways were often decorated with sculpture. Some of the earliest Hindu temples were also built at this time. Deities such as Vishnu, Shiva, and  Durga were worshipped in these shrines. The  most important part of the temple was the room known as the garbhagriha, where the image of the chief deity was placed.  It was    here that  priests performed religious rituals, and devotees offered worship to the deity.

At Bhitargaon, a tower, known as the shikhara, was built on top of the  garbhagriha, building shikharas  required careful planning. Most temples also had a space known as the  mandapa. It was a hall where people could assemble.

How were stupas and temples built?

Often, kings or queens decided to build these as it was an expensive affair There were several stages in building a  stupa  or a temple.

  • First, good quality stone had to be found, quarried, and transported to the place where the building has to be built.
  •  Rough blocks of stone had to be shaped and carved into pillars, and panels for walls, floors and ceilings.
  • Then these had to be placed  right position.

Kings and queens  spent lots of money on the crafts persons who worked hard to build these splendid structures. Even the devotees who visit the temple or the  stupa, brought gifts, which were used to decorate the buildings. For example, an association of ivory workers paid for one of the beautiful gateways at Sanchi. Even the merchants, farmers, garland makers, perfumers, smiths, and hundreds of people paid for the decoration.

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