It was a period of economic prosperity, important development in religious thinking and artistic achievements. Megasthenes came to India as the ambassador of the Greek ruler Seleucus. The earliest stone buildings were based on wooden models. The monolithic pillars of Ashoka are inscribed with his famous edicts. The striking feature of the pillars is the finely carved capital with magnificent animal figures.
The Sarnath lion capital forms the part of India’s National Emblem. The Rampurva Bull capital is one of the best specimens of animal sculpture. In every stupa there was a small chamber in which the relics of the Buddha or the Buddhist monks were placed. The surface of the stupa was generally built of bricks with a thick layer of plaster. The stupa was crowned by an umbrella of stone. The monument was surrounded by a fence with a path provided for Pradakshina. The Sanchi stupa is still well preserved.
The Sanchi stupa has four gateways at the four cardinal points and they contain very lively and beautifully carved panels. They also depict a landscape of trees and floral designs, groups of animals and birds, beautiful figures of yakshas and yakshinis and men and women. The Buddha is depicted in these panels not through his image but through various symbols, for example, the horse represents his ‘renunciation, the ‘boddhi’ tree his enlightenment.