The post-Mauryan period is an age of great sculptural achievements. Freed from the overpowering influence of the court, the art reaches a larger section of people. The artistic movement in this phase spread throughout the country. In the north the main activity is recognized in the Madhyadesh at Bharhut, Sanchi, Bodh Gaya, Mathura etc.
In the east there was a regional pattern in Kalinga. In spite of the presence of regional variations, this period marks a wide and expansive artistic movement representing the development of a common plastic tradition. Very often this movement has been called ‘the classical movement’.
The beginnings of this movement can be traced back to the declining phase of the Mauryan Empire. A fragmentary relief, dug up at Sarnath, shows a female figure with head bent down over the gathered-up knees and hands, an attitude that indicates utmost dejection. However, the carvings are crude showing some amount of co-ordination between the outline and the modelled surface.
The art of this period consists mostly of Buddhist images and relief sculptures carved on the railings, gateways and plinths of the stupas and also on the facades and walls of the viharas and Chaitya.
Serving as a vehicle of communication to meet the needs of an expanding religion, the relief sculptures are mainly narrative and follow the usual practice of continuous narration. The detailed manner of depicting a particular story or event leads to the presentation of various episodes in one and the same relief composition.
During the post-Mauryan period three schools of sculptural art developed. These are Gandhara School, Mathura school and Amravati school.