500 B.C.E.–600 C.E.

This period saw the development of the powerful Maurya, Shunga, and Gupta empires, as well as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

1000 B.C.E.–500 C.E.

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Bodh Gaya: The Site of the Buddha’s Enlightenment
Bodh Gaya: The Site of the Buddha’s Enlightenment

Bodh Gaya is the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment—over millennia it has been reconstructed and reimagined.

A Buddha from Mathura
A Buddha from Mathura

Divinity in stone, an early Buddha from Mathura.

The Cave of Shiva at Elephanta
The Cave of Shiva at Elephanta

The many forms of Shiva at Elephanta island.

The Gupta Period
The Gupta Period

The Gupta period saw tremendous advances in Indian art and architecture.

Jatakas: the many lives of Buddha as Bodhisattva
Jatakas: the many lives of Buddha as Bodhisattva

Folktales adapted into Buddhist tradition appear in art across India and beyond.

Beliefs made visible: Buddhist art in South Asia
Beliefs made visible: Buddhist art in South Asia

Buddhism thrived in India for over a thousand years. Discover important sites in the life of the Buddha.

Beliefs made visible: Hindu art in South Asia
Beliefs made visible: Hindu art in South Asia

Described as a “museum of religions,” Hinduism encompasses many beliefs and accepts a pantheon of deities.

The Great Stupa at Sanchi
The Great Stupa at Sanchi

A mound of dirt or the body of the Buddha? These sacred sites give practitioners insight into the Four Noble Truths.

Images of enlightenment: aniconic vs. iconic depictions of the Buddha in India
Images of enlightenment: aniconic vs. iconic depictions of the Buddha in India

An empty throne, footsteps, and a wheel—rather than represent the Buddha directly, sculptors relied on symbols.

Bodh Gaya: center of the Buddhist world
Bodh Gaya: center of the Buddhist world

Siddhartha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. Now a major pilgrimage site, it is covered in offerings.

The Caves of Ajanta
The Caves of Ajanta

Cut into a mountainside, this monastic complex is hard to see but offers a breathtaking glimpse of ancient India.

Lion Capital, Ashokan Pillar at Sarnath
Lion Capital, Ashokan Pillar at Sarnath

Topped with lions and lotus flowers, these ancient stone columns provide early evidence of the Buddhist faith.

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