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Home » West india » Maharashtra » Archaeology » Ajanta Caves
Maharashtra Places to see AJANTA CAVES

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Location : About 100 kilometers from Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

Built in : Second century BC-Sixth century AD

Famous for : Rock cut architecture

How to reach here : Buses are available for Aurangabad, Jalgaon, and Mumbai. By train, Jalgaon is the nearest rail head. By air, one can reach an airport located near Aurangabad.

Masterpieces of Buddhist architecture, Ajanta caves are a set of 31 mystic caves that will catch your attention with their sheer beauty and fabulous architecture. Built in two phases, these caves have been recognized as World heritage Site by UNESCO owing to their unique cultural importance and antiquity. Discovered in the19th century, the caves are the portrayals of the Buddhist period; they are, in fact, the true depiction of the incidences that belong to life of Buddha and Bodhisattvas.

The main reason behind their construction was to provide accommodation to the monks who also offered prayers here. Most of these architectural splendors have been carved with great precision and illustrate the excellent craftsmanship of the artisans of that period. Dedicated exclusively to Buddhism, Ajanta caves have been divided into Chaityas and Viharas. Five of the thirty caves have been built in the form of Chaityas, rest being Viharas or monasteries. The exotic paintings and murals on the walls are the examples of the high creative excellence of the artist.

Attractions :

Viharas : The viharas were carved out of rocks. These comprise of pillar-supported verandahs that gave entrance to the interiors. A shrine of Buddha that faces the entrance is a prime attraction of this place. The facades have been elaborately carved. There are lovely paintings on the walls. Another attraction that will catch your attention is the presence of dormitories that run around the main hall.

Chaityas : Accommodating stupas and images of Buddha, Chaityas are larger than Viharas. These chaityas vary in size and number. They have an image of either seating or the standing Buddha at their entrances.

Discovered accidentally in 1819 by John Smith, Ajanta caves are famous for their impressive artwork and historical importance.

Cave 1 : This horse-shoe shaped cave is adorned with numerous carvings and relief sculptures. The themes are drawn from the life of Buddha. A front court aided with a number of pillared vestibules will attract you as soon as you first set your eyes on it. A shrine carrying the image of Lord Buddha in his famous Dharmchakrapravartan Mudra is situated on the rear wall. The mural paintings depicting Jataka stories will enthrall your senses.

Cave 2 : This particular cave is famous for the preserved state of paintings. As you enter it, you will notice a number of robust pillars that act as a support to the cave. Though decayed at several places, these paintings of Ajanta Caves demand your special attention. They are informative and tell the narratives of the great preacher.

Cave 6 : Belonging to Mahayana phase of Buddhism, this cave is renowned for octagonal pillars which are unique in form and design. An exclusive image of Buddha in sitting position with his hands depicting certain gesture is worth admiration. A Bhikshu painting with lotus looks like a relieved sculpture. The intricacies painted on the garments and the rounded belly will surprise you by their vitality and liveliness.

Cave 9 : A chaitya, this particular cave was a gathering hall for the followers of Buddhism. The paintings that have survived till date depict scenes belonging to wild animals and herdsmen.

Cave 10 : If you have ever been to Sanchi and noticed the elaborate carvings there, you will notice a stark resemblance to the painting in this cave. The famous painting is that of a King who is shown along with his retinue worshipping a Bodhi tree. The right wall of the cave shows Buddha as an incarnation of an elephant. The spacious forests have been painted along with lovely pictures of wild beasts. Another exquisite painting shows a six-tusked elephant being brought to the court of the king and the queen being shocked at the site.

This particular cave also boasts of the masterpieces that are visible in the form of paintings of Bodhisattva. The grace and elegance of this deity is worth-watching. It is one of the perfect examples of the brilliant artworks that form part of Ajanta caves. Monks are shown to be kneeling on his feet. Another painting that forms prominent part of this cave is that of Buddha and a monk with one eye. These images have influences of the Gandhi school of art.

Cave 16 : On entering this cave, you will notice a colossal statue of Lord Buddha in his didactic pose. An exclusive painting that will draw your attention illustrates the dying cousin of Buddha who gets shocked on hearing the news that he has decided to live the life of seclusion. Another vivid image that comes before your eyes is the ancient rites and rituals is that of a Naga or the serpent king. This finished carving shows the snake worship by the people belonging to the lower communities.

Cave 21 : A big chaitya hall adorned with numerous pillars is the exclusive feature of hall number 21. A stupa meant for circumambulation is also present here. Buddha in his parinirvana stage can also be seen here.

Cave 26 : The imposing arch of chaitya belonging to the 5th century is a major attraction of Ajanta caves. The images of Buddha showing Sravasti miracle will make you spellbound. The figures of Nagas, Anupananda, and Nanda are shown to be holding a lotus stem; the stem being the sitting place of Buddha himself.

Paintings : The paintings on the walls of the caves and ceilings were drawn in a step by step procedure. Initially, the rock was carved to make it rough, a mixture of clay, cow dung, and lime was applied to this etched surface. The paintings were drawn on this wet pilaster and colors were filled. A number of materials like stones, plant extracts and minerals were used to prepare the paints.

Ajanta caves are the reminiscent of the bygone era that remind us of the skilled artistry and unparallel pictorial art.

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