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Ajanta Caves are for those who can value the refinement in the art an d history. The rock-cut sculpture is at its best at Ajanta, as the Buddhist monks showed their expertise in carving out the best in the rocks as idols, as they did the same in self-discovery.
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Home :: Buddhist Caves in India :: Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Caves

Ajanta CavesThe utterance of the words Ajanta Caves inspires awe in the art connoisseurs all over the world. Lying 101 km north of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the Ajanta Caves epitomise the brilliance of the Buddhist art and architecture. The caves, that are hewn out of rocks, are situated amidst a picturesque landscape of Deccan basalt. The caves are 30 in number and display master craftsmanship of the bygone eras. The Ajanta Caves stand for the entire evolution of the Buddhist architecture. The caves were cut out of the volcanic lava of the Deccan. The sylvan surroundings of the caves add much charm to these stunning pieces of Buddhist architecture.

Dating back between 200 BC to 250 AD, the Ajanta Caves were discovered inadvertently in 1819, by a British captain John Smith while he was on a hunting expedition. The caves are an exclusive amalgamation of architecture, sculpture and paintings. The monastic Buddhist architecture at Ajanta comprises of two forms - the Chaitya or prayer hall and the Vihara or monastery. Out of the total of 30 caves, 5 are prayer halls while the remaining 25 are monasteries. The construction of the caves can be divided into two phases - the Hinayana Phase and the Mahayana Phase. The Hinayana Phase includes 2 chaitya halls and 4 viharas while the Mahayana Phase has 3 chaityas and 11 viharas.

The Hinayana Phase
Type No. Cave No.
Chaitya Hall 2 9 & 10
Vihara 4 8, 12, 13 & 15A

The Mahayana Phase
Type No. Cave No.
Chaitya Hall 3 19, 26 & 29
Vihara 11 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 11, 15, 17 & 20 to 24

Ajanta CavesThe Hinayana Period includes 2 chaitya halls. Out of cave no. 9 & 10, cave no. 10 is the earlier excavation. Dating back to the 2nd century BC, this chaitya hall is the finest representative of the Buddhist chaitya halls in the western India. The cave has paintings depicting scenes from the Sama Jataka and Chhadanta Jataka. The facade of the Cave no. 12 has almost dilapidated. Consequently, the interior square hall is completely exposed. Cave no. 15 A has some portions of its frontage intact. Cave no. 14, 15 and 16 are viharas and fall under the Mahayana Phase. Though cave no. 14 was contrived on a large scale, it was never completed. While you pay a visit to the caves, you will come across countless scenes from the tales of Shibi Jataka, Samkhpala Jataka, Mahajanka Jataka and Champeyya Jataka.

Out of all the Viharas or monasteries, Cave 16 is the finest monastery at Ajanta. The walls of the cave are decorated with a number of paintings including the conversion of Nanda, miracle of Sarvasti, elephant procession, Gautam's first meditation and scenes from Hasti Jataka and Maha Ummagga Jataka. Cave 17, which is a vihara, bears the greatest number of paintings including a row of eight Buddhas. Other scenes include different Jataka Tales such as Chhaddanta Jataka, Mahamapi Jataka, Sama Jataka, Ruru Jataka and Nigrodhamriga Jataka.

The Ajanta Caves are open from 0900 hours to 1700 hours on weekdays except Monday. The caves are located in the state of Mahrashtra and are 100 km from the city of Aurangabad. Aurangabad can be accessed by both air and rail routes. From the Aurangabad Railway Station, one can hire taxis or catch the state transport bus to get to the Ajanta Caves. One can also choose to drive from Mumbai to Aurangabad via Nasik.

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