Ajanta-Ellora-Caves

The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state of India are about 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE.The caves include paintings and sculptures described by the government Archaeological Survey of India as “the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting”,which are masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, with figures of the Buddha and depictions of the Jataka tales.The caves were built in two phases starting around the 2nd century BCE, with the second group of caves built around 400–650 CE according to older accounts, or all in a brief period of 460 to 480 according to the recent proposals of Walter M. Spink.The site is a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India,and since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ajanta caves are cut into the side of a cliff that is on the south side of a U-shaped gorge on the small river Waghur,and although they are now along and above a modern pathway running across the cliff they were originally reached by individual stairs or ladders from the side of the river 10–35 m (30–110 ft) below.

The area was previously heavily forested, and after the site ceased to be used the caves were covered by jungle until accidentally rediscovered in 1819 by a British officer on a hunting party. They are Buddhist monastic buildings, apparently representing a number of distinct “monasteries” or colleges. The caves are numbered 1 to 28 according to their place along the path, beginning at the entrance.

The buddhist caves have the most intense and complicated architecture compared to the other caves.The majority of the caves are vihara halls for prayer and living, which are typically rectangular with small square dormitory cells cut into the walls, and by the second period a shrine or sanctuary at the rear centred on a large statue of the Buddha, also carved from the living rock. This change reflects the movement from Hinayana to Mahāyāna Buddhism. These caves are often called monasteries. The other type of main hall is the narrower and higher chaitya hall with a stupa as the focus at the far end, and a narrow aisle around the walls, behind a range of pillars placed close together. Other plainer rooms were for sleeping and other activities. Some of the caves have elaborate carved entrances, some with large windows over the door to admit light. There is often a colonnaded porch or verandah, with another space inside the doors running the width of the cave.