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India Travels » Monuments In India » Ajanta Caves
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Ajanta Caves India

Location of the site: 99-km From Aurangabad, Maharashtra
Significance: World Heritage Site
Total Caves: 30
Dates Back to: 2nd Century BC To 6th Century AD

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Ajanta Caves in MaharashtraIn 1819, a party of British army officers on a tiger hunt in the forest of western Deccan, discovered a series of carved caves, each more dramatic than the other. Constructed in a very detailed manner, these caves were monsoon retreats for Buddhist monks and was continuously lived in from 200 BC to about AD650. There are thirty caves, including some unfinished ones. Of the Ajanta caves, five are prayer halls and the rest monasteries.

Ajanta provides a unique combination of architecture, sculpture and paintings. Two basic types of monastic Buddhist architecture are preserved at Ajanta, the Chaitya or prayer hall and Vihara or monastery. These caves suggest a well defined form of architecture, broadly resolving into two phases with a time gap of about 4 Centuries from each other. In the Hinayana Phase are included two Chaitya Halls and 4 Viharas. In the Mahayana Phase are included 3 Chaityas and 11 exquisite Viharas.

A few paintings which survive on the walls of Caves 9 and 10 go back to the 2nd century BC-AD. The themes are intensely religious in tone and centre round Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Buddha and the Jatakas. The paintings are executed on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique.

The sculptures and paintings in the caves detail the Buddha's life as well as the lives of the Buddha in his previous births, as related in the allegorical Jataka tales. You will also find in the caves a sort of illuminated history of the times - court scenes, street scenes, cameos of domestic life and even animal and bird studies come alive on these unlit walls.

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