Location: Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra, India
Photographed on 10-June-2004 using Canon Powershot S1
Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, India are rock-cut cave monuments dating from the second century BC, containing paintings and sculpture considered to be masterpieces of both "Buddhist religious art" and "universal pictorial art".
The caves are in a wooded and rugged horseshoe-shaped ravine about 3½ km from the village of Ajantha. It is situated in the Aurangābād district of Maharashtra State in India (106 kilometers away from the city of Aurangabad). The nearest towns are Jalgaon (60 kilometers away) and Bhusawal (70 kilometers away). Along the bottom of the ravine runs the river Waghur, a mountain stream. There are 29 caves (as officially numbered by the Archaeological Survey of India), excavated in the south side of the precipitous scarp made by the cutting of the ravine. They vary from 35 to 110 ft. in elevation above the bed of the stream.
The monastic complex of Ajanta consists of several viharas (monastic halls of residence) and chaitya-grihas (stupa monument halls) cut into the mountain scarp in two phases.
At Ajanta, cave numbers 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15A (the last one was re-discovered in 1956, and is still not officially numbered) were excavated during the first phase. These excavations have enshrined the Buddha in the form of the stupa, or mound.
The second phase of excavation at the site began after a lull of over three centuries. Some prefer to call this phase the Vakataka phase after the ruling dynasty of the house of the Vakatakas of the Vatsagulma branch. The caves created during the second phase are the ones numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29.
The excavation exhibits a great variety, some with simple facade, others ornate; some have a porch and others do not. The hall was an essential element of a viharas. In the second phase, early viharas were not intended to have shrines because they were purely meant to be halls of residence and congregation. Later, shrines were introduced in them in the back walls, which became a norm. The shrines were made to house the central object of reverence that is the image of the Buddha often seated in the dharmachakrapravartana mudra (the gesture of teaching).
In the caves with latest features, we find subsidiary shrines added on the side walls, porch or the front-court. The facades of many vihāras are decorated with carvings, and walls and ceilings were often covered with paintings.
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Photo taken in Ajanta, Maharashtra 431117, India
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