Caves >> Ajanta cave

When the echo of the chisel faded, the world forgot these cave temples. Till the 19th century these caves were hidden under thick forest growth. These caves are representation of Buddhist thoughts which were etched on walls of these caves. These caves were built between 2nd century B.C to 7th century A.D. The 30 Chaityas and Viharas have paintings which illustrate the life and incarnations of Buddha. The artist has lent his creativity in each work with an overwhelming sense of vitality. These paintings have survived time and till date the numerous paintings glowing on the walls leave visitors spell-bounded. The contours of these figures and positions of their hands make the atmosphere very vibrant and alive. Ajanta caves were meant to provide seclusion to the Buddhist monks and their hammer & chisel offered a rich tapestry of images that speak of places, royalty, culture and tales of everyday life of ancient India.

The artist's skill and creativity were contemplated by his keen sense of observation. Many of the panels of the caves hold depcition of the Jatakas and numerous images of Buddha, Nymphs and Princesses. The flying Apsara in cave 17, the preaching Buddha in cave 16 to the sculptured Nagaraja in a sitting posture with his consort and a female attendant are to name a few of the popular caves. Some of these enigmatic caves are illuminated by the natural light at a particular time of the day. 

Ajanta also forms the base of a motif which was frequently used in the paintings - even in the 19th century Rajput miniature paintings. The motif of two lovers, a mithuna couple has been used in many of Ajanta paintings. One can spend days exploring, discovering and learning these caves but still the urge to see more hangs in the mind. The caves are so fascinating that one feels like coming here again and again.

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Ajanta Caves :-

Caves 1,2,16 and 17 have the best preserved paintings and required days, not hours to appreciate. The magnificient depictions of the bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Padmapaniin Cave 1 are particularly well known

In Ajanta Cave1, through sheer grace rather than flamboyance. He exudes gentleness and kind of divine innocence. Clearly a fastidious prince, he is depicted delicately holding the fragile blue lotus, his head bent sideways as if the weight of his ornate, jewelled crown is too heavy for his head. His half closed eyes give me an air of meditation, almost of shyness.Detail of Bodhisattva Padmapani in Cave number 1, holding a lotus

A court scene in Cave number 1, possibly the storey of conversion of Nanda, a fellow prince like the Buddha, decided to join the Buddha's monastic order. His dilemma was leaving his wife Sundari and pleasures of princely life for one of austerity, sacrifice and discipline.

It is in the female fingures in the paintings of Ajanta that one sees the true mastery of the artist. In Cave number 1 a magnificient array of colours, hairstyles, poses and costumes can be seen. In this paintings a woman leans against the wooden pillar of a mandap, or hall, and looks on at a group of female musicians accompanying a dancer.

In Cave 2, celing and wall paintings illustrate events associated with the Buddha's birth. A cameo of a woman at her toilet is universal favourite. For instance, is the scene of Buddha's birth showing his mother, Maya, standing in the place garden at Lumbini. Also in the same cave is the scene from the Mahajanaka Jataka, where the queen and her attendants tempt the shipwrecked price with all the art of this world. The princes is not moved, and the queen, a look of chagrin on her face, just cannot believe it. How can he withstand her oiled and coiledlocks, her dhoti in the latest fashionable stripes and all the firm bosoms and sinewy waists of her sensuous attendants?.

In Cave number 2 buddhist icons were sculpted according to a set of codified rules that used symbolic hand gestures and motifs such as the wheel, the deer, the throne and sacred Bodhi tree. Each represents a stage of the Buddha's life. This figure of the seated Buddha in the pose that depicts the teaching of the principles of the Middle Path is in the inner shrine of cave number 2. In Cave number 2, on the side walls leading to the shrine is a series of seated Buddhas with varying hand gestures to depict the scene of Miracle of the Buddhas.

The ogress Hariti and her consort Kubers in Ajanta's Cave number 2. Hariti devoured little children until the Buddha hid her favourite child. She then realised the agony of motherswho had lost their children, and reformed.

Cave number 2 one of the better preserved monasteries with a shrine, show how sculpture, paintings and architectural elements were used together to enhance the atmosphere of piety and sanctity.

In Cave Number 7, a sculptured frieze of miracle of Sravasti, when the Buddha multiplied himself a thousand times.

There are several chaitya grihas or prayer halls at Ajanta. The plan consists of a central nave with pillars, behind which is a circumambulatory passage. The hall is often apsidal in plan or with a curved back wall, possibly taken from a wooden design. Within the curved end a stone miniature stupa, or emblem of the Buddha, was carved to serve as the focal point of the prayer hall.

The paintings at Ajanta in Cave 17 depict stories from the Jatakas or tales of the previous incarnations of the Buddha.

The doorway in the verandah of Cave 17, is a row of anormous couples above which is a row of seated Buddhas. The raised right hand, with the palm facng the viewer, is a symbol of abhaya, reassurance and protection. The Buddha is shown seated in padmasana, or lotus pose of meditation. He is often shown with his hair tied in a top knot surrounded by a halo of light, representing nirvana or enlightment.

Cave number 17 . At one end of the verandah is a scene identified by scholars as the scene from the Vishvantara Jataka, of a prince who gave away his belongings in alms. This scene provides intresting information of contemporary wooden architecture, costumes and a glimpse of courtly life.

Cave 19 at Ajanta is amongst the best surviving examples of a rock cut chaitya griha. The elegant porch is topped by the distinctive 'horseshoe' shaped window, which is flanked by yakshas or guardians, standing Buddha figures and elaborate decorative motifs. The interior of Cave 19 is profusely carved with pillars, a monolithic carved symbolic stupa and images of Buddha which heralded the introduction of Mahayana phase. The story of Buddha life served as a perfect example of philosophy of compassion. Born as a prince, young Siddhartha renounced his wealth and position to find the meaning of life

Seated under a Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, the Buddha meditated, during which he was tempted by Mara and her voluptuous daughters. lowering his hand, Buddha touched the earth to witness his enlightment. The Parinivana(ultimate enlightment or liberation) came when Buddha left the world- as depicted in the 7m (23ft) image of the reclining Buddha inCave number 26

Ajanta provides a unique opportunity to study the early phases of Buddhist sculpture, painting and architecture which later influenced artistic traditions in central Asia and Far east.

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Reaching there :

By Air: Aurangabad is the nearest airport.

By Rail: Aurangabad is the nearest railhead on South Central Railway. Mumbai - Aurangabad(via Manmad) 388 km (via Pune) - 400 km. Also Jalgaon (59 km from Aurangabad).

By Road: Connected by Road

Ajanta  |   Ellora  |   Kanheri  |   Bibi Ka Maqbara  |   Elephanta  |   Karla

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