Aurangabad (100 km), Maharashtra
About Ajanta Caves
Smith, a British Captain stumbled upon the Ajanta caves in the year 1819.
The caves are carved out of the volcanic lava of the Deccan. Set in
picturesque surroundings, the Ajanta Caves are the masterpieces of the
Buddhist architecture. The caves are located at a distance of 104 km from
Aurangabad and 52 km from Jalgaon railway station. The Ajanta Caves are a
collection of 30 caves counting the unfinished ones. The caves are open for
the visitors from 09 hours to 17 hours except Mondays. Entry fee for Indians
who are above 15 years is Rs 10.00 and for foreigners it is Rs. 250 per
head. Free entries are provided on Fridays. October to March is the best
time to visit the caves.
The history of the Ajanta Caves dates back from 200 BC to 250 AD. As John
Smith was on a hunting expedition, he chanced upon these fantastic
collection of monastic caves. The Ajanta caves can be divided into two
categories namely the Mahayana and the Hinayana caves. These two groups of
caves have a gap of around four centuries between them. The excavation of
the Hinayana Caves occurred during the rulership of the Vakatakas and the
Guptas. The inscriptions relate that cave 16 was dedicated to the Buddhist
Sangha by Varahadeva, the minister of the Vakatakas king. The image of Lord
Buddha in cave 4 was gifted by some Abhayanandi from Maharashtra.
The Ajanta Caves are an epitome of Buddhist architectural brilliance. As
per the construction, the caves fall into two groups- Chaitya or the prayer
hall and Vihara or monastery. Cave nos. 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are all prayer
halls while the remaining 25 caves are all monasteries. 2 Chaitya halls and
4 monasteries fall into the Hinayana Phase caves. The Mahayana Phase caves
include 3 Chaityas and 11 Viharas. Cave 1 is considered to be one of the
finest monasteries. The cave, in question, bears exquisite interior
paintings. The Bodhisatvas namely Padampani and Vajrapani add astound beauty
to the ante chamber doorway. The cave walls depict various scenes from the
Jataka tales such as Shibi Jataka, Mahajanka Jataka, Champeyya Jataka etc.
Cave 2, a monastery, has beautifully painted ceiling. The paintings on the
ceilings include various designs, geometric patterns, processions of
devotees and miniature pictures. The Chaitya halls of the Hinayana period
include cave nos. 9, 10, 12 and 15A. Cave 10 dates back to the 2nd century
BC and is among the first excavations at the site. The walls of this cave
depicts scenes from the Sama Jataka and the Chhaddanta Jataka. The Viharas
of the Mahayana phase caves include cave nos. 14, 15 and 16.
Cave 26 -
The cave belongs to the Mahayana Phase and is a Chaitya or
prayer hall. The key attraction of the cave is the reclining image of Lord
Buddha symbolising his moment of death. The cave also has a Stupa with an
image of Buddha in a pavillion.
» Cave 17 -
The cave falls into the Mahayana
category and is an exquisite monastery. The walls of the cave bear beautiful
paintings and the ceiling has the pictorial representations of celestial
musicians and maidens. Various gods and goddesses adorn the doorway.
» Cave 16 -
The cave is a Mahayana monastery. The
cave bears an exquisite painting that shows the fainting of princess Sundari
as she learnt that her husband was going to be a monk.
» Cave 2 -
Cave 2 is an enchanting Mahayana
monastery. The frontage of the cave depicts the king of Naga along with his
entourage. There is a glorious Mandala inside dominating the ceiling held up
by demons. The ceiling is well decorated with birds, fruits, flowers and
other abstract designs.