Ancient Temples Carved in Rocks (The Ajanta Caves)

In the early 19th century (year 1819) some British soldiers were out hunting near Jalgaon city of Maharashtra, India. One of them suddenly saw, from a height, a horseshoe rock. His curiosity aroused by the entrance of a cave. And they discovered several caves, against which bush, shrubs earth and stones had piled up. Goatherds were using a few for shelter.

Monks and locals performing religious and spiritual ceremonies inside the caves (photo from καλλαικoι).

The Government was informed about this finding and soon the Archaeologists began to excavate them. Many experts have been restoring them during the last fifty years. The shock of this discovery was felt worldwide.

One of the impressive entrances of the Ajanta cave complex, all carved in the rocks (photo from καλλαικoι).

An overview of the horse shoe rock formation where the caves were discovered in AD 1819 (photo @ Flickr/Ashok666).

All the rock-cut caves had paintings on verandahs, inner walls and ceilings. The caves revealed some of the most beautiful masterpieces of world art.In the grotto’s were also symbolic Buddhist mounds called Stupas, and cells for monks called viharas. There were giant sculptures of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas (potential Buddha’s), or Taras (female Buddhist divinities), as also dwarapalas (doorkeepers).

One of the majestic temples perfectly carved with many details (photo @ Flickr/qiv).

The walls ae covered with marvelous carvings as true art works (photo @ Flickr/danchitnis).

Later, an inscription was found of King Harisena (‘moon among princes’), of the Vakataka dynasty of the 5th -6th century A.D. in cave No.17. It seems that the local Vakatakas had relations, thought marriage, with the great Gupta kings of the north. The total numbers of caves are 28. Most of them were finished, a few were half finished.

The caves are full of Buddha statues and carvings (photo @ Flickr/nozmiiquel).

Local women leaving the caves after their prayers (photo from καλλαικoι).

The painting and sculptures in the caves are of Buddhist origin; Gautama Buddha (600 B.C.) was against painting and Sculpture. He forbade image of himself. Also he was against the use of colorful clothes such as may excite desire he did not admit women to the order of nuns. He felt that all life was pain. The best way to attain salvation (Nirvana) was to suppress all for happiness.

Buddha’s, Bodhisattvas (potential Buddha’s), or Taras (female Buddhist divinities), as also dwarapalas (doorkeepers) can be found in the caves (photo @ Flickr/kun0me).

The Mahayana Buddhism made the Buddha almost into gods perhaps under the influence of Hinduism, by the time this more liberal faith emerged, Buddhism accepted women in the Sangha, or the order of monks and nuns, and promised to help people to attain Nirvana by practicing certain rites. By the time the Ajanta caves were carved, the Buddhists had evolved imagery almost parallel to the Hindus.

The colors used for the wall paintings were made from pebbles and vegetable found on the hillside. The guide will show you the pebbles of different colors, these were crushed and ground and the mixed with glue.
The main colors used were; red ochre, yellow ochre, brown ochre, lamp black, white and lapis lazuli (blue). This last pigment was imported from Northern India, central Asia and Persia. Green was made by mixed this lapis lazuli with Indian yellow ochre.

By the time the Ajanta caves were carved (during the Mahayana Buddhism), the Buddhists had evolved imagery almost parallel to the Hindus (photo @ Flickr/kun0me).

Another original wall painting with wonderful details (photo @ Flickr/kun0me).

The outer walls of this chapel (chaitya) are covered with brilliantly executed sculpture recounting the life of lord Buddha and tales of his previous earthly experiences (photo @ Flickr/nozomiiquel).


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There are 8 comments

  1. Kifus

    Hi Jurgen! Thanks for your sweet comments! You are a dear!

    Wow, these caves are truly majestic, the paintings and carvings are admirable. Thank goodness they have been restored and preserved so that we can all enjoy them. Thanks for the lovely post!

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