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Ajanta Caves

  • The Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, India are 31 rock-cut cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BC. The caves include paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of both Buddhist religious art (which depict the Jataka tales) as well as frescos which are reminiscent of the Sigiriya paintings in Sri Lanka. The caves were built in two phases starting around 200 BC, with the second group of caves built around 600 AD.
  • The first cave was built on the eastern end of the horse-shoe shaped scarp. According to Spink, it is one of the latest caves to have begun on site and brought to near-completion in the Vakatka phase. Although there is no epigraphic evidence, it has been proposed that the Vakataka king Harisena may have been the benefactor of this better-preserved cave. A dominant reason for this is that Harisena was not involved initially in patronizing Ajanta.
  • This cave has one of the most elaborate carvings on its facade with relief sculptures on entablature and ridges. There are scenes carved from the life of the Buddha as well as a number of decorative motifs. A two pillared portico, visible in the 19th-century photographs, has since perished. The cave has a front-court with cells fronted by pillared vestibules on either side. These have a high plinth level. The cave has a porch with simple cells on both ends. The absence of pillared vestibules on the ends suggest that the porch was not excavated in the latest phase of Ajanta when pillared vestibules had become a necessity and norm. Most areas of the porch were once covered with murals, of which many fragments remain. There are three doorways: a central doorway and two side doorways. Two square windows were carved between the doorways to brighten the interiors.


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