The Ajanta caves consist of 30 Caves including the unfinished ones, which belongs from 200 BC to 650 AD. These caves are situated about 104 kms. away from Aurangabad. These Buddhist cave temples and monasteries are cut from the rocks and volcanic lava of the Deccan in the forest ravines of the Sahyadri hills and are set in beautiful sylvan surroundings. They were discovered accidentally by a British Captain, John Smith in 1819, on a hunting expedition. The Ajanta caves provides a unique combination of architecture, sculpture and paintings. The caves are mainly known for their wall paintings, depicting scenes from life of Buddha. Two basic types of monastic Buddhist architecture are preserved at Ajanta, which are the Chaitya or prayer hall (Cave 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29) and Vihara or monastery (remaining 25 Caves). These caves suggest a well defined form of architecture, broadly resolving into two phases with a time gap of about 4 centuries from each other. In the Hinayana Phase two Chaitya Halls (Cave 9 and 10) and 4 Viharas (Cave 8, 12, 13 and 15A) are included. In the Mahayana Phase, 3 Chaityas (Cave 19 and 26 and 29 being incomplete) and 11 exquisite Viharas (Cave 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 11, 15, 17 and 20 to 24) are included. While, the Ajanta sculptures of the Mahayana Phase establish a formal religious imagery and contain paintings and sculptures, the Hinayana phase is virtually devoid of carvings.
Conjures before one's vision, a dream of beauty- of caves, hidden in the midst of a lonely glen with a streamlet flowing down below, caves that were scooped out into the heart of the rock so that the pious Buddhist monk, out on mission to spread the tenets of Buddhism could dwell and pray, caves that the followers of Lord Buddha, embellished with architectural details with a skilful command of the hammer over the chisel, with sculpture of highest craftsmanship and above all, with the paintings of infinite charm.At Ajanta, the paintings on the walls, illustrate the events in the life of prince Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and in the more popular Jatakas stories pertaining to Buddha's previous incarnation. According to the older conceptions, the Buddha wrought many deeds of kindness and mercy in a long series of transmigration as a Bodhisattva, before achieving his final birth as the sage of sakyas.
Incidentally they contain the scenes of semi-mythological history, the royal court and popular life of the ancient times, as told in romances and plays. Some pictures recall the Greek and Roman compositions and proportions, few late resemble to Chinese manners to some extent. But majority belongs to a phase, which is purely Indian, as they are found nowhere else. These monuments were constructed during two different periods of time separated by a long interval of four centuries. The older ones were the product of last to centuries before Christ and belong to Hinayana period of Buddhism in later part of 2nd century AD when Buddhism was divided into two sections, after the conduct of the fourth general council under another great king, Kanishka.
The Ajanta Caves are a series of 29 Buddhist cave temples in Ajanta, India, some of which date from the 2nd century BC. Encompassing both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions, the Ajanta caves preserve some of the best masterpieces of Buddhist art in India. Many visitors explore the Ajanta Caves in conjunction with the nearby Ellora Caves.Caves are build by cutting the rocks into beautiful piece of art and architecture. These are the finest examples of some of the earliest Buddhist architecture, caves paintings and sculptures, these caves comprises shrines, dedicated to Lord Buddha & monasteries (Viharas) used by Buddhist monks for meditation and study of Buddhist teachings.The paintings are executed on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique. The paintings on the walls, illustrate the events in the life of Prince Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and in the more popular Jatakas stories pertaining to Buddha's previous life. Some pictures recall the Greek & Roman compositions and proportions, few late resemble to Chinese manners to some extent. But majority belongs to a phase, which is purely Indian, as they are found nowhere else.
Ajanta, a UNESCO world heritage site, is famous for its Buddhist rock-cut cave temples and monasteries with their extraordinary wall paintings. The temples are hollowed out of granite cliffs on the inner side of a 20-meter ravine in the Wagurna River valley, 105 km northeast of Aurangabad, at a site of great scenic beauty. About 30 caves were excavated between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE and are of two types, caityas ("sanctuaries") and viharas ("monasteries"). Although the sculpture, particularly the rich ornamentation of the caitya pillars, is noteworthy, it is the fresco-type paintings that are the chief interest of Ajanta. These paintings depict colorful Buddhist legends and divinities with an exuberance and vitality that is unsurpassed in Indian 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 (34 m) in elevation above the bed of the stream.
Ajanta and Ellora are the pride of Maharashtra. The rock-cut caves of both these sites are world famous and illustrate the degree of skill and artistry that Indian craftsmen had achieved several hundred years ago. Ajanta dates from 100 B.C.
Another important highlight of the festival is the Kalagram where a large number of stalls are put up by the artisans and craftsmen of the region.
Perhaps in the whole country and the subcontinent nowhere is a view point like that of Ajanta. It was here that in 1819 John Smith rediscovered Ajanta.
The best time to visit Ajanta city is between the months of June and March. Monsoon (June to September) and winter (November to February) seasons are the best time to explore Ajanta Caves, as the weather is pleasant enough during this time.
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