· Easy Activity
Time to visit:
Mon – Sun 6:00AM – 6:00PM
3-4 hrs. (suggested)
Jun to Feb
Jul to Sep
Aurangabad, MH, IN
Summer: 18°C – 40°C
Winter: 10°C – 29°C
The Ajanta Caves are 30 (approximately) rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state of India. The caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotion through gesture, pose and form.
Courtesy: Amazing paces on our earth
According to UNESCO, these are masterpieces of Buddhist religious art that influenced the Indian art that followed. The caves were built in two phases, the first phase starting around the 2nd century BCE, while the second phase was built around 400–650 CE, according to older accounts, or in a brief period of 460–480 CE according to later scholarship.The site is a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, and since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Ajanta Caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship-halls of different Buddhist traditions carved into a 250-feet wall of rock. The caves also present paintings depicting the past lives and rebirths of the Buddha, pictorial tales from Aryasura’s Jatakamala, and rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities. Textual records suggest that these caves served as a monsoon retreat for monks, as well as a resting-site for merchants and pilgrims in ancient India. While vivid colours and mural wall-painting were abundant in Indian history as evidenced by historical records, Caves 16, 17, 1 and 2 of Ajanta form the largest corpus of surviving ancient Indian wall-painting.The Ajanta Caves are mentioned in the memoirs of several medieval-era Chinese Buddhist travellers to India and by a Mughal-era official of Akbar era in the early 17th century. They were covered by jungle until accidentally “discovered” and brought to Western attention in 1819 by a colonial British officer Captain John Smith on a tiger-hunting party. The Ajanta Caves are located on the side of a rocky cliff that is on the north side of a U-shaped gorge on the small river Waghur, in the Deccan plateau. Further round the gorge are a number of waterfalls, which, when the river is high, are audible from outside the caves.
Courtesy: UNESCO TV/© NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai
With the Ellora Caves, Ajanta is one of the major tourist attractions of Maharashtra. It is about 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from Fardapur, 59 kilometres (37 miles) from the city of Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India, 104 kilometres (65 miles) from the city of Aurangabad, and 350 kilometres (220 miles) east-northeast from Mumbai. It is 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Ellora Caves, which contain Hindu, Jain and Buddhist caves, the last dating from a period similar to Ajanta. The Ajanta style is also found in the Ellora Caves and other sites such as the Elephanta Caves, Aurangabad Caves, Shivleni Caves and the cave temples of Karnataka.
Following is the order in which we recommend you should visit the Ajanta Caves:
Cave 1 was built on the eastern end of the horse-shoe-shaped scarp and is now the first cave the visitor encounters. This cave, when first made, would have been a less prominent position, right at the end of the row. According to Spink, it is one of the last caves to have been excavated, when the best sites had been taken, and was never fully inaugurated for worship by the dedication of the Buddha image in the central shrine. This is shown by the absence of sooty deposits from butter lamps on the base of the shrine image, and the lack of damage to the paintings that would have happened if the garland-hooks around the shrine had been in use for any period of time. Spink states that the Vākāţaka Emperor Harishena was the benefactor of the work, and this is reflected in the emphasis on imagery of royalty in the cave, with those Jataka tales being selected that tell of those previous lives of the Buddha in which he was royal.
Cave 2, adjacent to Cave 1, is known for the paintings that have been preserved on its walls, ceilings, and pillars. It looks similar to Cave 1 and is in a better state of preservation. This cave is best known for its feminine focus, intricate rock carvings and paint artwork yet it is incomplete and lacks consistency. One of the 5th-century frescos in this cave also shows children at a school, with those in the front rows paying attention to the teacher, while those in the back row are shown distracted and acting.
Cave 16 occupies a prime position near the middle of site, and was sponsored by Varahadeva, minister of Vakataka king Harishena (r. c. 475 – c. 500 CE). He devoted it to the community of monks, with an inscription that expresses his wish, may “the entire world (…) enter that peaceful and noble state free from sorrow and disease”. He was, states Spink, someone who revered both the Buddha and the Hindu gods. The 7th-century Chinese traveler Xuan Zang described the cave as the entrance to the site.
Exterior view and interior hall of Cave 4
- Cave 4, a vihara, was sponsored by Mathura, likely not a noble or courtly official, rather a wealthy devotee. This is the largest vihara in the inaugural group, which suggests he had immense wealth and influence without being a state official. It is placed at a significantly higher level, possibly because the artists realized that the rock quality at the lower and same level of other caves was poor and they had a better chance of a major vihara at an upper location. Another likely possibility is that the planners wanted to carve into the rock another large cistern to the left court side for more residents, mirroring the right, a plan implied by the height of the forward cells on the left side.
Cave 17 (34.5 m x 25.63 m) along with Cave 16 with two great stone elephants at the entrance and Cave 26 with sleeping Buddha, were some of the many caves sponsored by the Hindu Vakataka prime minister Varahadeva. Cave 17 had additional donors such as the local king Upendragupta, as evidenced by the inscription therein.
Cave 18 is a small rectangular space (3.38 X 11.66 m) with two octagonal pillars and it joins into another cell. Its role is unclear.
Cave 19 is a worship hall (chaitya griha, 16.05 X 7.09 m) datable to the fifth century CE. The hall shows painted Buddha, depicted in different postures. This worship hall is now visited through what was previously a carved room. The presence of this room before the hall suggests that the original plan included a mandala style courtyard for devotees to gather and wait, an entrance and facade to this courtyard, all of whose ruins are now lost to history. Cave 19 is one of the caves known for its sculpture. It includes Naga figures with a serpent canopy protecting the Buddha, similar to those found for spiritual icons in the ancient Jain and Hindu traditions. It includes Yaksha dvarapala (guardian) images on the side of its vatayana (arches), flying couples, sitting Buddha, standing Buddhas and evidence that its ceiling was once painted.
Inside Hall of Cave 26
Cave 26 is a worship hall (chaityagriha, 25.34 X 11.52 m) similar in plan to Cave 19, but much larger and with elements of a vihara design. An inscription states that a monk Buddhabhadra and his friend minister serving king of Asmaka gifted this vast cave. The inscription includes a vision statement and the aim to make “a memorial on the mountain that will endure for as long as the moon and the sun continue”, translates Walter Spink. It is likely that the builders focussed on sculpture, rather than paintings, in Cave 26 because they believed stone sculpture will far more endure than paintings on the wall.
Upper Level Hall of Cave 5
Cave 5 is an unfinished vihara in Ajanta group of Caves. The richly-carved doorway and the female figures standing on makaras are the main attractions of this cave. The design of frescoes are intricately done and portrays are some of the best designs in Ajanta.
Cave 6 is a double storeyed vihara consisting of a hall, sanctum sanctorum and a pillared hall in the lower storey and a hall with cells, subsidiary cells and sanctum sanctorum in the upper storey. Buddha in preaching attitude is housed in both the shrines. The depiction of Miracle of Sravasti and Temptation of Mara are the important paintings in the lower storey. The upper floor of Cave 6 has many private votive sculptures, and an unfinished Buddha Shrine. Besides the main shrine, there are two more chapels containing images of Buddha. The cave has a profusion of carved figures of Buddha in different attitudes on the walls of the hall, antechamber and shrine. One small standing figure on the left wall of the antechamber is so finely covered with a lime-coat that it gives the appearance of marble. On the same wall near the feet of a relief of Buddha is the masterly drawing of a remarkable kneeling figure holding three lotus-buds and a handled cylindrical object with a lid.
Cave 7 is intended as an enormous vihara but not completed. Only very elaborate porch with few more details has been built. This monastery consists of a sanctum sanctorum, an oblong open hall with two small porticos supported by heavy octagonal pillars and eight cells. Buddha in preaching attitude is housed inside the sanctum. Other sculptural panels include Miracle of Sravasti, seated Buddha under the protection of Nagamuchalinda, etc.
Cave 8 is an unfinished monastery at Ajanta, located at the lowest level and perhaps earliest among the monasteries. Major portion of the frontage has been swept away by a landslide. There are some remnants of the cave that still remains and it testimony of the beautiful architecture of the place.
Entrance to the Cave 9 worship hall
Cave 9 is an apsidal chaityagriha datable to 2nd century BC and belongs to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism. The chaityagriha consists of an entrance door, two side windows, central hall, nave flanked by side aisles (pradakshina) on either side separated by a row of 23 pillars and a stupa, the object of worship.
The chaityagriha exhibits reproduction of wooden architectural styles, in the form of inward tapering octagonal pillars, evidence of fixing wooden beams & rafters, etc. The chaitya was in use during later period also as indicated by the sculptures of Buddha on the facade and side walls facing the court. The cave consists of two layers of paintings, the earlier dating back to the second half of 1st century BC and the later to 5th – 6th centuries AD.
Cave 10 is also a chaityagriha datable to 2nd century BC and belongs to Hinayana school. This cave is the earliest chaityagriha and most probably the earliest excavation at Ajanta. This is the cave which was discovered by Captain Smith in 1819 and it bears his inscription in pencil.
The cave consists of a large central hall, nave flanked by two aisles (pradakshina) separated by a row of 39 octagonal pillars and a rock stupa at the apsidal end, the object of worship. The cave consists of two periods of paintings, the earlier dated to 2nd century BC and the later 4th – 6th century AD. Two Jataka stories of this period have been identified, namely, the Sama (Shama) Jataka and the Chhaddanta Jataka. The later period paintings contain Buddha figures in various poses mainly over the pillars.
Cave 11 is a vihara datable to beginning of 5th century AD. It consists of a hall with six cells and a long bench, a pillared verandah with four cells, a sanctum sanctorum. The Buddha in preaching attitude in this cave is one of the earliest images at Ajanta. The important fact about this Buddha is that it is attached to a stupa. This means a compromise between stupa worship and image worship. This cave is interesting, because it shows the transition from the earlier Hinayana to the later Mahayana Buddhist phase of worship. The round stupa has the images of the Buddha to its bare girth.
Cave 12 hall, with monk cells. Each cell has two stone beds
Cave 12 is a Hinayana vihara which was excavated in the 2nd century BC and it is probably one of the earliest excavations at Ajanta. The facade has collapsed and reveals the plain interior square hall. It has 12 cells and each cell having two stone-beds. The skillfully carved sleeping berths in the cells. An inscription on the back wall of the monastery records the gift of this cave by one merchant Ghanamadada and paleographically datable to 2nd – 1st century BC perhaps slightly later than Cave 10. The walls of the hall above the cell-doors are ornamented with chaitya-window motifs.
Cave 13 is an incomplete vihara belongs to Hinayana phase of Buddhism. This is a small monastery and consists of an astylar hall with seven cells on three sides. The cells are provided with rock-cut beds.
Cave 14 is an unfinished monastery and was excavated above Cave 13 at a higher level. It was originally planned on a large scale. The columned verandah leads to the partially excavated hall. The depiction of salabhanjikas on the top corners of doorway is beautifully depicted.
Cave 15 is also a vihara which consists of an astylar hall with eight cells, an antechamber, sanctum sanctorum and a pillared verandah. The sculptural depictions include Buddha in various postures, seated Buddha on simhasana inside the sanctum sanctorum. The traces of paintings indicate that it was originally painted. The lintel of the doorway is carved in the form of two tiers of a sikhara. At the center of the lower tier is a stupa under the canopy of serpent-hoods, while the upper tier has at its center a chaitya-window motif flanked by a pair of pigeons carved in a most realistic manner.
Cave 15A is the smallest of all the excavations at Ajanta. This cave consists of a small central astylar hall with one cell on three sides. The front wall had an inscription in shell characters. The hall is relieved with chaitya window pattern rising from Vedic pattern.
- The e-ticket is not transferable.
- Entry Fee is not refundable.
- E-ticket cancellations are not permitted.
- The Monument is open for visitors between sunrise and sunset.
- Visitor shall be required to show photo identity proof in original at the entry to the monument.
- Edibles are not allowed inside the monument.
- Inflammable/dangerous/explosive articles are not allowed.
- Signages (In Braille as well)
- Toilets for Ladies & Gentleman
- Wheelchairs & Wooden Ramps for disabled
- RO Drinking Water Facility
- Travelers should have a moderate physical fitness level
- Children must be accompanied by an adult
- Nearest Airport :Aurangabad Domestic Airport
- Nearest Railway Station :Jalgaon Railway Station (60 kms from Ajanta Caves)
- Nearest Bus Station :Ajanta Foot Cave Bus Stop
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