The Ajanta and Ellora caves are magnificent examples of Indian art and architecture. Located in Maharashtra, India, these caves are considered some of the most remarkable rock-cut caves in the world. The caves are a testament to the artisans’ skill, and their exquisite beauty has inspired visitors for centuries.
Among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, two of India’s Seven Wonders, and a treasure trove of historical relics. They took centuries to complete, standing as a testament to human creativity and tenacity.
India, which was first populated around 9,000 years ago, has one of the world’s oldest civilizations and one of the most extensive cultural traditions. Its religious history is the best place to see this. After all, the country gave home to four now-famous religions: Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Although worshippers are found worldwide, one area, in particular, continues to be a defining characteristic of their origin.
The Ajanta and Ellora Caves are located in Maharashtra close to Aurangabad and are renowned as one of the outstanding examples of rock cave building in India. They have been revered for more than a thousand years.
The Ajanta Caves.
The 29 caves of the Ajanta Caves contain about 300 rock-cut Buddhist monuments that date from between the second century BC and the sixth century AD. Buddhist monks chiseled directly into the Sahyadri Hills’ cliff face using only chisels and hammers. These caverns contain artwork, murals, and sculptures that depict Buddha’s earlier existence. The Jataka Tales are a type of literature that originates predominantly from India.
Vihara and Chaitya griha were two different types of caves. Viharas are living and praying monasteries. Little cells line the sidewalls of these square chambers. Monks used these cells for sleeping and other purposes, with the giant square in the center used for prayer. A colonnaded porch that runs parallel to the porch on the front of the vihara is a common architectural feature. The Chaitya grihas, or other varieties of caves, are prayer halls. They resemble long tunnels and have spherical pillars on either side. The stupa, a representation of Lord Buddha, is at the cave’s opening.
The caves were twice abandoned, initially for almost 300 years, due to the local population’s conversion to Hinduism. Emperor Harishena of the Vakataka dynasty succeeded him, bringing the caves and their excavation back to life. Nevertheless, Harishena’s death in 477 AD caused a new disruption.
This time, it took almost 1,000 years before John Smith, a young British cavalry commander serving in the Madras Presidency, unintentionally found the entrance to Cave No. 10 on April 28, 1819. After spotting its door above the Waghora (Tiger) River, he entered a cave. He found a statue of a Bodhisattva inside, representing one of the Buddha’s previous lifetimes before he attained Nirvana.
Since it is far from normal eyesight, John vandalized the walls by writing his name and the date there while standing atop five feet of debris accumulated over countless centuries.
Source: World History Encyclopedia
The Ellora Caves
The Ellora Caves are famed for their impressive architecture, constructed entirely by hand, while the Ajanta Caves are home to some of India’s most exquisite ancient paintings. It is located in a flat, rocky area of the Western Ghats where volcanic activity changed the environment and produced the Deccan Traps, a multi-layered basalt deposit. The resulting vertical surface was steep and layered with rock formations, which allowed the architects of the time to sculpt the stone in more detail.
The 34 monasteries and temples that make up Ellora caves are carved out along a two km-long stretch of tall basalt rock. One of the best examples of Indian rock-cut architecture, the caves were constructed between the fifth and tenth centuries.
Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples can be found in caves in Ellora. The Buddhist caves were one of the first buildings between the fifth and eighth centuries. Most of these buildings were viharas or monasteries, which were substantial, multi-story constructions with living, sleeping, culinary, and other chambers carved into the mountainside. The Vishwakarma cave, referred to as “the carpenter’s cave,” is the most well-known Buddhist cave.
The Hindu caves were built between the middle of the sixth century and the end of the eighth century. These caverns stand for a distinct kind of imaginative vision and execution abilities. Some were so complicated that they required years of preparation and coordination to finish. The Kailasha, meant to evoke Mount Kailash, Lord Shiva’s residence, is the most notable Hindu cave. Although it has multiple stories and resembles a freestanding temple complex, its area is double that of the Parthenon in Athens and was cut out of a single rock. It took a hundred years to complete just the Kailasha.
The Jain caves were built at Ellora in its last stages. Although these caves are smaller, they have some fascinating and intricate artwork, whether it is the exquisitely carved Indrasabha pillars, the lotus above it, the unique shrine known as Chota Kailasha, or the sculptures of Yakshini and Durga.
The Ajanta and Ellora caves are a treasure trove of Indian art and architecture. The caves are a testament to the skill of the artisans who created them, and they offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of India. The caves have inspired artists and scholars for centuries and continue to be a source of wonder and inspiration today.
Source: Wikimedia Commons