Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ajanta Caves, World Heritage Site

Photo published under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Ajanta Caves, in Maharashtra, India, contain ancient paintings and sculptures of both Buddhist religious art and sculpture.

Cave No. 1 is the first cave, with one of the most elaborate sculptures showing scenes from the life of the Buddha. The cave has a front-court with cells, and a porch, once covered with murals of which many fragments remain now. Each wall of the hall inside is nearly 40 feet (12 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high. There is a shrine on the rear wall to house a seated image of the Buddha. There are four cells on each of the left, rear and the right walls. The walls are covered with paintings, fairly well preserved.

The nearby Cave No. 2 is famous for paintings on its walls, ceilings, and pillars. It has a porch quite different from Cave one. The cave is supported by pillars. The size and ground plan have many things in common with the first cave. The front porch consists of cells.

The caves at Ajanta were abandoned by AD 480 and for the next 1300 years the jungle grew back and the caves were hidden, and unvisited until the spring of 1819 when a British officer in the Madras army entered the steep gorge on the trail of a tiger. Within the tangled undergrowth, he came across the almost hidden entrance to one of the caves. Exploring that first cave, long since inhabited by birds, bats and larger animals, Captain Smith wrote his name in pencil on one of the walls, still faintly visible, it records his name and the date, April 1819.

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