Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad.

24th September, 2015: Pune to Aurangabad.

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Selfie while waiting for the night bus to Aurangabad.

25th September, 2015: Aurangabad to Ajanta Caves.

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.

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Info on the Ajanta Caves, a World Heritage Site.

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.

Cave 1.

Cave 1 was built on the eastern end of the horse-shoe-shaped scarp and is now the first cave the visitor encounters.

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Pillars supporting the entrance of the Cave 1.

The frieze over Cave 1 front shows elephants, horses, bulls, lions, apsaras and meditating monks. The paintings of Cave 1 cover the walls and the ceilings and are in a fair state of preservation.

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Cave 2.

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.

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Entrance to Cave 2.

This cave is best known for its feminine focus, intricate rock carvings and paint artwork.

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Cave 4, the largest cave of Ajanta.

Cave 4 dates from the late fifth century and is the largest monastery at Ajanta. It consists of a verandah with eight octagonal columns with a cell at either end. Three doorways lead into a columned hall with a shrine with a teaching Buddha.

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Exterior view, Cave 4.

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Collapsed ceiling in the central hall, likely in the 6th century, probably caused by the vastness of the cave and geological flaws in the rock.

Cave 6.

Cave 6 is two storey monastery (16.85 X 18.07 m). It consists of a sanctum, a hall on both levels. The lower level is pillared and has attached cells. The upper hall also has subsidiary cells.

The sanctums on both level feature a Buddha in the teaching posture. Elsewhere, the Buddha is shown in different mudras.

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Cave 7.

The Cave 7 is also a monastery, consisting of a sanctum, a hall with octagonal pillars, and eight small rooms for monks.

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External view of Cave 7, and the octagonal pillars.

Cave 9.

Caves 9 and 10 are the two chaitya or worship halls from the 2nd to 1st century BCE – the first period of construction, though both were reworked upon the end of the second period of construction in the 5th century CE.

Cave 11 – Cave 18; Random Pictures.

Cave 19.

Entrance façade and inside worship hall, Cave 19, sponsored by king Upendragupta. 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.

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Entrance façade, Cave 19, sponsored by king Upendragupta.

Cave 21.

Cave 21 is a hall (28.56 X 28.03 m) with twelve rock cut rooms for monks, a sanctum, twelve pillared and pilastered verandah.

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Exterior of Cave 21.

The carvings on the pilaster include those of animals and flowers. The pillars feature reliefs of apsaras, Nagaraja and Nagarani, as well as devotees bowing with the namaste mudra.

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Buddha shown in preaching posture in the sanctum of cave 21.

Cave 24.

Cave 24 is significant in having one of the most complex capitals on a pillar at the Ajanta site, an indication of how the artists excelled and continuously improved their sophistication as they worked with the rock inside the cave.

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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. It is among the last caves excavated, and an inscription suggests late 5th or early 6th century according to ASI.

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View of the entrance to Cave 26.
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The window above entrance facade of Cave 26.

This cave consists of an apsidal hall with side aisles for circumambulation (pradikshana). This path is full of carved Buddhist legends, three depictions of the Miracle of Sravasti in the right ambulatory side of the aisle, and seated Buddhas in various mudra. Many of these were added later by devotees, and therefore are intrusive to the aims of the original planners.

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The sculptured dagoba (stupa) in the worship hall. And 36 carved panels.
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Temptation of the Buddha; the daughters of Mara carved below are trying to seduce him. Mara is on the top right.

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Some more photos from trek to the plateau around which the Ajanta Cave complex is situated.

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All Images above © Pradeep Parihar

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