The Ajanta Caves are at a distance of 100 km from Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra India. After being in oblivion for centuries, the caves were discovered by chance in 1819 by a British hunting party. The remarkable Ajanta cavesare listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A tour of the Ajanta caves will make you marvel at the architectural and artistic capabilities of that period. The total number of caves including the unfinished ones is 30, out of which Caves No. 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are chaitya caves and the rest are viharas or the monasteries. The caves are hewned out of granite cliffs on the inner side of a 20 m long ravine along the Waghora River.
The caves can be divided into two distinct phases with a gap of almost four centuries between them. The caves of the first phase can be dated to around the 2nd century BC. The caves of the second phase belong to the period of the Vakatakas and the Guptas. The caves are noteworthy for their rock-cut architecture as well as fine paintings on the walls of the caves. The themes of the paintings are from the incidents in Buddha's life, and depict Bodhisattvas and episodes from the Jatakas.
You will learn about the tempera technique of painting on the tour of Ajanta Caves since the images are painted on a dry surface. The walls of the rock were coated with a 1 cm thick layer, which consisted of a mixture made of clay, cow dung and rice husks. A final coat of lime was applied to produce the finished surface on which the artist painted. The color was made from natural products. These beautiful paintings have managed to survive till today.
The caves are divided into Hinayana and Mahayana caves. The Chaitya Caves Nos. 9 and 10 and Vihara Caves No. 8, 12, 13 and 15 are Hinyana Caves. The Vihara Caves Nos. 1, 2, 16 and 17 and Chaitya Caves No. 19 and 26 are Mahayana Caves. The Caves influenced by Hinyana Buddhism have paintings in which Buddha is represented by his symbols while the caves influenced by Mahayana Buddhism depict Buddha in his human form. The caves are numbered to their access from the entrance. A modern terraced path connects the caves. In the original construction, each cave was accessed from the riverfront by individual staircases.
How to Reach
The Ajanta caves can be accessed conveniently from Aurangabad, which is well connected by an air and rail network with major Indian cities. The airport is 12 km from Aurangabad while the railway station is 59 km from Ajanta. There are frequent bus and taxi services from Aurangabad to the Ajanta Caves.
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