This app is a collection of 180+ photographs that will take through every every cave in Ajanta so you can enjoy the exquisite paintings, intricate sculptures, information and stories behind each cave.This is a great guide if you’re planning a visit to this world heritage site, finding out about the progression of Buddhism, Indian art.
The rock cut of Ajanta caves are situated at about 55 Kms from Jalgaon or 105 Kms from Aurangabad. They have the most perfect specimens of Indian mural paintings and sculpture. These caves were discovered in 1819. After the Taj Mahal the Ajanta Caves are one of the most well known tourist destination in India.
There are 30 caves and they have been excavated in a horseshoe shape. They extend over 550 m. Their floors are not uniform. Cave 8 is the lowest and cave 29 is the highest. The Waghora stream flows though the same. There is waterfall beyond cave 28 which descends in 7 steps (SatKund) and feeds the Waghora stream.
In ancient times stairways linked the stream with individual caves but these have now mostly disappeared.
These caves were used by the monks during their retreat in the rainy season when the valley is at it’s verdant best admist idyllic surroundings and cut off from the world providing beauty and seclusion. The caves have been built in two periods:
Satavahanas – Early : Hinayana
Period : Circa 2nd century BCE to 1 century CE
The earlier group has 6 caves. Caves 9 and 10 being Prayer halls( Chaitya Grihas ).
Four 8,12,13,15a are monasteries ( Viharas)
The Chaitya Grihas have a vaulted ceiling and the exterior facade has a huge horse shaped window (Chaitya Window) over the doorway. Internally they have a rectangular hall with an aspe at the end and side-aisle which continue even behind the aspe and allows circumambulation. The object of worship is a Stupa which is at the center of the aspe. Figures of Buddha are absent in this phase as the Buddha was worshipped through only his symbols.
Vakatakas Later : Mahayana
Circa 3rd century CE to 5th century CE
The later caves include the following.
Prayer halls : 19,26,29. Monasteries: Caves 1-7, 14 -18, 20 and 24
The unfinished caves give us a good idea on the method of excavation. After the outline was chalked out the excavation started from the ceiling which was finished first. The work then continued downwards till the floor was handled last. The preliminary work was done by pickaxes and the rest including the finishing and carving by hammer and chisel.
Earliest paintings to have survived are on the walls of Cave 9 and 10. 2nd century BC. The costumes and headgear resemble those in the bas reliefs of Sanchi and Bharbut The second phase of paintings were done in the 5th century. This can be seen in caves 1,2,16,17. The paintings all maintain a high art standard, rich beauty, superb expressiveness and balanced and effective compositions. Later there is a gradual decline in the painter’s art. The theme of the paintings on the walls and pillars is intensely religious in tone and mostly around Buddha, Boddhisattvas, incidents from the life of Buddha and the Jatakas.
The paintings on the ceilings are essentially decorative with motifs of flowers, plants, fruits, beasts, human and semi divine beings.
The colors used were available locally are red and yellow ochre, terra verge, lime , kaolin, gypsum and lamp black. Lapis Lazuli is used in the later painting and probably imported from Afghanistan.
All caves at Ajanta are Buddhist. Lord Buddha followed the middle path. He taught the 4 nobles truths and the noble 8 fold path to follow to achieve enlightenment. These are explained as follows
The Four Noble Truths
The first noble truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death.
The second noble truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion.
The third noble truth is that suffering ends when craving ends. This is achieved by eliminating delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi)
The fourth noble truth is that the way leading to the end of suffering is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha.
Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble 8-fold Path is being moral, focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.
– Viewing reality as it is, not just as it appears to be.
– Intention of renunciation, freedom and harmlessness.
– Speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way
– Acting in a non-harmful way
– A non-harmful livelihood
– Making an effort to improve
– Awareness to see things for what they are with clear consciousness, correct meditation or concentration
There are 550 in the caves stories to tell how Buddha spurn the evil design of his enemies and courageously followed the path that led to the perfection of these qualities. These are the Jakarta stories.
There are the Avadana stories connected with legends of other Buddha, Bodhisattvas or illustrious persons also in the Ajanta paintings.