Travel the ferry: Ajanta caves, Maharashtra
India’s two most outstanding caves Ajanta and ellora among which one present the life of Buddha and the other stands as a historical monument of hinduism and jainism. the murals and sculpture of these two famous world heritage sites just unbelievable and incredible.
The Ajanta caves situated at a distance of about 55 km from jalgaon and 125 km away from Aurangabad are one of the most outstanding Buddhist caves in the whole India. Which depicts the story of Buddhism from 200BC to 650 BC. Ajanta caves were rediscovered in 1819 AD. Situated far from city these caves were built of a huge rock cut into the side of a cliff that is on the south side of a U-shaped gorge on the small rive waghorar, which provided a calm and serene environment for the Buddhist monks who treated at these secluded places during the rainy season. The caves include the paintings and sculptures which Is described as “the finest surviving examples of the Indian art, particularly painting” by the Indian archaeological department. In 1983 the Ajanta caves declared as the UNESCO world heritage site. . Ajanta is famous for its Buddhist rock cut cave temples and monasteries with their extraordinary wall paintings. The Ajanta caves depict paintings and sculptures that shows heavy religious influence, revolving around Buddhist philosophy, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Gautama Buddha and the Jataka Tales. The caves are embellished with paintings of infinite charm, sculpted with skills of the highest craftsmanship, narrating scenes of semi-mythological history, the royal court and lifestyle of the ancient times.
The caves were excavated between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century are of two types, chatiya (sanctuaries) and viharas (monasteries). Although the sculpture, particularly the rich ornamentation of the chatiya pillars, is noteworthy, it is the fresco-type paintings that are the chief interest of Ajanta. these caves carved out of solid rock with little more than a hammer and chisel, comprises shrines, dedicated to Lord Buddha and monasteries (Viharas) used by Buddhist monks for meditation and study of Buddhist teachings according to their place the path, beginning at the entrance. They are mostly square shaped and dipects life of gautam Buddha and teachings of Buddha. The caves are built in 2 phases one in 2 century BCA which is satvahana period consists of 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15, Among these 9 and 10 caves consists stupa halls of chatiyas viharas and 12,13 and 15 are viharas. the second phase was built in 450 to 650 BCA. according to Indian archaeological survey there are 29 caves in Ajanta among which 5 consists of temples and 24 of monasteries. The caves, famous for its murals, are the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting, fresco type, which the attractive centre Ajanta. Buddha preaching in sitting position is the other common example of sculptures. The monasteries mostly consists of viharas halls of prayer and living, which are typically rectangular with small square dormitory cells cut into the walls.
Cave one was built on the eastern end of the horse shoe shaped scarp. The exploration starts at the 1st cave of Ajanta and the visitors are greeted by the great Buddha image. Twelve pillars make a square colonnade inside supporting the ceiling and creating spacious aisles along the walls. There is shrine carved on rare wall to house an impressive seated image of Buddha with his hand being in the dharamachakrapravartana mudra. the walls are covered with paintings depicting the scenes of jatakas stories of buddha’s former existences as bodhisattva. The doorway to the cave is decorated with auspicious motifs. Cave1 has one of the most elaborate carved facades with relef sculpture on entablature and ridges. There are secences carved from the buddha’s life. This cave has numerous sculptures and fresco type paintings of Bodhisattvas Padmapani and Vajrapani, carvings of princesses, lovers, maids and dancing girls, scenes depicting the Persian Embassy, Golden Geese, Pink Elephants and Bull Fights.
Cave 2 is known for the immense painting of the thousand of Buddha’s monks, that have been preserved on its wall, ceiling and pillar which shows noble and powerful women in prominent roles. The ceilings are also painted with sophisticated and elaborate decorative motifs, many derived from sculpture. Paintings appear almost every surface except floor which depicts the buddha’s teachings and life through successive rebirth and life of Buddha as a king. at many places the art work become eroded due to decays and human interference but still this art work able to beautifully present the incident of life during Buddha. The cave is supported by the robust pillars. Cave 3 is merely start of an excavation. cave 4 has seated Buddha alone with large numberous unfinished Buddha images. according to Indian archeological survey this is the largest monastery planned on a grandious scale but was never finished. Paintings depicts Buddha in preaching pose. Cave 5 consists of two viharas one above other connected by internal stairs. cave 6 is an important cave of the Mahayana phase of Buddhism. Besides, there are monasteries and stupas in other caves. The murals found here are in the style of tempera and the painting done is with the use of glue, dried lime wash and plaster. The colors used are red, black, lapis lazuli and the terra verte, which are all naturally available in the rocks. Even the sculptures were painted, but in the due course, the paintings have washed away. Caves 9 and 10 are consists of 4 complete charity halls with murals surviving and plain octagonal columns painted with figures and walls of these caves depicts the image of Buddha and jataka tales.
Cave 11 marks the transition between the Hinayana and the Mahayana phases of Buddhism. Cave 16 abd 17 are monesteries with full image of jataka stoeies and with images of buddha’s childhood and adulthood which is a good examples of architecture. Cave 16 gives a good view of the ravine and the Giant Statue of Buddha in this cave is in the abhayamudra, or the teaching gesture. Cave 16 leads to main hall consists shrine. The 17th cave is noted for a magnificent painting showing a king and queen with their attendants going in a royal procession. The section of mural in cave no. 17 present the coming of Sinhala, descendence of prince vijaya of srilanka. The image in the cave 19 is that of Buddha sitting with his feet squat on the base, in a rigid pose, only enlivened by the gestures of his hand and the flying couples above him.
Also the mesmerizing paintings of the Ajanta caves are worth to watch. All the caves have been carved with precision and adorned with exquisite architectural details. The artwork in the caves comprises well preserved wall paintings of Boddhisattva, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvar All painting have religious influence centre of bodhisattvas and incidents from the life of Buddha and the jatakas.the paintings are executded on a ground in the tempera technique. The paintings on the wall, which is around1500 year old illustrate the events in the life of prince gutama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and the most popular jatakas stories pertaining to Buddha’s incarnation. These paintings also contain the scenes of semi mythological history, the royal courts and the popular life of ancient time and some paintings recall the greek and roman composition and to some extent the Chinese manner.
The main theme of the paintings is the depiction of various jataka stories, different incidents with the life of Buddha and the contemporary events of social and religious life. The refine lightness of decoration, the marvelous paintings of women figures place the Ajanta paintings among the major achievements of the gupta and post gupta style and confer them ranking of universal pictorial art. The paintings were done on wet plaster and then color applied. The wet plaster had the capacity to soak the colors so that it would not peel off or decay easily. The colors reefed to as earth color or vegetable colors. Sculptures often covered with stucco to give them a finish polish. Stucco had the ingredient of lime and powdered seashell. The paintings are narrative of jataka stories demanded the special attention of devotees. the paintings and sculpture on Buddha;s life, belonging to more mellow and ritualistic Mahayana Buddhism period are world famous. Visitors often asked how the artist who painted the detailed frescoes and chiseled out the intricate carvings, managed to work in the dark interior of the caves. It has been noticed that the caves are illuminated by natural light.
These caves are the unique symbol of history Buddhism and India’s world famous artwork. The best time of visiting Ajanta caves is November to march, because at this time in pleasant weather with the natural beauty and peaceful environment can make your journey awesome.