Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Caves - 30 Caves Where History Prevailed While Time Slept.

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Not scarred by time.

Believed to be built between 2nd century B.C. and 4th Century A.D., Ajanta caves are located about 100 kilometers from Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state in India. The rich carvings, murals and sculptures of these caves offer real surprise to the visitors who flock to these caves in large numbers. Primarily built as a Buddhist monastery Ajanta is the premium tourist location in India not only for the rare sculptures it offers but also for the unique preservations of a culture that once prevailed. In a sense Ajanta caves preserved India’s history by placing it in its lap and protected it from predators of all hues for sixteen long centuries.

(By“predators” it is meant about the tribal-thugs from the neighboring Afghanistan and surrounding areas who come on horse-back with weapons and get engaged in loot and kill spree in which destroying the invaluable works of art was done just for pleasure. The precious materials generally stored in places of worship acted as a lure for these barbaric tribes. Gazni, Ghori etc were well known aggressors who routinely looted Indian temples and destroyed the sculptures by routine).

Captain John Smith finds his place in Indian history.

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It seems strange that these wonderful caves were lying un-noticed for centuries surrounded by tall mountains, thick forests and a river that glides and occasionally jumps down through a series of water falls. The Ajanta caves were discovered by Capt. John Smith a British soldier who happened to be there on course of an expedition. Mr. John Smith was lucky enough to enter in to the pages of Indian history through the discovery of this treasure cove. That was in 1819 long, long after the disappearance of Buddhism from this part of the land, and India was being ruled by the “British East India Company”.

A Buddhist education center.

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These caves altogether 30 in number are located in the shape of a horse-shoe and contain all the characteristics of Buddhist architecture. They were intended to be monastery and contain “Chaitya” (prayer-hall) and “Viharas” (residential facilities for monks). Cave numbers 9, 10, 19, 26, and 29 belongs to the “chaitya” prayer-hall sections and 1, 2, 16, and 17 are “vihara” or monasteries.

A work which took more than four centuries.

As the construction of these caves took four long centuries the change in the architecture style that occurred between these long periods is visible in the 1st and 2nd phases of construction. The first phase built in the Mahayana period of Buddhism is rich with flourishing works of art esp. interior paintings. The antechamber of the door-way is adorned with finely etched “Bodhi-Satvas” are known as “Padmapani” (bears flower in hands. Padma = lotus, pani = hand) and “Vajra-pani” (which bears diamond in hands vajra = diamond).

Buddha in all postures.

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The Mahayana phase is rich with religious imageries of supernatural beings where as the other phase the “Hinayana” is devoid of such beauties. Some characters and events of the “Jataka” tales appear on the walls of these caves. Buddha in most of the postures appears in these sculptures. Caves 9, 10, 12, and 15 come within the Hinayana phase.

A touch of surrealism.

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The sculptures and the murals well depict the way of life that existed in that time. Numerous sculptures of Yakshas, Kinnaras, Gandharvas, Apsaras (all mythological characters with supernatural powers believed to visit world from heaven and interacted with human beings) etc add some add some touch of surrealism to the entire atmosphere.

River Wagura knows more!

Want to know more about the life that existed in that bygone era ask it to the numerous water falls in the Wagura River that murmur while passing nearby the caves they could tell a thousand stories, no historians or archaeologists can.


Wylie Kinson said...

Hi Sinu -- thanks for visiting my blog... I found your commentary on the caves very interesting and educational. And the reference to John Smith also had me chuckling because I used to live in Bermuda and John Smith made his mark there as well! He sure got around!! Small world... even back then.

Cheers from Canada!

Girl With Big Eyes said...

Hey nice post. But wondering why a post on Ajanta caves on a blog titled Kerala Articles.

Career Mantra said...

Ajanta Caves are near to me but the info ellaborated by you is more informative to me
I like it