Ajanta Ellora Cave, located near
the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the famous Ajanta and Ellora
are cave shrines cut out of rock, by hand, and rank amongst some
of the most outstanding specimens of ancient Indian architectural
heritage. The 34 caves at Ellora and the 29 caves at Ajanta, were
remained shrouded in obscurity for over a millennium, till John
Smith, a British Army Officer, accidentally stumbled upon them while
on a hunting expedition in 1819. Ajanta has been designated as a
World Heritage Site, to be preserved as an artistic legacy that
will come to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come.
It was only in the 19th century, that the Ajanta group of caves,
lying deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut into the curved mountain
side, above the Waghora river, were discovered. They depict the
story of Buddhism, spanning a period from 200 BC to 650 AD.
The 29 caves were built as secluded
retreats of the Buddhist monks, who taught and performed rituals
in the Chaityas and Viharas, the ancient seats of learning, and
nerve - centers of the Buddhist cultural movement. Using simple
tools like hammer and chisel, the monks carved out the impressive
figures adorning the walls of these structures. Many of the caves
house panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of
tales of the several incarnations of the Buddha. Images of nymphs
and princesses amongst others, are also elaborately portrayed.
The Ellora caves, 34 in number, are carved into the sides of a
basaltic hill, 30 kms from Aurangabad. The finest specimens of cave
- temple architecture, they house elaborate facades and exquisitely
adorned interiors. These structures representing the three faiths
of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, were carved during the 350 AD
to 700 AD period. The 12 caves to the south are Buddhist, the 17
in the centre dedicated to Hinduism, and the 5 caves to the north
The sculpture in the Buddhist caves accurately conveys the nobility,
grace and serenity inherent in the Buddha. Caves 6 and 10 house
images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the
latter dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen.
The Vishvakarma cave is both a Chaitya and a Vihara, with a seated
Buddha placed in the stupa. Its two - storied structure sports a
colourful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and making music.