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11 incredible facts about the caves of Ajanta

    Are you considering a trip to the caves of Ajanta? Then you will definitely want to know these incredible facts before you go… read on to learn all about these fascinating natural landmarks.

    Incredible Facts about the Caves of Ajanta

    Are you passionate about discovering the mysterious landscape of Ajanta? These caves in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district are rich in artistic, cultural, and historical magnificence. Many travellers and historians have visited the caves due to their curiosity.

    One look at the splendid architecture of this cave will leave you wanting more. While finding historical details about the caves of Ajanta is fairly straightforward, we’re sure you must be struggling to find interesting facts that can compel you to visit the place.

    If that’s the case, buckle up because here are 11 shocking facts that will add Ajanta Caves to your bucket list.

    11 incredible facts about the caves of Ajanta

    1. Abandoned for centuries

    Can you imagine that towards the end of the reign of Harisena, the caves of Ajanta were eventually forgotten? The dense forests were partly blamed for camouflaging these caves through centuries.

    The group’s abandoned and unfinished caves, such as Caves 3, 5, and 8, demonstrate the various stages of development and challenges faced. It was not until late 1819 when John Smith discovered these caves and the Europeans chose them as their favorite heritage site.

    2. A Buddhist haven

    Several Buddhist monks are thought to have spent significant time at the Ajanta caves during the monsoons because they were forbidden from traveling during that time of year. This was when the monks used their creativity and time to paint the cave walls.

    Even pilgrims and merchants who visited the Ajanta caves in the past used them as a resting place. You can go for a walk, hike, picnic, or simply relax and enjoy the peaceful setting like the monks.

    Legend has it that the monks who once inhabited the caves used to slide down the smooth rock surfaces for fun. While this is just a legend, it’s a funny mental image.

    Buddha was resolutely opposed to sculpting and painting images of himself throughout his life. However, after Buddha’s death, his followers who wished to worship him painted his images to have something to hold onto while spreading the Buddha’s faith and teachings.

    3. Caves of Ajanta – Discovered by the British in 1819

    11 incredible facts about the caves of Ajanta

    Are you also wondering what led to the discovery of Maharashtra’s star tourist attraction? On April 28, 1819, a Madras Presidency officer,  John Smith, accidentally stumbled across the entrance of Cave No. 10. This became an important historical fact about India.

    It was held deep within the tangled undergrowth and the horse-shoe-shaped rock around the Deccan Plateau region. The entrance to the cave-like structures piqued the British official’s interest enough for them to cross the nearby Waghora River and reach the caves.

    Soon after, archaeologists excavated the sites, and the caves’ discovery spread like wildfire, creating an instant sensation- a big hit with European tourists.

    Smith inscribed his name onto a statue of a Bodhisattva, representing one of the Buddhas before he met the divine spirit. Since then, thousands of people have followed suit and added their names to the statue; if you visit the Ajanta caves, leave your mark too.

    4. The Architecture is Carved Over 5000 Years.

    With walls adorned with elegant mural paintings executed in tempera technique, shrines and facades lavishly decorated – the caves of Ajantaare indeed a work of art.

    Basalt accumulated as igneous rocks were used to construct the insides of the Ajanta Caves. These rocks gathered as a result of long-ago volcanic eruptions. Consequently, cracks started appearing, causing the workers to carefully work their way through the cave. A light stroke against the wall, and you’ll be able to feel the cracks too!

    Tourists can enter the site via a gateway between caves 15 and 16. Here, elephants and snake carvings decorate the entrance. Sculptures of Buddhist deities are also carved into the 246-foot rock wall. The previously excavated caves were reused, and several new ones were discovered. However, the earlier architectural forms were revived with a new architectural style.

    Most caves are in the shape of Viharas with dormitories attached. A sanctuary was built on the caves’ back side, and each sanctuary has a statue of Lord Buddha in the center. Many other deities are carved on the pillars and near the giant Buddha statue.

    5. Hub of Thirty Minor Caves

    11 incredible facts about the caves of Ajanta

    Did you know that the caves of Ajanta are home to 30 minor, finished, and unfinished caves? Caves 1, 2, and 26 are tourists’ top favorites.

    Each cave is unique; here are some lesser-known facts about the various caves:

    Cave 1- The Tale-Teller of Jataka:

    The majestic doorway of Cave 1 is adorned with Bodhisattva murals. Also, two critical phases of Lord Buddha’s life are depicted on the sidewalls. Cave 1 comprises 14 cells, and the hall has a sanctuary and a verandah- making it much larger than the other.

    It is sculpted with the royal life of the former monarchs narrating the Jataka tales and depicts Sibi, Samkhapala, and Mahajanaka. A seated Buddha in Dharmachakrapravartana pose is another attractive feature of this cave.

    Cave 2- the prowess of women

    Cave 2 is dedicated to women’s prowess. It is divided into two parts and dates from the fourth and fifth centuries AD. The ceiling features; stunning abstract designs of birds, flowers, fruits, and devils, making it a sight for sore-eyes for tourists.

    It has a narrow hallway with cells, a sanctuary, and sub-shrines. Moreover, a painting of Yaksha, known as Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi, is worth capturing in your phone’s gallery.

    Cave 9 – Showcasing Hinayana Buddhism.

    If you want to explore the history of Hinaya Buddhists, then Cave 9 is all you need. This cave features wood panels, rafters, and octagonal pillars. The paintings in the chaitya date from the first century BC and are closely associated with Lord Hinaya’s life.

    Cave 10 – The Wisperer

    Cave 10 is another tourist’s favorite spot. It has two aisles on each side divided by 39 octagonal pillars. It is unique, with Brahmi inscriptions and Buddha figures in various poses. This cave is similar to the Sanchi Stupa.

    The cave surprises tourists because a whisper at one pillar can be heard at any other hall pillar. The cave paintings depict the Sama and Chhaddanta Jatakas. One of the paintings dates from the second century BC, while the other dates from the fourth to eighth centuries.

    Cave 26-the center of attractions

    Cave 26 is a must-see for its 7.3m-tall reclining statue of Lord Buddha. This cave is a worship hall that incorporates features of the Vihara architecture. It has gained popularity as the center of attraction because of the miracle of Shravasti (a family group).

    It was a village where the people considered themselves blessed because they had seen Mahatma Buddha. As a token of remembrance, this family was painted in this cave.

    The Carpenter’s Cave

    One of the caves at Ajanta is called the “Carpenter’s Cave” because of a relief sculpture of a carpenter that was found inside. However, some visitors have joked that it should be called the “Wrestler’s Cave” because the carpenter’s physique is more reminiscent of a wrestler than a carpenter. Visit the cave and let us know what you think of the figure.

    6. Ajanta Caves – Home to Magnificent Murals Painting

    11 incredible facts about the caves of Ajanta

    If you think you’ve heard enough about the caves of Ajanta, think again; it’s time to take out your camera and capture the artistic splendor of this place. When visiting the famous Ajanta cave, you will most likely enjoy the ancient paintings depicting Gautam Buddha and his Jataka tales.

    The iconic Ajanta cave paintings are among the best in the world, with intricate details and pictorial narratives of Aryasura’s Jatakamala. The Buddhist painting holding the lotus flower is considered the finest of Ajanta’s paintings. Its origins date back to the sixth century, and the body is depicted with graceful curves.

    These vibrant colors and murals are among the best examples of Indian wall painting. The paintings are Dry Frescos painted on top of dry plaster rather than wet plaster. In this period, fresco and plant material was mixed with water to create pigment.

    The caves of Ajanta house paintings and sculptures are heavily influenced by Buddhist philosophy. Various incidents from Gautam Buddha’s life and the Jataka Tales are represented and recreated on the walls of these caves. Scenes from the royal courts of the respective eras are also depicted in the paintings.

    7. Vakataka Dynasty- The Originator of Ajanta Caves

    The caves’ genesis can be divided into two parts. The first section was created during the Satavahana dynasty. Chaitanya grihas were carved in the Waghora river canyons. Early Buddhist caves include caves 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, and parts of 15. The Hinaya sect of Buddhists holds a deep connection with these caves.

    The second development began during the Vakataka period, associated with the Gupta dynasty that ruled Northern India. After closely examining several artifacts, historians and archaeologists hypothesized a link between the Vakataka dynasty.

    8. Listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site

    Did you know that in 1983, the caves of Ajanta became India’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site? The paintings and sculptures were considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art and significantly influenced the development of art in India.

    There are currently no buffer zones for Ajanta and Ellora. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has proposed that a 5 km radius around Ajanta be designated as a Green Belt, managed by the Ministry of Forestry and the ASI.

    9. It is the Most Visited Ancient Monument in India

    11 incredible facts about the caves of Ajanta

    The caves contain massive pillars and Buddhist-like mounds, most likely stupas. Other carvings include dancing girls, maids, princesses, pink elephants, lovers, Golden Geese, and bullfights. Paintings of royal court scenes can also be found in the Ajanta caves. The depth of history that you can discover through this architecture or images is enormous.

    This is a significant reason why Ajanta’s caves are one of India’s most visited heritage sites. Statistics show that over 496,000 tourists visited the site in 2018. This is the second-highest visitor count after the Taj Mahal. So, if you haven’t visited the caves of Ajanta yet, it’s time to add your name to the long list!

    10. Worship Halls-The Spiritual Apex of Ajanta Caves

    The caves of Ajanta contain different worshipping halls and monasteries from various Buddhist traditions. The worship halls, also known as Chaitya Grihas, are rectangular. The halls are divided into a nave and two aisles. A stupa and an aspe add depth to the architecture.

    A stupa is a hemispherical structure that houses the remains of Buddhist monks and nuns, whereas an apse is a semi-circular structure that houses a vault or semi-dome.

    Some caves have large entrances with windows that allow light into the caves. The worship halls’ architecture resembles a Christian church, but no chapel exists.

    11. 16- foot Rock Carved image of lord parshavnath

    11 incredible facts about the caves of Ajanta

    The Jain temple houses a 16-foot-tall rock-carved image of Lord Parshvanath from the Rashtrakuta period. It bears an inscription dating from 1234 AD, which refers to Charana Hill as a holy site. Dharmendra and Padmavati statues surround the image. It is still used as a common place of worship. The ASI does not protect it, but a Jain Gurukul manages it.

    This grand image of Buddha dominates the Ajanta caves’ entrance. The doorways are decorated with auspicious motifs, and numerous depictions of the Bodhisattvas Padmapani and Vajrapani can be found in sculptures and paintings. The ceilings are exquisitely carved with intricate architecture.

    Summing Up The Caves of Ajanta

    If you love to explore ancient sites to discover the forgone era, then the caves of Ajanta are a perfect travel destination for you.

    The Caves of Ajanta are captivating, especially during the rainy season when the entire area turns dense green. You should avoid traveling during the extreme summer, March to May, because the temperatures reach dangerous levels.

    A trip between November and February can also be ideal because the weather in this part of the country is mild. One visit to this stunning location will leave you speechless, as will the beautiful detailing in its architecture.

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