Why were the Ajanta Caver given this name?
Ajanta caves are situated north of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. They get
their name from the village of Ajanta that is located nearby. The caves
were discovered in 1819 by a British army officer. He stumbled on them
by accident, during a hunting expedition. The caves are carved out of a
house shoe shaped rock surface that overlooks a stream, and this cliff
is nearly 76 metres tall. There are 31 caves in all, and it is believed
that they were carved in the 2nd century BC as a retreat for
Buddhist monks during the rainy season. They were used as prayer halls
for about nine centuries, and then abruptly abandoned. Today, the caves
are an important tourist destination, and are famous for their
Why are the Ajanta Caves important?
Ajanta Caves are important because they include paintings and
sculptures considered to be masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. Some
paintings reflect the Theravada tradition of depicting the Buddha only
in symbolic form such as a throne or footprints. Others feature
colourful murals and staturs depicting the life of the Buddha and
various Bodhisattvas. There are also frescos which are reminiscent of
the paintings found in Sri Lanka, and some of the caves depict scenes
from everyday life and inscriptions. Inspired by faith and devotion,
each figure has been carved by the monks using just hammer and chisel.
The caves of Ajanta reflect the achievements to the Gupta and post Gupta
period in Indian history. They tell us the story of rich and a glorious
Why are the Ajanta paintings special?
paintings in the Ajanta Caves depict different incidents in the life of
Buddha, as well contemporary events and social life. A special
technique was used to execute the paintings. The rock surface was first
prepared with elaborate care, and scored with chisel marks and grooves
to hold the next layers in place. A first layer of red earth mixed with
rock-grit or sand, vegetable fires, and grass was then applied on the
rough surface of walls and ceilings. The rough surface of walls and
ceilings. The surface was finally finished with a thin coat of lime
wash. Outlines were filled with colours. The paintings of Ajanta are not
frescoes in the accepted sense of the word. Frescoes are painted while
the lime wash is still wet, so that is acts as a binding agent, but
those of the Ajanta caves use glue as the binding agent.
The Ajanta Caves
are 30 caves, including some unfinished ones at Ajanta. Of them five
are prayer halls- ‘Chaityas’ and rest are monasteries- ‘Viharas’.