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Ajanta Caves History

India Buddhism BookingHistory : The great Buddhist emperor Ashoka was responsible for the spread of Buddhism to most part of India and its neighboring countries. In the 3 rd century B.C. he had sent religious emissaries to Maharashtra. As the religion grew in popularity Buddhist monks began to excavate monasteries at different places, Ajanta being one of them. The Ajanta caves are said to be made after being inspired from Ashoka’s rock- cut Barabar caves in Bihar. In the whole of western India, between the 2 nd and 7 th century A.D as many as 800 caves were excavated Sequentially numbered from on end of the gorge to the other end the oldest of caves are located in the center and the newer ones are close to each end. Amongst the Ajanta caves, five are chaityas or prayer halls and the rest are viharas or monasteries. The Chaityas and Viharas were the centre of learning and cultural activities in those periods. Compared to viharas chaityas are very few in numbers at Ajanta. Only cave 9, 10, 26 and 29 belongs to chaityas .All the rest of the caves are viharas. The architectural differences between them is also symbolic of the difference between philosophies of the two schools of Buddhist thought, the older Hinayana school where the Buddha was represented only in symbols like the stupa, a set of footprints or a throne, and the later Mahayana sect which preferred giving the Lord a human form. Those which were made during the 2 nd century B.C. belong to the Hinayana sect and those which were excavated later, between A.D 450 to 650 belong to the Mahayana sect. The gap between the emergence of Hinayana and Mahayana sect is of 400 years.

Hinayana : Among the more prominent Hinayana caves are those numbered 9, 10 (both chaityas), 8, 12, 13 and 15 (all viharas). The sculpted figures in these caves are dressed and coiffed in a manner similar to those of the stupas at Sanchi and Barhut, indicating that they date back to the first or second century BC.

Mahayana : The Mahayana monasteries include 1, 2, 16 and 17, while the chaityas are in caves 19 and 26.

The Ajanta caves are decorated with number of astonishing painting which even today appears as fresh as ever. It can easily be said that by the time one finishes visiting all of them one gains an enlightened perspective on the life of Buddha and Buddhism by mere glancing at the marvelous paintings of Ajanta caves.