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Ajanta caves

Ajanta cavesThe Ajanta caves, thirty in number are located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. These caves have been used by Buddhist monks and other religious figures as their residence for more than 800 years. These caves have seen and been through the prosperity and success as well as decline of the Hinayana and the Mahayana: the two sects of Buddhism. These Ajanta Buddhist caves are decorated with scriptures, paintings and architecture of both the sects. In the present times, these caves are regarded as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These caves in India are located along a ravine, which comprises of a river Waghur, a mountain stream in the bottom. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, there are 29 caves, excavated in the south side of the steep scarp created by the cutting of the ravine. The viharas, which are often square-shaped, are of different sizes the greatest being approximately 52 feet. A large variety of viharas have been found in these caves in Maharashtra, some are simple others are elaborate and complex, a few have a porch and others do not. It has also been found out that the hall was a necessary aspect of a viharas.

The Ajanta caves in India denote the conversion and changeover from the Hinayana sect of Buddhism to the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. The Hinayana sect used rock forms such as stupas to correspond to Buddha. The cave number 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15 belong to this sect. The Mahayana sect on the other hand, made use of idols. The cave number 1, 2, 16, 17, 19 and 26 are associated with this sect. The 19th and 26th caves are Chaityas. Also, some of the caves have not been finished till date. The sculptures and paintings here are known to be masterpieces of ‘Buddhist religious art’ as well as ‘universal pictorial art’.