An Overview of Ajanta and Ellora Caves

An Overview of the Historically Beautiful Ajanta and Ellora Caves

The Ajanta and Ellora caves are remarkable for their invaluable contribution to the enormous wealth of Indian heritage. They were constructed in different centuries. Find more information about them in this article.
The Ellora and Ajanta caves are excellent examples of ancient rock-cut cave temples. They are located in Maharashtra, India, and are designated by UNESCO as the World Heritage Sites. These caves were constructed in two phases in the time period spanning four centuries. They are also known for their exquisite paintings on the walls; and the themes of these paintings generally depict the incidents from Buddha's life, Bodhisattvas, and the Jatakas.

Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Caves were discovered in 1819 by a British hunting party. Their origin can be traced to the second century B.C.E., and they were used for dwelling till 650 A.D. They are sculpted on the inner side of the valley along the Waghora river. They are made out of a granite rock and are 30 in number, including the incomplete ones. The Ajanta Caves are a world famous heritage, known for their unique architecture and the abundance of sculptures and paintings.

The caves belong to the Hinayana and Mahayana sect, the two Buddhist schools. Of these the ones numbered 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15A are Hinayana caves and the rest are Mahayana. Chaityas are numbered 19, 26, and 29, whereas all the other 24 caves viz., 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11-18, 20-25, 27 and 28 are Viharas. Vihara caves were the worship halls and monasteries, and are embellished with Lord Buddha's various paintings and carvings.

Cave number 1 is situated at the eastern end of the horse shoe-shaped ravine. It is a Vihara and the sacred place of pilgrimage, and it enshrines the image of Buddha in the dharamachakra pravartana mudra (the preaching pose). Next to it, is the cave number 2 which is notable for its beautiful depiction of Jataka tales. Cave number 16 is one of the biggest Viharas and is well-known for the decorative murals. It beautifully portrays the life of Sundari, wife of Nanda who was the half brother of Lord Buddha.

Ellora Caves

The construction of Ellora Caves stated from 5th century A.D. and continued till the 10th century A.D. There are 34 caves on this site, which are excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills.

Out of the 34 caves, caves numbered 1 to 12 are Buddhist, and are built between 5th century and 7th century A.D. Cave number 10 was named as Vishwakarma, after the architect of Gods. Cave number 11 is known as Do Tal and the 12th one is called Teen Tal.

The Hindu caves were constructed during the Kalachuri and Rashtrakuta periods between the 5th and 10th century A.D. They represent a very different and creative style of vision and execution skills. Of all the 17 Hindu caves (numbered 13 to 29), the most important one is cave number 16. It is also known as the Kailasha Temple which is carved out of a single piece of rock. It took around 100 years to construct this temple and because of its magnificent architecture, it appears like a free-standing Dravida type of temple. It is an epitome of religious architecture and depicts the Hindu mythology and epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The Jain caves numbered 30 to 34, beautifully reveal specific dimensions of Jain philosophy and traditions. The most remarkable of these are the Chhota Kailash (cave number 30), the Indra Sabha (cave number 32) and the Jagannath Sabha (cave number 33).
Ajanta caves, India
Kailasa Temple
Kailas Temple Ellora
Kailas Temple In Ellora Caves
Ajanta Caves India