Ajanta

In the artistic sense of the word, Ajanta caves are not really caves at all, but temples engraved out of living rocks. Generations of Buddhist monks kept excavating and beautifying these rock-cut cave chapels and monasteries. Ever since the year 200 BC, the Ajanta ravine had been great monastic centre. Initially, it used to be a shelter against the ravages of the monsoon. These famous rock cut caves, pride of Maharashtra, are illustrative of superlative skill of craftsmanship prevalent in various parts of India. The carvings of these caves, used as Chaityas (chapels) for prayer and Viharas (monasteries) where Budhhist monks lived and pursued learnings and teachings, started in 2nd century BC and continued till 6th century AD. These caves, termed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO and being preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India , are exposition of skill and artistry that Indian craftsmen had achieved thousands of years ago.

Ajanta is about 105 kms north of Aurangabad. The nearest Rail station to Ajanta is Jalgaon These caves were rediscovered in the year 1819 by a party of the British army in India. There are in all 30 caves and are excavated in the southern side of the bank of a ravine. Ajanta caves represent the flowering of Buddhist art in India. It is only recently that Ajanta has become one of the major tourist attractions of India.

A clockwise circumambulation of the cave begins with the Mahajanaka Jataka. The main shrine here is the shrine of the third member of the Buddhidt Trinity- the Buddha himself. Caves 1,2,16,17 and 19 have the best paintings or murals while in caves 1,4, 17, 19, 24 and 26 may be found the best of sculpture works.

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