About 107 kms. from the city of Aurangabad, the rock-cut caves of Ajanta
nestle in a panoramic gorge, in the form of a gigantic horseshoe.
the finest examples of some of the earliest Buddhist architecture,
caves-paintings and sculptures, these caves comprise Chaitya Halls, or
shrines, dedicated to Lord Buddha and Viharas, or monasteries, used by
Buddhist monks for meditation and the study of Buddhist teachings.
paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the caves depict incidents
from the life of the Buddha and various Buddhist divinities. Among the
more interesting paintings are the Jataka tales, illustrating diverse
stories relating to the previous incarnations of the Buddha as
Bodhisattva, a saintly being who is destined to become the Buddha.
Occupied for almost 700 years, the caves of Ajanta seem to have been
abandoned rather abruptly. They remained shrouded in obscurity for over a
millennium, till John Smith, a British army officer, accidentally stumbled
upon them while on a hunting expedition in 1819. The 'View Point' from
where John Smith first glimpsed the caves, provides a magnificent sight of
the U-shaped gorge and its scenic surroundings. Cascading down the cliff
is a spectacular waterfall, which at the bottom feeds a natural pool
called the Saptakunda.
Ajanta has been designated as a World
Heritage Site, to be preserved as an artistic legacy that will
continue to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come.
caves of Ajanta can be classified into two distinct phases: the earlier
Hinayana phase (1), in which the Buddha was worshipped only in the form of
certain symbols. And the later Mahayana phase (II), in which the Buddha
was worshipped in the physical form.