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.
Among 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
The 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
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.
The 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.