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the many-splendoured delights of Ajanta compiled by Subramanian Swaminathan


September 2007

Rock-cut Architecture

The caves of Ajanta offer an instructive field for the study of the evolution of rock-cut architecture. It is unique in the sense that it can be viewed as an enterprise of a sculptor.
The cave architecture, at Ajanta and elsewhere, betrays the strong influence of wooden construction.

The Team was probably drawn from the profession of carpenters, with goldsmiths and ivory-carvers joining hands with the sculptors.

The evolution of rock architecture took place during two periods: the Hinayana period of the pre-Christian era and the later Mahayana period.

During the first phase the sculptural activity was limited.

Mahayana period (4th century onwards)
In the second phase sculptural compositions filled the facade, the shrines etc. Side by side with the excavation of new caves the existing Hinayana ones were suitably modified.

The caves of Ajanta are divided into
Chaitya-s - Temples
Vihara-s - Monasteries

Mahayana period - Facade embellished

The entrance has a prominent arched window to light the interior. Relief sculptures added in Mahayana period

Chaitya - Interior, consists of a long vaulted nave with a pillared aisle on either side. The far end is semicircular with a stupa at its centre

Vihara - Plan, It has a congregation hall with cells for the monks on the inner sides. Later a shrine was excavated at the far end

Vihara - Interior, A colossal statue of the Buddha is seen in the sanctum. On the left to the entrance is the famous painting of Padmapani

Vihara - Interior, Cave 2