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  • December 2009 (39)
  • Theravada Tradition’s Ajanta Caves

    Wed, Dec 9, 2009


    The caves at Ajanta are famous for the twenty-nine Buddhist cave temples. Few of the temples in the caves belong to the second century BC. The caves encircle both Mahayana as well as Theravada traditions in Buddhism. Few of the best Buddhist work of art is preserved in Ajanta caves. The Ellora caves which are located very close to the Ajanta caves are often explored together by many tourists


    The caves of Ajanta are located in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra in India.


    The Ajanta Caves were carved with the help of cliff which had a shape of horseshoe. The caves are positioned near the Waghora Rivers. The caves were carved in second century BC. The Buddhist monks used the caves as prayer halls which were commonly known as the Chaitya Grihas. The caves were also used as Monasteries which was known as Viharas in common language. The caves were used for nearly 900 years and then deserted suddenly. The caves vanished out of the memory before it was discovered in the year 1819.

    Ajanta Caves India

    What to See:

    The caves are located from east to west direction and are number from 1 up to 29. Today you will find that the way through the terrace connects the different caves. In the olden times each and every cave was accessed from the river separately.

    If you view the platform diagonally from the river you will have an outstanding sight of the complete Ajanta location. The innate attractiveness of the region will surely give you the various reasons to make yourself clear regarding the monks decision of choosing the site for their sacred recreation.

    Inside the caves you will come across many impressive Buddhist art works which are being conserved. Some of the art works represent the old Theravada culture. The Thereavada believes that the footprint as well as throne of Buddha depicts Buddha himself. Exotic murals as well as wonderful statutes are found in the Mahayana caves. It is believed that the statutes as well as murals represent the earlier life of Buddha. Many scenes from day-to-day life of Buddha are found in the caves. Scenes such as a Nobel or a prince or his inscription regarding the caves which he gave to the monks as a gift are found to be drawn in the caves walls.

    If you are planning to visit the caves do explore them in the reverse order as they are numbered. This will also help you to keep out of the huge crowd that visits the caves in the regular order. Few of the most important caves that are a must-visit are given below:-

    Cave 26:

    This cave is commonly known as Chaitya, which is a mahayana prayer hall. The figure of the reclining Buddha which is engraved in a stone is the highlight of the cave. The figure represents the death moment of Buddha. The followers of Buddha mourn regarding his death below the statute also celebrations are made in the outer space.  A stuap which has a figure of Buddha resting in a pavilion is also found in this cave.

    Ajanta Cave 26

    Cave 17:

    The cave is a simple Mahayana monastery. The walls of the caves are wonderfully painted as well as preserved. The ceilings of the caves are decorated with extraterrestrial musicians as well as the maidens were as lotus petals, Buddhas, goddesses as well as the celestial guardians makes the doorway look very much interesting.

    The encounter of Prince Simhala with a man is drawn on the mural of the Cave 17. The man is shown eating the ogresses which belongs to Sri Lanka. It is believed that the man was being grounded in Sri Lanka. Another mural has paintings of Gods who are making their way through the clouds with their beautiful nymphs and the various musicians. The space which is located above the doorway has a picture of 7 Buddha’s who are in the form of the humans.

    Cave 16:

    The cave 16 has a Mahayana monastery has an impressive paintings that shows the image of Princess Sundari who got fainted after she was informed that her husband Nanda was willing to become a monk. Nanda was half-brother of Buddha.

    Cave 15, 13, 12, 8:

    These caves are well known as Theravada monastery caves.

    Cave 10:

    The cave has the prayer hall which is supposed to be built in second century. The caves are believed to have the oldest temple built in cave in Ajanta.

    Cave 9:

    The prayer hall in the cave is believed to be built in the early times. The cave has windows which help a good amount of sunlight to enter the cave. The window has a shape of an arch. It is the Theravada cave and also has a stupa which is quite large.

    Cave 4:

    This cave is incompletely built but is considered as the biggest among the Ajanta’s monasteries

    Cave 2:

    The Naga Kings as well as their associates are pictured on the caves façade. Inside the cave is a huge mandala which has an impressive ceiling. The ceiling is held by the demons. Also it is decorated with flowers, birds, fruits as well as many abstract designs. The ceiling with provide you an image of the cloth canopy.

    Cave 1:

    This is the most renowned among all the caves that are located at Ajanta. The walls as well as ceiling including each and every corner of the cave were actually painted. With the passing of time the paint got fainted and eventually worn off. The area from the doorway up to the chambers located inside the cave is well-decorated with the help of excellent wall-paintings. Image of the two famous Bodhisattvas are drawn on the walls. The image of Avalokitesvarais drawn on the right whereas Padmapani’s image is drawn on the left.

    Ajanta Cave 1

    What else to see:

    Once you have decided about your trip to Ajanta, don’t forget to include Ellora in your must-visit list. Ellora is located very close to Ajanta caves and is popular for its exotic caves.

    Getting There:

    Aurangabad Airport is the nearest located airport. It is very well-connected with Mumbai Airport. From Mumbai it will take you hardly 45mins to reach Aurangabad by air. Further you can hire a cab or a taxi and cover a distance of 2-3 hours and reach Ajnata.  The nearest railway station is Jalgoan as well as Bhusaval. Taxis as well as cars are easily available from both the places.

    Opening timings:

    The caves are open to the visitor from early sunrise up to the sunset. The visits are closed on Mondays.

    Entrance Cost:

    Every individual visiting the caves who is more than 12 years is required to pay an amount of Rs 5 at the entrance booth.

    Best time to visit:

    You can visit Ajanta any time in the year but among the lot the best time is from October to March.


    You will easily find budget hotels near the caves that will provide with accommodation as well as food. Also MTDC’s Holiday resort is locatedat a distance of only 4 km from the caves. It provides comfortable as well as clean accommodation.

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