Ajanta Caves

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Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, India are rock-cut cave monuments dating from the second century BCE, containing paintings and sculpture considered to be masterpieces of both "Buddhist religious art and "universal pictorial art. The caves are located just outside the village of Ajin?ha in Aurangabad District in the Indian state of Maharashtra Since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Locality

The caves are in a wooded and rugged horseshoe-shaped ravine about 3 km from the village of Ajintha. It is situated in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra State in India (106 kilometers away from the city of Aurangabad). The nearest towns are Jalgaon (60 kilometers away) and Bhusawal (70 kilometers away). Along the bottom of the ravine runs the river Waghur, a mountain stream. There are 29 caves (as officially numbered by the Archaeological Survey of India), excavated in the south side of the precipitous scarp made by the cutting of the ravine. They vary from 35 to 110 ft. in elevation above the bed of the stream.

The monastic complex of Ajanta consists of several viharas (monastic halls of residence) and chaitya-grihas (stupa monument halls) cut into the mountain scarp in two phases. The first phase is mistakenly called the Hinayana phase (referring to the Lesser Vehicle tradition of Buddhism, when the Buddha was revered symbolically). Actually, Hinayana - a derogative term for Sthaviravada - does not object to Buddha statues. At Ajanta, cave numbers 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15A (the last one was re-discovered in 1956, and is still not officially numbered) were excavated during this phase. These excavations have enshrined the Buddha in the form of the stupa, or mound.

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