Cave Temples of India
Indian civilization is one of the oldest on our planet. India keeps legends and traditions, ancient temples and places of power, and is ready to share these treasures with travelers. For millennia, the borders of the state and the ruling dynasties changed, culture evolved, incorporating the experience and spiritual quest of generations. Great religions — Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism — were born in the fertile land of India; all these traditions originated and developed in ancient India and are still widely represented in its religious palette.
If you want to know better the history of the ruling dynasties and religious cults of India, you can do this with the help of preserved monuments of architecture, which clearly illustrate the greatness of ancient empires. Of course, one of the most important monuments of ancient history are the cave temples of India, which served as a refuge and the main center of education for the followers of Hinduism and Jainism Buddhism since the beginning of our era.
The most famous and well-preserved cave temples are located in the state of Maharashtra near the city of Aurangabad – the ancient capital of the Mughal empire. Long before the arrival of the Moguls, this region was a center for the development of trade and religion. The ancient trade routes passed through the plains of Deccan and the pilgrims took refuge in caves, which were rebuilt under the spiritual monastery.
I want to tell about the cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora – the true diamonds of ancient Indian art and architecture. At the beginning of our era there were trade routes across the territory of the Deccan Plateau (modern state of Maharashtra), along with the traders were the first Buddhist devotees, carrying their faith into the territory of southern India. To escape the seasonal rains and the scorching sun, travelers needed shelter. Building monasteries and temples is a long and expensive business, so the first pilgrims chose caves in the rocky mountains as their shelter, which gave coolness in the heat and remained dry during the rainy season.
The first Buddhist caves were carved in the 2nd century BC, then they were simple and uncomplicated refuges. Later, at the turn of the 4th-6th centuries, cave temple complexes grew into huge monastic cities, where hundreds of monks lived, and the caves turned into three-story monasteries, artfully decorated with sculptures and wall paintings.
In the cave cities of Ajanta and Ellora three religions were consistently confessed – Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Now on the territory of the complexes one can see ancient statues and wall paintings of these three religions. So, the first inhabitants of the cave cities were Buddhists, then Hindus came, and the last in time were carved out Jain temples, although it is possible that followers of all religions coexisted here simultaneously, creating a tolerant religious society in the middle of the first millennium.
The cave temple complex Ajanta is located 100 km from the town of Aurangabad, it is located in the river bed of the Waghur and was cut down from the 2nd century BC. to the middle of the 7th century AD For centuries, the ancient sculptors methodically removed the soil from the basalt rock and the interior of the caves was decorated with elegant sculptures and frescoes.
At the end of the 5th century, the Harishen dynasty, which was the main sponsor of the construction of the caves, fell, and gradually the complex was abandoned. The monks left their secluded abode, and the locals gradually forgot about the existence of cave temples. The jungles swallowed the caves, brickled up the entrances with a thick layer of vegetation. An artificial microclimate has been formed in the caves, which has preserved frescoes from the beginning of the first millennium, which have no analogues not only in India, but throughout the world. Thus, the caves brought to our days the beauty of the ancient masters.
The complex was discovered by an officer of the British Army John Smith in 1819 during a tiger hunt. From the opposite bank of the river. Waghar he saw the arch of the entrance to the cave number 10.
Later, 30 caves were discovered, the complex was cleared and partially restored, and in 1983, the complex of cave temples of Ajanta was included in the UNESCO world heritage.
Now it is one of the most famous attractions of central India. At the moment, in the complex you can visit 28 caves belonging to the Buddhist tradition. In the caves 1,2,9,11,16,17 preserved ancient frescoes and in the caves 9,10,19,26 you will see an elegant Buddhist sculpture.
Some caves served as a venue for rituals and group prayers, they are called “chats” or meeting rooms, others served as dwellings for monks, they are called “vihars” or monasteries. The caves have a different layout and degree of decoration.
Some caves are under development, these examples clearly show how the construction of the complex.