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The Ancient Indian Art, Architecture and Sculpture in the Caves :The Ajanta and Ellora Caves!

Updated on May 31, 2017
ChitrangadaSharan profile image

Chitrangada loves the richness of Indian art,culture and traditions. As a writer she wants to spread information about India to the readers

Padmapani
Padmapani | Source
Ajanta caves
Ajanta caves | Source

The magnificent art, architecture and sculpture in the caves!

© Chitrangada Sharan July, 2014,

All Rights Reserved.


  • One of the most exquisite examples of Indian Art and Architecture, can be found in the caves of Ellora and Ajanta, in the state of Maharashtra, India.

You can find astonishingly beautiful art in these caves.

  • There are magnificent paintings, sculpture, and architecture and being on the inside walls of the caves, they have a mysterious attraction.

Anyone who visits these caves is spellbound by its fine architecture.

  • The Ellora caves date back to 7th to 9th century A.D., while the Ajanta caves dates back to 2nd century B.C.

They have been identified by UNESCO as a World heritage site.

Ellora caves
Ellora caves | Source
Ellora caves
Ellora caves | Source
Source
Source

The Ellora Caves:

Ellora caves is a world heritage site. It is located about 28 km(18 miles), towards the west of Aurangabad, in Maharashtra state.

  • These caves are nestled in the lap of the Charanandri hills. They extend over 2 kilometers in the North-South direction.
  • The cave art of Ellora depict three major religions--Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Elaborate carvings can be seen on the cave walls of Gods and Goddesses.
  • The carvings are actually chiseled into rocks to such perfection, that these carvings have been greatly appreciated and are world famous.
  • There are about 34 caves, out of which 12 caves are Buddhist, 17 are Hindu, and the remaining 5 represent Jainism.
  • The most remarkable carved shrine is the 'Kailash temple', in cave no.16.
  • All these caves are lavishly carved and sculpted with epic themes which exhibit the genuine, daring and artistic skill in chiseling rocks at great heights, such that they look 'live.'

Here is an account of some of the significant caves.

~Cave no. 1: It is the earliest of the Buddhist excavation, in which there are 8 cells, that were used by the monks for residential purpose, as there are no images of Gods and Goddesses.

~Cave no. 2: It is elaborately done and one can find images of Buddha and Bodhisattavas and Dwarpals (gatekeeper).

~Cave no. 3 and 4 are more or less similar to cave no. 2.

~Cave no. 5: It is a 'Vihara' and supposedly was used as a class room or a dining hall. Deep in the interior is a shrine and inside a Buddha image in the posture of 'Dhamachakra mudra'.


~Cave no. 6: The unique feature of this cave is the figure of Hindu Goddess of learning, 'Saraswati' whom the Buddhist called, 'Mahamayuri'. We can also find figures of river Goddesses, 'Ganga' and 'Yamuna.'

~Cave no 9: The figure of Tara, with six fears carved around her of the snake, sword, elephant, fire etc. This cave is well decorated facade, windows separated by figures of dwarfs.

~Cave no 10: This cave is very well decorated and its ceiling is a ribbed rock wonder, sculpted in imitation of its wooden prototypes snakes. A cobra and a naga is sculpted in such a way that it seems to be supporting the stone ribs. Light comes into the cave through the 'horse shoe' window over the porch. There is a big image of Buddha seated in front of a high stupa.

~Cave no 11: This is a two level cave, called 'Do thal', with images of Hindu Gods.

~Cave no 12: Three level cave called, 'Teen thal', which has image of Buddha in the meditation pose.

The Buddhist caves at Ellora with a vast pantheon of Buddha, Bodhisattavas, Saktis, suggest a specific philosophy, known as the 'Vajrayan' cult, which means vehicle of the thunderbolt.

This philosophy teaches self discipline and meditation as a means to attaining 'Buddha-hood', which ultimately helps to attain 'Nirvana'.

Ajanta paintings
Ajanta paintings | Source
Ajanta paintings
Ajanta paintings | Source
Ajanta paintings
Ajanta paintings | Source
Ajanta paintings
Ajanta paintings | Source
Vajrapani
Vajrapani | Source

Ajanta Caves! Some significant features:

  • The 29 Ajanta caves are thoroughly Buddhist and were used by monks as monasteries.
  • Experts in old artistry have visualized that the rocky walls were first covered with a mixture of earth, cow dung and rice husk mixed together.
  • After it had set a thin coat, a mixture of lime, lime juice and water was applied.
  • When this became dry, sketches were drawn and painted with available, local and common ingredients such as vegetable etc.
  • Female figures are drawn and painted very artistically.
  • Some of the highlights can be described as follows:

~ Cave no. 1: It is a big hall with 20 pillars, beautifully carved. They depict stories of Buddha's previous life and there is a huge Buddha figure, bearing expressions of peace, meditation and sublime.

On the wall near the sanctum is the world famous posture of 'PADMAPANI'. The lotus in the hand of Buddha is a sign of peace and purity.

On the right side wall are the pictures of 'VAJRAPANI'' and the black princess.

There is a court scene painted to depict the kings receiving gifts. Animals, birds, flowers and fruits can also be seen beautifully painted and carved on the ceilings of the cave walls.

The queen can be seen seated in the swing and enjoying.

A spectacular bull painting, which seen from any angle appears charging at the viewer.

~ Cave no 2: In this cave on the left are stories showing Swan birth, Buddha's mother, the birth of Buddha are shown very beautifully painted on the ceiling and cave walls.

~Cave no 4: This is perhaps the biggest one having 28 pillars. A big figure of Buddha as a bastion against the eight fears.

~ Cave no 6 : This cave has 2 tiers. In the assembly hall the figure of Buddha in Padmasana posture. The second tier has an assembly hall with pillars and the door panels have crocodile heads and garland of flowers forming an arch.

~ Cave no 7: It has six Buddha figures and door keepers at the entrance.

~ Cave no 9: It has 22 pillar and is called Chautya cave. It is one of the oldest cave.

~ Cave no 10: The Heenayana temple with about 40 pillars, beautifully carved. A stupa in Pali language of Brahmi script suggests it belongs to 2nd century B.C.

~ Cave no 11: has a big assembly hall and inside the sanctum, a Buddha figure.

~ Cave no 16: This cave has some very important paintings, depicting incidents that took place during the life of Buddha.

~ Cave no 17: Paintings of Buddha visiting his family after he had renounced the world. His wife and son giving alms to him.

Buddha is shown having a very tall and broad body, while the wife and the son have small bodies.

The paintings at the ceiling look as if made of cloth with border all around.


Have you visited Ajanta, Ellora caves?

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To sum up:

  • This is a brief account of the beautiful and vast spread cave art of Ajanta and Ellora.

Whether it is the magnificent paintings of the Ajanta caves or the full of life sculptures of the Ellora caves, they are sure to leave you speechless after you visit them.

  • There is no doubt that these art works need lot of care to protect them and the government is doing everything they can.
  • They have stood the test of time and are included in the list of World heritage sites.
  • And we should hope that they remain like this for a long long time.

Take care to gather all information through a reputed travel guide, if you plan to visit these caves.

Be prepared for an unforgettable experience!

NOTE: Please enjoy the video below!


© Chitrangada Sharan July 15, 2014,

All Rights Reserved.

PROTECTED: PLEASE DO NOT COPY!

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Ajanta and Ellora caves, source: You tube

Ajanta-Ellora caves, source:You tube

© 2014 Chitrangada Sharan

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love to learn about new cultures, so thank you for this information.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting and informative. The caves and culture are fascinating.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image

      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 2 years ago from KOLKATA

      An excellent hub on the Indian caves which are World heritage sites. Let me add-Any visit to these places should be well planned as seeing important caves properly takes lot of time and those having inclination for Archeology and Arts in general would derive tremendous interest from the sculptures and paintings. Although one may visit from March to November best time for visit is during monsoon when the entire area takes a lush green look with every stream filled with rainwater offering the extra scope to enjoy the beauty of nature. Thank you for sharing.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      How fascinating chitrangada! I love Caves and I love the sculptures, they are so mysterious! wonderful tour, thanks, nell

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you billybuc, for being the first to comment!

      Your kind words are very encouraging. Thanks for your support!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Ericdierker, for your kind words and support!

      I am glad you liked this article.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you ARUNKANTIji, for your kind visit and added inputs in this hub!

      I agree with you that monsoon season enhances the beauty of this place. The beauty and art of these caves is so vast that it cannot be summed up in few words. I was mesmerized to see its beauty, when I visited this magnificent place. It was difficult to cover/see the whole area in one day.

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments and support!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Nell, for your kind visit and wonderful comments!

      Yes, the beauty of these caves and the art work therein is indeed fascinating.

      I am glad you liked the article! Thanks!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Exploring caves is going through a thing of beauty. Thanks for sharinhpg, Chitra!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Most interesting and so different. The photos are beautiful and I have learned about another culture with such great interest.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      What beautiful paintings! I often follow aboriginal art in Australia and have to say that even though these cave paintings are so old, the artists knew what they were doing. Voted beautiful and up!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wonderful hub. The architecture, paintings and sculpture in these caves is incredible. It is amazing what people could do with just there ingenuity and desire and very limited tools. It would be a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

    • profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago

      Majestic in beauty! Timeless music! Mother India has always been known for Its vast beauty, opulence, history and sacred relics of its past Giants of history. The video reminded me of Anchor Wat, in Cambodia, There are some similarities in the art.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Michelle, for your visit and appreciation!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Devika, for your kind visit and positive comments! Glad you liked this hub!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Suzanne, for your kind visit and appreciation!

      The most beautiful aspect of these paintings and sculptures is this, that in spite of being so old, they still leave you spellbound by their magic. And the fact that they were made with simple tools and natural ingredients available, is just amazing.

      Thank you for voting up!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Jodah, for your kind visit and positive comments!

      You are right that the beauty of these paintings and sculptures lies in the simplicity, with which they were made. Not using anything artificial perhaps, is the reason for their longevity, I believe.

      Thanks again for voting up and your comments!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you manatita44, for your kind visit and wonderful comments!

      Your admiration for Indian art and music is greatly appreciated.

      Thanks again!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 2 years ago from Iowa

      Thanks for the tour through these caves. I've never seen anything like them. Fascinating!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks DeborahNeyens, for your kind visit and appreciation!

      Glad you liked it!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      The caves sound fascinating and have so much to offer a tourist. Thanks for sharing this with readers.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Dianna, for stopping by!

      Glad you liked this hub. Your comments are greatly appreciated!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These sound very impressive and expressive. Thanks for giving us information on such wonders of the world.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you aviannovice, for your visit and appreciation!

      I am glad you found this hub informative. Yes they are wonders of the world indeed.

      Thanks!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      beautful photos and great illustrations. Are these places still preserves?

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi peachpurple!

      Great to see you visit my hub after a long time! Thank you for your appreciation!

      Yes these paintings and sculptures are very much there and in fact I had visited quite recently along with my family. This is a great tourist attraction from all over the world and the beauty and mystery is to be seen to be believed. You may get a better idea of the place by watching the video provided above.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 2 years ago from Australia

      I knew nothing about these caves, and now can't wait to visit! Thank you, voted up

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Anne Harrison, for your kind visit and comments!

      I am glad you liked the hub. Thanks for the Follow as well.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      These are incredibly detailed. :)

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks Paula Atwell, for your visit and comments!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Fascinating to read about these caves. It's humbling to think about these ancient artists deep in the shadows, working away with their natural paints and brushes. Such skill they show - subtle shading and tone. All ancient art is wonderful because it helps our modern minds put things into perspective :art comes from the instincts to express and these cave paintings and sculptures are fine examples of beauty and skill.

      I would love to visit India one day.If I do I shall set aside a few days for these wondrous caves - thank you. Votes and a share.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you chef-de-jour, for your appreciation of the hub!

      I agree with you that all ancient art and architecture is magnificent and precious. They help us understand the life and times of the people living in those times.

      I am glad that you are thinking of visiting India. Do make a visit to these wonderful Ajanta, Ellora caves as well.

      Many thanks for your votes and share!

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      This is a well written hub. I've been to Ajanta and Ellora Caves and they are magnificent. The cultural diversity of our country never fails to amaze me :)

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Akriti Mattu, for your kind visit and appreciative comments!

      You are right--Our cultural diversity is something to be proud of.

      Thanks again!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 9 months ago from Taos, NM

      I missed this the first time around. Glad to read it now. The cave paintings/drawings are beautiful . I have never heard of these caves before this. We need to learn more about such things in school. It is interesting that they are Biddist Hindu and Jaism. What a beautiful country you have .

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 9 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks Suzette for your appreciation of the hub!

      These caves are so wonderful that I feel that my description of its magnificence is not enough. One has to see it personally to believe it.

      Glad to read your feedback! Thank you for your kind words!

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