Cave architecture of india

cave architectureAjanta Caves

  • Near Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
  • First mentioned by Chinese pilgrim Hiuen tsang.
  • Discovered by the british officers while hunting in 1819.
  • Total 29 caves; 5 caves are Chaitya-grihas, & rest 24 are Viharas.
  • Discovered by the British officer while hunting a tiger in 1819 AD.
  • Set into the rocky sides of a crescent shaped gorge in the Inhyadri hills of the Sahyadri ranges
  • Only surviving example of the paintings of the 1st century BCE & 5th century CE
  • Caves are carved on a perpendicular cliff hence no courtyards
  • All 3 forms of Art are combined in these caves: Architecture, Sculpture, Paintings
  • Caves depict a large number of incidents from the life of the Buddha (Jataka Tales).
  • Were first mentioned by Chinese pilgrim Huen Tsang (He did not visit them though)
  • Cave no. 9 & 10 attributed to Satavahana Kings

cave architectureEllora caves

  • Representing 3 major religion of India- Hinduism, Buddhism& Jainism.
  • Lies on ancient trade route- ‘Dakshinpatha.
  • 34 Buddhist, Hindu & Jain caves. 
  • 12 Buddhist caves(no.1-12), 17 Hindu Caves(no.13-29) & 5 Jaina Caves (no.30-34)
  • All 3 forms of Art are combined in these caves: Architecture, Sculpture, Paintings
  • Unique in terms of stylistic eclecticism, i.e. confluence of many styles at one place
  • Ajanta also has the excavated double story caves but at Ellora, the triple story is a unique achievement.
  • Ellora cave temples were carved out on the sloping side of the hill. Hence most of the temples have courtyards.
  • Cave no.16 is a rock cut temple, known as ‘Kailash leni – carved out of a single rock built by Rashtrakutas

Bhimbetaka caves

  • Located in the raisen district, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Discovered in 1958 by v.s. Wakanker.
  • Biggest prehistoric art depository in India.
  • Excavations revealed history of continuous habitation from early stone age (about 10,000 years) to the end of stone age (c. 10,000 to 2,000 years)

Elephanta caves

  • 6th century shiva temple in the elephanta caves is one of the most exquisitely carved temples in India.
  • Central attraction here is a twenty-foot high bust of the deity in 3 headed form.
  • The maheshamurti is built deep into a recess & looms up from the darkness to fill the full height of the cave.
  • Image symbolizes the fierce, feminine & meditative aspects of the great ascetic & the 3 heads represent lord shiva as Aghori, Ardhanarishvara & Mahayogi.
  • Aghori is the aggressive form of shiva where he is intent on destruction.
  • Ardhanarishvara depicts lord shiva as half-man/half-woman signifying the essential unity of the sexes.
  • Mahayogi posture symbolises the meditative aspect of the god.
  • Other sculptures in these caves depict shiva’s cosmic dance of primordial creation and destruction and his marriage to parvati.

Mahakali caves

  • Rock-cut buddhist caves situated in udayagiri hills, mumbai.
  • Excavated during 200 BC to 600 AD and are now in ruins.
  • Comprise of 4 caves on the southeastern face and 15 caves on the northwestern face.
  • Cave 9 is the chief cave & is the oldest and consists of a stupa & figures of lord buddha.

Kanheri Caves, Mumbai

  • Second largest Chaityagriha in India, after Karle caves.
  • Lion Pillars at the Entrance like Karle caves.
  • Podhis: water cisterns for rainwater harvesting
  • Images of both Standing Buddha and sitting Buddha flanked by Bodhisattvas
  • Famous Satavahana king ‘Gautamiputra Satakarni’s name mentioned in the inscriptions here.

Bhaja Caves, Pune

  • Hinayana faith
  • Has wooden ceiling over Chaitya-griha.
  • Stupa has a hole on top, for inserting wooden umbrella.
  • Verandah has wooden reliefs showing royal women driving chariots over a demon.

Karle cave – Lonavala, Poona

  • Carved from the living rock
  • Columns are strong and bulky, surmounted by sculptured capitals
  • A stupa with a wooden umbrella on top unharmed to this date
  • Largest Chaitya-griha among all Buddhist monuments in India
  • Has a huge lion pillars in front of Chaitya-griha (only two caves have this design- Karla and Kanheri)

cave architecturePandavleni Caves, Nasik

  • 24 Buddhist caves belonging to Hinayana Period of Buddhist architecture
  • Dating back to the 1st Century CE
  • Called as Pandu leni meaning group of caves
  • Has nothing to do with the characters of Mahabharata (the Pandavas)
  • Inscriptions mention Gautamiputra Satakarni’s mother Gautami Balasri had financed the construction of 3rd cave
  • Contains a panel depicting Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana
Montepzir / Mandapeshwar Cave (Mumbai)
  • Located in Mandapeshwar
  • Dated to 8th century
  • Probably the only Bramhanical caves to be converted into a Christian shrine 
Bagh Caves – Near Gwalior
  • Near Bagh river in Madya Pradesh.
  • Around 6th century CE (Gupta Period)
  • Similar to Ajanta caves.
  • 9 sandstone Buddhist Caves with beautiful Frescos and sculptured work 
Junagadh Caves (Uparkot – Gujrat)
  • Have many interesting Buddhist caves – site of a Buddhist monastery in ancient times.
  • Its entrance, in the form of an archway is a fine specimen of Hindu ‘torana‘.
  • Main feature: Uparkot
Print Friendly