Aurangabad Caves

0
431
views
Aurangabad Caves, general view
Aurangabad Caves, general view / Vu2sga, / CC BY-SA 3.0
The not so far Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves have overshadowed the values of another complex of beautiful cave temples – Aurangabad Caves.

Aurangabad Caves contain some of the most beautiful sculptures known to be created by Indian artists of classical period.

Location

Caves are located few kilometers north from Aurangabad city, in steep slopes of a hill running roughly from east to west, some 20 m above the surrounding plain. They were unknown to Europeans until the middle of the 19th century.

Aurangabad is located close to ancient trade route and rather close to Paithan – the ancient capital of Satavahanas, contemporary Pratishthana. Buddhism in India was spread by traders and Buddhist cave temples often were established along such trade routes. These temples and monasteries served also as safe inns for weary travelers.

In total there are 12 Buddhist caves divided into three groups. The westernmost caves comprise the first group and are numbered from 1 to 5. The second group is located some 500 m further to the east and includes caves 6 to 9. The easternmost group is located 1 km further to the east and includes caves 10 – 12.

Aurangabad Caves, general view
Aurangabad Caves, general view / Vu2sga, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Caves are cut in the basalt of rather bad quality, with fractured zones where the rock is not suitable for carving. This has prevented the creation of large caves – builders of caves had to avoid the parts of bad quality rock. Some excavations were stopped as fractures were reached.

Description

Caves are carved in a cliff in the time period from the 2nd – 3rd century AD to the 7th century AD.

The oldest are caves 1 and 3, possibly excavated in the 2nd – 3rd century AD.

Cave 1 is unfinished monastery – vihara. The ceiling of the verandah has collapsed. Only portico and pillars are finished. Verandah contains three panels depicting Buddha with Padmapani and Vajrapani.

Cave 2 is chaitya – square shrine with a circumabulatory around it. It contains a square shrine. A colossal statue of Buddha is located in the shrine. The entrance in this shrine is adorned with depictions of Avalokitesvara on either side. Cave 2 contains several sculpted images of Buddha.

Cave 3 is large monastery – vihara. It contains pillared verandah with cells on either end. After verandah comes the main hall with square pillars, with two cells on both sides, with a pillared porch and a shrine. Pillars in the hall are arranged so that they form a square, these columns are richly decorated with floral and geometric motives. Architrave above the pillars is adorned as well.

Cave 4 is chaitya griha of Hinayana order. Unfortunately, it is in bad shape due to soft rock – the front part of this cave has collapsed – there still are visible stumps of pillars of this part. 12 beautiful octagonal columns in the rectangular hall have been preserved, they are adorned with carvings depicting scenes from Jataka tales – tales about the previous births (jāti) of Buddha. These columns divide the hall in the main part and side aisles.

At the rear part of hall there stands stupa – it is a high cylindrical drum with bulbous dome and with sculpting similar to inverted pyramid rising above it. Such style of stupa testifies that this chaitya griha is made the latest in the 3rd century AD.

Ceiling of the hall is reinforced with stone ribs resembling wooden architecture.

Aurangabad Caves, sculptures
Aurangabad Caves, sculptures / Vu2sga, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other caves in other groups are attributed to Kalachuri dynasty.

The second cave group contains mostly unfinished caves due to bad quality of rock.

Cave 6 contains well preserved sculpted depictions of women with exotic hairstyles and ornamentation, as well as a huge figure of Buddha and depiction of Ganesh in the shrine. This cave consists of a shrine, pillared porch, and verandah with cells in both sides.

Cave 7 is the most elaborate, with beautiful sculptures. This is chaitya griha – a large shrine with a central hall with circumambulation and with an outer corridor around this hall separated from the hall by a row of pillars. At regular intervals in the corridor are located recesses with reliefs depicting Buddhist gods and goddesses. In the verandah, at the entrance in the hall, there are beautiful reliefs. In one side there is depicted Avalokitesvara, in another – Bodhisattva. Depiction of Avalokitesvara is especially elaborate – it represents the Bodhisattva Padmapani as "Saviour of Eight Great Perils" – Fire, Theft, Demon, Elephant, Lions, Shipwreck, Snake, Monkey.

Another panel inside the darkness of the shrine, to the left from the central shrine door depicts Tara – principal consort of Avalokitesvara. To the right there is relief depicting a group of six scantily clad female musicians – this panel is much photographed and maybe the best-known artwork of Aurangabad Caves. The main figure in the center of the composition is in dancing attitude, remaining five are sitting and playing different musical instruments. It is considered that this sculptural group hints to development of tantric Buddhism.

Cave 9 contains a group of three shrine complexes that can be approached from the oblong verandah. Cave is adorned with impressive panel showing Buddha in mahaparinirvana – the final nirvana.

Other caves of the second group are less interesting, for the most part, representing incomplete excavations.

References

  1. Aurangabad Caves, Archaeological Survey of India. Web page not active now, was accessed on April 24, 2010.

Aurangabad Caves on the map

Travelers' Map is loading...
If you see this after your page is loaded completely, leafletJS files are missing.
Location, GPS coordinates: 19.9173 N 75.3117 E
Categories: Buddhist shrines, Rock cut temples and monasteries
Values: Art, Architecture, History, Archaeology
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)
Where is located? Asia, India, Maharashtra, Aurangabad district, some 4 – 5 km north from the centre of Aurangabad, 2 km north from Bibi Ka Maqbara
Age: the 2nd – 7th century AD
Religion: Buddhism

Video of Aurangabad Caves


vivek belhekar, March 2014

Landmarks of India

Key Gompa, India
Key Gompa / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

India is seventh largest country of world by area, and, naturally such a large area contains huge amount of exciting attractions…

Wondermondo considers that India is the second richest centre of architectural heritage in the world after Europe and may be no single country of the world can match it in this respect.

Buddhist shrines

Stupas of Borobudur, Java
Stupas of Borobudur / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Buddhism is one of the world religions and at the same time is a spiritual philosophy with diverse traditions, beliefs and practices. There exists rich tradition of architecture expressed in Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Recommended books

Ajanta, Ellora and Aurangabad caves


288 pages, 115 illus. in color and 334 in monochrome half-tone and 58 line drawings.

Temples in Maharashtra


The beautiful State of Maharashtra is blessed with thousands of temples which include those dedicated to Jyotir Lingams, Shakti Peetams and Ashta Vinayak. With Temples of Maharashtra – A Travel Guide, we embark on a spiritually fulfilling journey to some of the most sacred places of worship that dot the map of the State with tremendous diversity, traversing along rugged mountain ranges and banks of holy rivers to rural interiors and the urban expanse of metropolitan cities.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here