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Over hundreds of years thirty one monuments hewn from the rock face! Two thousand two hundred years ago work began in Maharashtra , India . Then, some speculate around the year 1000 AD, they fell in to disuse. Dense jungle grew around, hiding the caves away from human eyes.
One can only imagine what went through Smith’s head when he made his find. Such a rediscovery did not remain secret for very long. Soon, European and Indian tourists were thronging to the site – after extensive tidying up. After all, the caves had been home to bat, birds and larger animals for hundreds of years. The Ajanta Caves had been returned to the world of the living.
The nearest human habitation is Ajinṭhā, a tiny village a few miles away from the caves.
The sanctuaries, which are known as chaytia-girhas date from the second century before Christ. They were used primarily as prayer halls and are similar to an extent to the contemporary Roman designs of arch and column. However, these sanctuaries were carved from the immense rock face of the caves, with chisels and, indeed, bare hands.
Although there is widespread debate about the time at which the second period of building took place, most now agree that it was probably during the reign of Harishena, from 460AD and over a period of around twenty years.
This architectural flowering saw the creation of twenty temples which were used as monasteries.
There are paintings everywhere – literally. Every surface apart from the floor is festooned with narrative paintings.
Time has taken a serious toll on these marvellous works with many parts simply just fragments of what they were when first created. The stories are almost wholly devoted to Jātakas – tales of the Buddha’s previous lives.
These 547 poems were painstakingly and lovingly painted on to the walls by devotees.
They were created using an ancient method. The surface was chiselled so it was rough and could hold plaster which was then spread across the surface. Then the master painter would, while the plaster was still wet, commence his work.The colors soaked in to the plaster and so became a part of the surface.
Although this meant that it would not peel off as easily, perhaps not even the painters foresaw the temples persevering for over two thousand years. No one knows for sure when and why the caves were abandoned – whether it was a gradual desertion of some event of political and social magnitude took place which precipitated the neglect and final vacation of the site.
They even had running water handy, nearby!
Yet for hundreds of years the place remained forsaken, to be rediscovered that fateful day in 1819 by John Smith.In all that time, no one knew anything about its existence