Ajanta Caves

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Cave 19, Ajanta, a 5th-century chaitya hall

The Buddhist Caves in Ajanta are approximately 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state in India.[1][note 1] The caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotions through gesture, pose and form.[3][4][5]

The caves were built in two phases, the first starting around the 2nd century BCE and the second occurring from 400 to 650 CE, according to older accounts, or in a brief period of 460–480 CE according to later scholarship.[6] The site is a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India,[7] and since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ajanta Caves are mentioned in the memoirs of several medieval-era Chinese Buddhist travellers.[8] They were covered by jungle until accidentally "discovered" and brought to Western attention in 1819 by a colonial British officer Captain John Smith on a tiger-hunting party.[9]

Further reading


  1. The precise number of caves varies according to whether or not some barely-started excavations, such as cave 15A, are counted. The Archaeological Survey of India say "In all, total 30 excavations were hewn out of rock which also include an unfinished one",[2] UNESCO and Spink "about 30". The controversies over the end date of excavation are covered below.


  1. Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 173. 
  2. "Ajanta Caves". Archaeological Survey of India. 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2019. 
  3. Ring, Trudy; Watson, Noelle; Schellinger, Paul (2012). Asia and Oceania. Routledge. pp. 17, 14–19. ISBN 978-1-136-63979-1. 
  4. Honour, Hugh; Fleming, John (2005). A World History of Art. Laurence King. pp. 228–230. ISBN 978-1-85669-451-3. 
  5. Michell 2009, p. 336.
  6. Ajanta Caves: Advisory Body Evaluation, UNESCO International Council on Monuments and Sites. 1982. Retrieved 27 October 2006., p. 2.
  7. "Ajanta Caves". Retrieved 19 May 2012. 
  8. Cohen 2006a, pp. 32, 82.
  9. Spink 2007, pp. 3, 139.
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