Where this Photo was taken? Cave 32, Ellora - Maharashtra

Ellora is famous for the Kailashnath temple. At around 2 kilometers from Kailashnath temple, there is a group of Jain caves. The famous Jain cave 32 of Ellora is also called the Royal court of Indra by historians. This cave is famous for colossal yet delicate sculptures. Out of of them there are 2 masterpieces. One is the Matanga Yaksha(left) - the God of prosperity- sitting on an elephant under the Banyan tree. The second one is the Siddhaika Yakshini - the Goddess of fertility - sitting under a mango tree. The time period of these sculptures are around 850 AD. Even though the sculptures are much more than life size, the attention to detail is enormous. One can even observe the monkeys and parrots are carved on the mango tree and they are depicted as eating mangoes.

10 best sculptures of ancient India - 10 best sculptures of ancient India - Matanga Yaksha and Siddhaika Yakshini - Ellora caves
 Matanga Yaksha and Siddhaika Yakshini

Are you travelling in an airplane for first time in India? It is perfectly fine to get excited and a little nervous. When I traveled for the first time in a plane, I also felt the same. Here are some points to remember for those who travel first time in a domestic airline, specifically in India. 

By Adrian Pingstone (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Badami cave temples in Karnataka was built by the Kings of Chalukyan dynasty circa 578 CE. Badami cave temples are excavated into a huge red colored sand stone mountain. There are three cave temples dedicated to various Hindu Gods. The 4th and last cave temple of Badami is dedicated to Jain Thirthankaras. These cave temples of Badami are the house of many delicate and beautiful sculptures. There are sculptures of Hindu Gods like Shiva as the dancing Nataraja, Varaha rescuing Goddess Earth, Vishnu seated on the serpent Sesha. They are the epitome of artistic achievement of ancient India. Badami cave temples are a must visit for anyone who is interested in ancient sculptures of India. You can read about the Badami cave temple sculptures here in detail.   

Badami cave temples - Indian sculptures -Pick Pack Go
Entrance to the Badami Cave temples 

This is the sixth part of my guide for Ajanta caves. In the previous episodes of this guide, I introduced caves 1- 15. You can find the older articles in this series here. This guide for Ajanta caves 16 and 17 is also based on the studies of famous Ajanta historian Walter M Spink.

A guide for Ajanta cave 16

 The elaborate cave 16 of Ajanta was donatedby the powerful Vakataka chief minister "Varaha Deva". Construction of cave number 16 started in AD 462. It was one of the earliest caves at the Ajanta site. At the entrance to this cave there is a gate flanked by two stone elephants leading to a tunneled staircase. Near the stair case there is an inscription about the donor of Ajanta cave 16. It describes "Varahadeva, who governed the country righteously" as the chief patron of Ajanta cave 16.

Entrance of Ajanta cave 16 - A guide for Ajanta caves
Entrance of Ajanta cave 16(right) and 17(left)
By Anupamg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We visited Ajanta caves 7 to 10 in the last  article in the series - A guide for Ajanta caves. You can also explore the other caves in this article series here. Part -1, Part-2 and Part -3. In these previous episodes we discussed about the history, art and architecture of Ajanta caves one to ten. In this article we will visit caves 11 to 15 which are not very elaborate or decorated as the caves we saw earlier.

A guide for Ajanta cave 11

In Ajanta, there are two types of caves. "Chaitya-gruhas" or the prayer halls and "Viharas" or living quarters for monks. The prayer halls houses a central shrine with a Buddha image in the newer caves. In the caves from the first(Hinayana) phase of construction, the prayer hall contains a Stupa. The viharas on the other hand contains small cells designed for the monks to live in. Each cell in the Vihara are very small. They have just enough space to accommodate a stone bed and sometimes a pole for hanging cloths. 

In the first phase of construction in Ajanta, there was a clear distinction between the prayer hall and monk quarters. The 1st century cave 9 was a prayer halls and cave 12 was a monk quarters. However, in the second phase of construction in Ajanta during the Vakataka period (AD 460-480) this distinction was becoming very thin.

Cave 11 in Ajanta was constructed in AD 469 - the earlier Vakataka period. It was initially designed as a Vihara or residence for the monks. However in the later years, it had become a norm to include the Stupas or Buddha images inside the monk quarters as well. Your guide for Ajanta caves will tell you an interesting history of Cave 11 in terms of evolution in the Ajanta construction styles and conventions. Ajanta cave 11 was started out as a monk quarters, later the patrons decided to incorporate a Stupa in the shrine.

Buddha Idol in the Ajanta cave 11 - there is one devotee at the foot
Buddha Idol in the Ajanta cave 11 - there is one devotee at the foot

This is the 4th part of the guide for Ajanta caves. In the last post I explained the history, architecture and art of Ajanta caves 3 to 6. In this part, we will have a closer look at the caves 7 to 10.

Caves 7 and 8 belong to the 2nd phase of construction at Ajanta that took place during the 5th century AD. This was during the rule of Vakataka dynasty. Caves and 9 and 10 belong to the earlier phase of development at Ajanta during 1st century AD. This part of the guide for Ajanta caves also shares a very interesting details related to the discovery of Ajanta caves.

Hinayana cave 9 of 1st century AD - A guide for Ajanta caves
Hinayana cave 9 of 1st century AD - Ajanta
photo : By Shaikh Munir (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On that foggy January morning, River Hooghly looked quite calm. I was on the ferry station near the Belur Math   waiting for the ferry that service between Belur and Dakshineswar Kali temple. Belur math in Kolkata is a monastery and head quarters of Ramakrishna mission.

The ferry between Belur Math and Dakshineswar Kali temple - Kolkata
The ferry between Belur Math and Dakshineswar Kali temple - Kolkata 

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This is the third part of the guide for Ajanta caves series. In the part 1 of the Ajanta guide,  I presented a brief history of Ajanta caves and the details of the cave number 1. The second part of the guide for Ajanta caves, is a detailed tour of cave number 2. In this part, I would like to give a complete guide for caves 3 to 6.

As I mentioned in the earlier part, the information in this guide is based on the research by scholar and famous Ajanta historian Walter M Spink. 

Ajanta cave number 3 

Cave number 3 in Ajanta is an incomplete cave. The construction was abandoned due to some unknown reasons. There are not much to explore in this cave. However, if one is curious about the procedure of excavation followed in Ajanta caves, cave number 3 is a good example of the same.

A guide for Ajanta cave number 4

The colossal Buddha idol in the Ajanta cave 4 shrine
The colossal Buddha idol in the Ajanta cave 4 shrine
Photo by: travelwayoflife CC-BY-SA2.0 via Flickr
This is the the second part  of my article series on - A guide for Ajanta caves. In the first part, I narrated the brief history of Ajanta and guide for Ajanta cave number 1.  This article is about Ajanta cave number 2.

According to Walter M Spink  the construction of Ajanta cave number 2 started in AD 464.  It was started before the construction of Ajanta cave 1.  This claim is supported by the location of cave 2 compared to cave 1. Given that the development of Ajanta caves started from the middle of the horse shoe shaped cliff and then slowly progress towards either sides, cave 2 have got an earlier position than cave 1. All the prime caves of Ajanta are located around the middle of the horse shoe shaped cliff. Even though  it is not clearly known, there are many evidences in this cave to believe that the patron of this cave was a lady. Feminine themes are give much importance in this cave.

Ajanta cave 2 - Shrine and  thousand Buddhas in the Shrine antechamber 

Ajanta cave 2 shrine and antechamber - a thousand Buddhas
Ajanta cave shrine and antechamber
Photo by: Jlascar CC2.0 via Flickr

This is a detailed guide for Ajanta caves. If you would like to have basic information about Ajanta caves you can check my introductory article here. It contains the history of Ajanta caves and the background information that would help you appreciate Ajanta caves better. As this is detailed guide for Ajanta caves, let me directly start with the detailed information on the caves.

The Ajanta caves  are sequentially numbered from one to thirty. However, the construction period of these caves vary greatly. In fact, Ajanta was built in two phases which are around 600 years apart!   The first phase began in 2nd Century BC during the times of Satavahana dynasty. Caves 9,10,12,13 and 15A were constructed during this period. The rest of the caves are from a later time period of AD 463, during the Vakataka dynasty under the patronage of King Harisena.

Ajanta caves from a distant view point
Ajanta caves from a distant view point