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.