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 

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

Bijapur is an archaeologically important destination located in the heart of the Deccan Plateau, Karnataka. It was the capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty during 14-17th century AD. Bijapur, however has a long history of different dynasties ruling it. It was with the Buddhist-Hindu rulers in in the first few centuries of Common Era. They include the Maurya, Kadamba and Chalukya empires. Around 11th-12th centuries CE, dynasties like Hoysalas, Kaktiyas and Yadavas were in charge of the Deccan regions.
Ibrahim Rauza - Tomb of Ibrahim II Adil Shah - Bijapur
Ibrahim Rauza - Tomb of Ibrahim II Adil Shah

Emperor Ashoka the Great(268 to 232 BC) is much more than a historical figure in India. He is considered as the most successful Indian Emperor, who conquered entire Indian subcontinent.  Most of the Indians have a feeling that Emperor Ashoka was a well-known figure throughout in Indian history from ancient times.  However, it comes as a surprise and mild shock when one learns that the existence of an Emperor named Ashoka was discovered only in 1915. It was the British archaeologists who found the existence of Ashoka the Great.

A little flash back, serious archaeological studies in Indian subcontinent started in 1784 with the establishment of the Asiatic society of Bengal  by Sir.William Johns.  Quite a few British army officers and government officials were enchanted by the archaeological treasures of India and they started the efforts to conserve and study it. Indian archaeology got a new life with the arrival of James Prinsep, a  English scholar, orientalist and antiquary to India in 1819.Prinsep was the editor of Journal of the Asiatic society of Bengal.

The Great Stupa of Sanchi built by Emperor  Ashoka
The Great Stupa of Sanchi built by Ashoka 

“Let’s go somewhere this weekend. What about Ramanagara?”

My husband was talking about trekking Ramadevarabetta (the mountain of God Rama) - A famous granite rock mountain near Ramanagara in Karnataka. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about a trekking. I am an archaeology person whose taste lies centuries behind. However, I was quite curious to see the place where the legendary movie Sholay was shot, especially after it was featured in this Google advertisement. 

one day trekking near Bangalore - Ramadevarabetta

In 1956, Dr.Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar, a senior Indian archaeologist was travelling by train from Bhopal to Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh. Train was passing through the dry and dusty barren lands near Bhimbetka -a remote place 60 km before Itarsi.  While casually looking through the windows, Dr. Wakankar observed a cluster of huge rocks in the distance. Dr.Wakankar was a specialist in ancient rock paintings and something clicked inside him as he saw those rocks. Quite unplanned, he alighted at the next railway station and walked his way back to that barren land where he spotted the rock clusters. He did not know that he was about to make an incredible discovery. He discovered numerous rock paintings and other artifacts which opened new era of Indian archaeology. Later his discovery was widely celebrated as the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters which is believed to be inhabited by Paleolithic men as early as 30,000 BC.

Bhimbetka rock shelters - prehistoric archaeological site, India
Entrance of the Bhimbetka rock shelters
 Photo: By Surajkumar12111 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons