AJANTA CAVES 20,21,24,26

By Sanjeev Nayyar Sanjeev@esamskriti.com | 2018

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1. This album covers cave nos 20, 21, 24 & 26. This is a small monastery. U see Buddha with pillars in front. Note pillar design & top of pic Buddha in seated posture. Design of the lintel of the door with 2 arches, in the form of elephant’s trunks issuing from the mouths of makaras, is an innovation. Cave made about 450 to 525 A.D.

2. Close up of Buddha with two deers below. Deers found in all Buddha murthis at Ajanta. Note entrance panel.

3. In a narrow shrine is carved an image of Buddha in teaching attitude accompanied by the usual chamara-bearers and flying figures. Most of the paintings in cave have disappeared. Album titled Ajanta Caves had caves 1&2. Another has caves 4,6,7,9,10,11 &19.

4. Board cave 21. Excavated in 6th century a.d. It has 12 massive pillars where flaura, fauna, celestial figures & worshippers are carved in great detail. U see Buddha in seating posture flanked by Bodhisattvas & flying figures. Traces of Buddha as preaching at a congregation can be seen.

5. Entrance to cave. Notice ceiling. The freshness of the blue colour is notable in a few fragments of the ceiling paintings. Ornate pillars. U can see pillars are massive. Pillars are heavy with disproportionately high square bases.

6. Buddha flanked by Bodhisattvas in Dharmachakra mudra. Buddha in teaching attitude.

7. The entablature above the pillars is carved with 3 panels. This pic could be a Naga king with his queen and attendants or Hariti with attendants. Images on left and right not sure. Could be Bodhisattvas with flying figures. Cave has 4 cells with pillared porches, as you see. Also are 8 more cells.

8. Man in centre, others are women. This pic could be a Naga king with his queen and attendants or Hariti with attendants. Note the floral design of panel.

9. Ceiling painting. Caption details taken from books published by Archaeological Survey of India and Ajanta, Eldora and Aurangabad Caves, An Appreciation by T.V. Pathy. Credit to them. I am only the messenger.

10. Pillar design. Top is Hamsa. I reached Aurangabad at 5 am, took a bus that goes to Jalgaon, got off at T Junction, checked into the MTDC resort ten minutes ahead of T junction, returned to T junction at 9 am, a bus takes you to the caves charges Rs 20/ - no private vehicles allowed. U can hire a guide or a porter to carry your baggage. Rates displayed. There is a good restaurant.

11. Flying figures. In case of any errors in captions please write back.

12. Buddha preaching at a congregation.

13. Entrance to cave 23. The shrine, antechamber and side-cells will pillared porches of this monastery were left incomplete. The pillars of the verandah, as you see, are intact and display fine workmanship in ornamental details as you shall see in next pic. See decoration of the finished pilasters the front one on the right wall of hall.

14. Ornamental pillars. Top centre shows a man with a bowl and a lady sitting next to him. Notice the man’s hair do. On their side looks like plants. Please help with better caption. Also see the Naga doorkeepers of the door jambs, each with a foot resting on an elevated platform.

15. If completed this would have been one of the grandest monasteries & the next largest after cave no 4. Design assigned to the 7th century. The pillars, door and window frames are lavishly carved. Cell in courtyard has images of Buddhas with Bodhisattvas holding flywhisks and celestial figures hovering above. Incomplete hall was designed to have 20 pillars.

16. Pillar. Shows man with two ladies sitting on a bench. Not able to recall why I did click the image of Buddha inside this cave.

17. Pillar – either side are flying figures. Not sure what is depicted in centre of pillar. Please help. Cave 25 is unfinished. .

18. A hill opposite the caves has a View Point from where I took this pic and pic no 1 as well. Near centre you see arch like entrance ie cave 26. On its left are caves 27 & 28 and right are caves before that. From pic get a sense of how big the hill is from which caves were excavated. How they managed this is remarkable? Green patch below is a garden that leads to a waterfall.

19. Cave 26. It has 3 entrances. The pillars, the façade, the interior walls are carved with decorations in which the figure of Buddha predominates. This cave is spectacular.

20. Front view of arch. Window is 3 metre high. There are reliefs of Avalokitesvara with devotees, in danger, praying for succour, on the triforium and the space below the opening of the chaitya-window.

21. Close up of left side of arch. Centre of pic is standing Buddha in the abhaya-mudra. Top of pic huge image is of Avalokitesvara.

22. Close up right side. See hairdo of person in centre of pic. Right of pic is Buddha in the abhaya-mudra.

23. As you enter hall on left side, end of pic is Mahaparinirvana of Buddha or Sleeping Buddha, next is Assault and Temptation of Maira and sitting Buddha. Entire cave wall has images of Buddha. After so many years still intact.

24. On right side as you enter. Pic taken from one end of hall. Cave was excavated in the last quarter of the 7th century.

25. As you enter cave you see stupa and Buddha with pillars on three sides. Behind pillars are Buddha images that you saw in preceding two pics.

26. Ornamental pillars. Awesome. Chaitya Hall has 26 pillars that run in elongated semircircle around the cylindrical stupa which is decorated with Buddha and other figures.

27. Close up of stupa. Design is semi-circular. How did they excavate this?

28. Close up of Buddha seated in the pralamba-pada attitude under a pavilion. On the left side of the stupa is the smallest figure of Avalokiteswara.

29. Area above pillars. Buddha in centre and both sides of pic. Next to Buddha might be Bodhisattvas.

30. Ornamental pillars. Images behind and carvings above pillar. Top is Buddha in sitting posture.

31. Close up of left side of arch. Centre of pic is standing Buddha in the abhaya-mudra. Top of pic huge image is of Avalokitesvara.

32. Sleeping Buddha. Images below show Ananda, a disciple of Buddha, with an agarbati or incense. Right side second last image shows back pose of Buddha meaning he will not return.

33. Sleeping Buddha in a Wat of Bangkok. Here Buddha head on his hand. In Ajanta Buddha in sleeping position with head on couch. See Wats of Bangkok album for more pics

34. Benoy K Behl wrote, “This is a colossal representation of the moment when the Buddha shook off the bindings of his mortal body to attain salvation. U see Buddha reclining on his right side on a couch between 2 sala trees. Above Buddha are celestial beings. Below are figures of his disciples & followers mourning his decease. Panel marks the beginning of a new method of stucco work on the sculptures ie further painted.

35. Temptation of Mara. Here Buddha is seated, with his right palm in the bhumisparas mudra under Bodhi tree. Left top of pic is Mara on an elephant accompanied by demon forces attacking Buddha, on right is retreat of Mara. In the foreground are daughters of Mara trying to tempt Buddha by dance & music, in bottom right hand is figure of dejected Mara.

36. Sitting Buddha. Temptation of Mara panel sets the trend towards the bas-reliefs in the round as seen at Badami and Ellora.

37. Sitting Buddha panel.

38. Wall on right. Earlier pic was from opposite side. This pic is from entrance side.

39. Close up of ornamental design above Buddha head.

40. Few murthis are damaged or have holes as u see. It is due to passage of time.

41. Buddha in Pralambapada-asana. Cave 27 is an adjunct to cave 26. Cave 28 and 29 almost inaccessible.

42. End of hill after cave 26 is this waterfall. Very popular. At base is a garden. Entire Ajanta Complex is very clean, well maintained with toilets at various locations. To read a very good write up on Ajanta by art historian Benoy K Behl https://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2423/stories/20071207505906600.htm

43. Overview of caves starts from 1 on right to about 12 on the left. Awesome Ajanta. Must visit. Keep 1 full day. It opens at 9 am & closes by 5.30 pm. It is about 2 hour’s drive from Aurangabad. Do see the other three albums on Ajanta too. For an exhaustive coverage of Ajanta Caves no 19 to 26 https://www.photodharma.net/India/Ajanta-Caves-3/Ajanta-Caves-3.htm

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