Cave Art of India

Caves are a significant symbol of the architecture and art of India. Most of the existing caves were constructed a long time ago. Thus, they preserve historical information about the culture and traditions of ancient India. Indian cave art has a unique status in the world. Let us discuss some important caves of India.

Ajanta Caves

The Ajanta Caves are situated in the Sahyadri Ranges on the Waghora River in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. It was developed between 200 BC to 650 AD, with a series of 29 rock-cut caves. Most of these caves were decorated during the Gupta reign. 25 out of the 29 caves were Viharas, and the rest were Chaitya.

What are Viharas and Chaitya?

Buddhist monks used the Viharas and Chaitya, which serve the following purposes:

  • Viharas: Viharas are used as a residential play by Buddhist monks.
  • Chaitya: Chaitya served as prayer halls for Buddhist followers.

Prominent Features of the Ajanta Caves

The paintings and figures inside Ajanta Caves are done using the Fresco Painting technique.

  • Fresco Painting: It is a technique just like the Italian Renaissance. In this technique, the painting is done on fresh and wet plaster.
  • The colors used in the painting are obtained from minerals and native plants.
  • The color red is used for the outlines of the paintings.
  • There was an absence of these colors in any painting.
  • The women have unique hairstyles.
  • Foreign travelers Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang had mentioned Ajanta Caves in their records.
  • The theme of art revolves around Buddhism.
  • Most of the caves were constructed during Mahayana Buddhism.

Some Examples of Ajanta Paintings

  • The Dying Princess (cave no. 16)
  • Naga’s king and his consort (cave no. 19)
  • Mahaparinirvana of Buddha (cave no. 26)

Ellora Caves

The Ellora caves were developed during the 5th to 11th century AD. They were developed much later than the Ajanta caves. These caves represent a fusion of religions, especially Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

The Rashtrakuta dynasty developed the Hindu and Buddhist caves of the Ellora series, while the Jain Caves were constructed by Yadava dynasty. The Ellora series consists of 34 caves located 100 km from the Ajanta Caves.

Examples of Ellora Art are

  • Kailasha Temple (cave no. 16)
  • Rameshwar Lena (cave no. 21)
  • Indra Sabha (cave no. 32)
  • Dashavatar Temple (cave no. 15)
  • Ravan ki khai (cave no. 14)
  • Buddha in Dharmachakra Mudra (cave no. 10)

Bagh Caves

The Bagh Caves is situated on the bank of the Baghini Rivers in Madhya Pradesh. It was developed around 500-600 AD. The series consists of nine Buddhist caves. The figures in the caves are more tightly modeled and are more earthy.

Bagh Cave Examples

  • Rang Mahal (cave no. 4)

Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves

This cave series is in Buy Bhubaneswar Odisha. There are 18 caves in Udayagiri and 15 in Khandagiri.

Examples of Udayagiri Cave Art

  • Hathigumpha Inscription
  • Ranigumpha Cave

Bhimbetka Caves

The Bhimbetka Caves are in the Vindhya ranges in Bhopal of Madhya Pradesh. It consists of paintings that are estimated to be 30,000 years old. Scenes of Bhimbetka paintings depict the ancient people hunting and going to war.

Junagadh Caves

The Junagadh Caves are located in the Junagadh District of Gujarat. The series is identified with the presence of Upar Kot, a citadel in the prayer hall.

Mandapeshwar Caves

The Mandapeshwar Caves are located near Borivali in Mumbai. These caves were constructed during the Gupta period and are Brahmanical caves.

Udayagiri Caves

The Udayagiri Caves are located in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh. It was created by Chandragupta II in 500 AD.

Important Sculptures in the Udayagiri Caves

  • Varaha
  • Narasimha
  • Naryana
  • Skanda

Badami Caves

The Badami Caves are located in Karnataka and were built by the Chalukyas. The Badami Caves are a series of four caves.

Important Sculptures of the Badami Caves

  • Cave 1- Shiva
  • Cave 2- Varaha
  • Cave 3- Narasimha, Anantasana
  • Cave 4- Bahubali, Parshvanath, Mahavira

Rock-Cut Caves at Mahabalipuram

These were built in 700 AD. It includes the Varaha Cave Temple, Panchapanna Cave Temple, and Krishna Cave Temple.

Nasik Caves

The Nasik Caves are a series of 24 Buddhist caves with excellent system of water management. The caves are also known as Pandava Leni.

Barabar Caves

The Barabar caves are the oldest surviving caves, built around 300 BC. These caves belong to Ashoka and his grandson Dasharatha.

Armamalai Caves

The Armamalai Caves are situated in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu. They were built around 800 AD and depicted Jainism.

Chittanavasal Caves

The Chittanavasal Caves were built from 100 BC – 1000 AD. It has a painting of a pond with lotus in it.

Lepakshi Caves

These are located in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. Paintings here show a complete absence of Primary colour.

Ravan Chhaya Caves

These caves are located in Keonjhar Odisha. It was estimated to act like a royal hunting lodge.

Jogimara Cave

Jogimara caves are located in Surguja, Chattisgarh. It was built around 1000-300 BC. The caves are said to act as an Amphitheatre.

Conclusion

Cave art is an important part of art and architecture. It preserves the history of India. Thus, efforts should be made to preserve the ancient and historical caves.

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This post was last updated on November 2nd, 2021 at 09:10 am

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