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Buddhist Caves


34 temples carved out of stones, 34 sculptured caves expressing Hindu, Buddhist and Jain themes, 34 priceless pages out of history. It took over five centuries for the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monks to chiesl out these monastries, temples, chaples and decorate them with remarkable imagination and detail. These caves run North-South and take on the Golden Radiance of the late afternoon sun.

The Buddhist Expression -These sixteen caves are the oldest in the group and were carved in the 5th century. As one enters these caves, one crosses graceful angles and steps in a high ceilinged chamber where a 15 feet huge statute of Buddha is sitting in a preaching pose. In these caves the artist has tried an element of surprise by giving them expression of wood. Most of these 16 caves are viharas but cave number 10 is a chaitya. The style of carvings and sculplures in these caves indicate that initially the artist was going in for a simple decorations but later as in caves 11 and 12 he became more ambitious. The 10th cave has a impression of wooden beams on its ceiling and has a small decorated window which illuminates the sitting Buddha. These caves are rightly called the Vishvakarma caves. This cave is considered to be one of the finest in India. Here life and religion go hand in hand. The amorous couples play joyfully along the balustrade. Step out of this cave and you come acros an upper gallery giving a view of the precisely carved Naga Queen, the harbinger of monsoon and the dwarfs who were the court entertainers. The Buddhists believe that Buddha returns after every five thousand years, thus the12th cave has seven images of Budhha depicting his seven incarnations.

The Hindu Expression- The Hindu caves exhibit a totally different league from the Jain and Buddhist temples in terms of style, creative vision and execution skills. These temples were built top to bottom and the architecture of these caves show that it required several generation of planning and cordination to give it the final shape. Cave 14 was initially a Buddh Vihar but in 7th centutry it was dedicated as Shiva temple. Here Shiva is depicted as The Destroyers. The 16 cave in the group is one of the audacious feat in architecture ever achieved. The idea was to build Mt. Kailash from a single stone. Hence the name Kailasnath temple. The artist then tried to give the structure shape of a temple. The scale at which the work was undertaken is enormous. It covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 11/2 times high, and it entailed removing 200,000 tonnes of rock. It took 100 years to be completed. The Ramesvara cave has figurines of river Goddesses adorning its entrance. The Dumar Lena cave resembles the great cave shrine at Elephanta and is dedicated to lord Shiva.

The Jain Dedication- Each of the caves show the beliefs of the Jains, and their strict ascetism that embibed in them a spirit of non-violence towards all.These caves do not carry the high voltage drama of the Hindu or the Buddhist caves nor are they ambitious in size but they balance these with their exceptionally detailed work. The 32nd cave is a beautiful shrine with exquisite carvings of a lotus flower on the ceiling and an imposing yakshi seated on her lion under a mango-tree laden with fruit. The ceiling of this double-storied cave are also decorated with paintings.

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