The rock temples in the Waghore gorge are among the most important Buddhist places of worship in India. The cave temples were carved into the rock up to 650 m deep and decorated with paintings and sculptures. They date from the 1st century BC. And the 5th to 7th centuries AD and were rediscovered in 1819.
Ajanta Rock Temple: Facts
|Official title:||Ajanta rock temple|
|Cultural monument:||cave temples and monasteries carved out of the rock in a semicircle; a total of 5 temples and 24 monasteries; Pechersk Lavra 4 the largest sanctuary in Ajanta and supported by 28 columns; Cave monastery 6 the only two-storey cult site of Ajanta, one of the most beautiful paintings in cave 17 with the representation of the Buddha of the future (Maitreya) and a palace scene, oldest cult site the three-aisled cave no.10 with 39 octagonal pillars, cave 26 with Buddha in nirvana -Attitude|
|Location:||Ajanta, gorge of the Waghore River, near Aurangabad|
|Meaning:||important Buddhist cult site in India with richly carved and painted cave temples|
Ajanta Rock Temple: History
|200 BC Chr. -200 AD||first flowering period|
|5th / 6th Century||second flowering period|
|1819||Discovery by an English hunting party|
A monument for eternity
The monks who once lived and meditated in Ajanta cannot have been friends of asceticism or even modesty. They recorded in an inscription that they wanted to enjoy every known convenience in every season of the year. Their patrons, kings, princes, and wealthy merchants, who paid for the expensive and laborious work in the rocks above the Waghore, do not seem to have been children of sadness either. On the contrary: They were happy to open their wallets because they wanted to erect a monument for eternity, as can be seen from an inscription in cave number 26: “A man can do well in paradise as long as the memory of him is in the world stays fresh. So why should we refrain from erecting a monument that will last so long.
Whenever this sentence arose, whether in the heyday of Ajanta between the second pre-Christian and post-Christian centuries or only after a 400-year break in the 6th century: For around a thousand years, the creator of these lines will not have fared excessively well in Paradise either. That was how long the approximately one hundred caves in the crescent-shaped bend of the river had been overgrown by the jungle thicket. With the exception of a few local villagers and a few sadhus, holy men of asceticism, it was mainly bats that stayed in the elaborately decorated caves.
It was not until April 28, 1819, that one of the rock faces received a new inscription: “John Smith, 28th Madras Cavalry”. These traces were left by an English soldier who rediscovered the caves after years of oblivion. The quarrel of the chroniclers seems irrelevant, who are concerned with the question of whether Smith was hunting tigers or boar when he saw the “Monument to Eternity” for the first time. But it seems beyond doubt that he let his gaze wander over the landscape out of disappointment over the lack of luck in the hunt. One of the overgrown cave entrances caught his eye. A man with the common name of John Smith went down in world cultural history as the discoverer of the Ajanta cave temples.
Unfortunately, he did not lead by example with his doodles in order to preserve the murals and sculptures of the sanctuaries. In their over-zeal to copy the colorful and detailed representations for posterity in Europe, many European researchers destroyed more than they preserved until the beginning of the last century. Only in six of the roughly one hundred caves are there still so many pictorial scenes that today’s visitors can use to get an idea of how people lived in lap and drink centuries ago.
Since the Ajanta of that time was close to the most important trade route that led from the Arabian Gulf to China, the monks living there did not have to provide for a living for a long time thanks to wealthy patrons. People from all over the world traveled on the busy trade route, through which the monks repeatedly received new intellectual and spiritual stimuli.
By this time, Buddhism had long been in decline in India. According to a2zgov, Brahmanism, the form of Hinduism at that time, gained more and more followers, and the princes of the Satvahanas, under whose sovereignty Ajanta lay, followed this doctrine. In a certain way cosmopolitan, these princes cultivated a religious tolerance that seems almost impossible in the coexistence of the various religions in today’s India. They promoted and protected the places of worship of Ajanta, although they were not Buddhists – until finally, at the end of the 6th century AD, for reasons that are still mysterious to this day, Ajanta was abandoned, the residents moved to Ellora and the “insatiable jungle” recaptured the bend in the river.