India: these masterpieces hidden in Buddhist caves resurface after centuries

It was on this plateau that some of India’s greatest dynasties would be born. The statues and inscriptions they left behind are one of the most comprehensive archives of this ancient society. Near the ancient city of Ajanta, about 30 human-excavated caves pierce the surface of the black basalt rock. Their facades are magnificent; they are decorated with paintings, pillars and statues that evoke the sculptural temples of Petra, in Jordan, or the frescoes of Pompeii.

The lavishness of the Ajanta complex reflects the patronage of his kingdom. Although some of the temples there date to the second and first centuries BC, most were excavated during the reign of a Vakataka emperor named Harishena who ruled much of central India in the mid-5th century.and century of our times. At one time, several hundred monks inhabited the cave.

Ajanta’s golden age as a thriving center of religion and art seems to coincide with the reign of Harishena, who died in 478. In 7and centuries, monasteries began to empty, caves were abandoned and Ajanta’s beautiful paintings fell into anonymity. Buddhism gradually disappeared from India, the country where it was born; at the end of the 13thand centuries, its holy places have been destroyed or abandoned after the invasion by Muslim armies.

monastic splendor

Most of the caves of Aranjâ were built to accommodate prayer rooms (chaityas) and residences (viharas). There is a central room lined with columns that open up to the shrine where there is still a Buddha statue. Along the outer corridor, doors opened to the naked monastery cells, which were thought to be only stone bed furniture.

Cheryl Tenny

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