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Buddhist in Caves

Buddhist Caves

Buddhist Caves in India are spread over the length and breadth of India but majority of them are situated in North Indian states of Maharashtra, Orissa and Bihar. Among all the Buddhist Caves in India, Ajanta & Ellora Caves in Maharashtra are the most famed ones and are recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Site that depict life and times of Buddha in the form of sculptures and wall paintings. A brief about the prominent Buddhist Caves in India is provided below:

Ajanta Caves: Maharashtra

There are 30 caves in Ajanta which were built from 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. Buddhist monks used to live in these caves and chiseled marvelous sculptures and wall paintings with hammer. The paintings tell Jataka stories and other significant events related to the life of Buddha.

Ellora Caves: Maharashtra

There are 34 caves in all at Ellora out of which caves numbers 1 to 12 are Buddhist caves, 13 to 29 are Hindu caves and 30 to 34 are Jain caves. The caves have images of Buddha, Bodhisattvas and other sculptures of Buddha. There are multi-storey monasteries with beautiful Chaityas and large halls.

Junnar Caves: Maharashtra

There are around 200 Buddhist caves in Junnar which are divided into four main groups:

  • Tulija Lena Group
  • Lenyadri Group
  • Manmodi Hills Group
  • Ganesh Lena Group

The caves were built between 2nd century BC to 3rd century AD. The caves have big prayer halls, Chaityas, Viharas and are dotted with numerous sculptures of Buddha. Junnar Caves are situated amidst the beautiful natural surroundings.

Nagarjunkonda Caves: Andhra Pradesh

The caves are named after the great Buddhist monk Nagarjun who set up a learning center here for the propagation of Buddhism. These were built in 3rd century BC and have impressive images of Buddha. Pictures of flowers and elephants are delicately carved on pillars and there is a Mahachaitya which is considered to have sacred relics of Lord Buddha.

Barabar Caves: Bihar

The caves have several viharas and monasteries built of black granite stone and were constructed during the reign of Emperor Ashoka. The caves could be divided into 3 main groups viz:

  • Nagarjuna Caves
  • Hut Caves
  • Caves of Five Pandavas

Nagarjuna caves are the largest and depict tales from the Jataka epic. These have bow shaped arched entrances and polished interiors. Hut caves have stone walls on three sides and are open from one side. The caves were used as a retreat by Buddhist and Jain monks. Five Pandavas of Mahabharata epic are supposed to have stayed in Pandava caves.

Udaigiri Caves: Orissa

The caves are situated 6 km from Bhubaneshwar. There are well preserved inscriptions on polished rock surface of Hathi Gupha (Elephant Cave) No. 14. The caves were built during 2nd century BC. Some of these caves were reconstructed during the reign of Kharvela dynasty.

Bhaja Caves: Maharashtra

These are a group of 18 caves situated 12 km from Lonavala in Maharashtra. The caves were built around 2nd century BC during the reign of Mauryan rulers and are a fine illustration of the early Theravadin period of Buddhism. The caves have downward sloping pillars and pictures of seated elephants and dancing couples.

Other worth mention Buddhist Caves in India are: Dhauli Caves (Orissa), Lalitagiri Caves (Orissa), Ratnagiri Caves (Orissa), Khandgiri Caves (Orissa), Karla Caves (Maharashtra) and Kanheri Caves (Maharashtra).

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