Thanks to Johnny for this spectacular account of 2200 years ago, an entire city was covered up by growing jungle…thank you Mother Nature!!!-A.M.
Over hundreds of years thirty one monuments hewn from the rockface!

Two thousand two hundred years ago work began in Maharashtra, India.

Then, some speculate around the year 1000 AD, they fell in to disuse.

Dense jungle grew around, hiding the caves away from human eyes.

ajanta caves 1

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The Ajanta caves lay undisturbed for hundreds of years.

Then, in April 1819, during the time of the British, Raj, an officer with

the unassuming name of John Smith, rediscovered a doorway to one of the temples.

He had been hunting tigers – something of which many would disapprove today.

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One can only imagine what went through Smith’s head when he made his find.

Such a rediscovery did not remain secret for very long.Soon, European and

Indian tourists were thronging to the site – after extensive tidying up.

After all, the caves had been home to bat, birds and larger animals for

hundreds of years. The Ajanta Caves had been returned to the world of the living.

ajanta caves 6

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The nearest human habitation is Ajinṭhā, a tiny village a few miles away

from the caves. The sanctuaries, which are known as chaytia-girhas

from the second century before Christ. They were used primarily as prayer

halls and are similar to an extent to the contemporary Roman designs

of arch and column. However, these sanctuaries were carved from the

immense rock face of the caves, with chisels and, indeed, bare hands.

ajanta caves 8

The first caves were hewn from the bare rock at the time of

The Sātavāhana Empire which started around 230BC.

The Sātavāhanas brought peace to India after several foreign invasions

and the decline of the previous, Mauryan Empire.

adjanti cave 9

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Although there is widespread debate about the time at which the second

period of building took place, most now agree that it was probably

during the reign of Harishena, from 460AD and over a period of around

twenty years. This architectural flowering saw the creation of twenty

temples which were used as monasteries.


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adjanta caves 14

There are paintings everywhere – literally.

Every surface apart from the floor is festooned

with narrative paintings. Time has taken a serious

toll on these marvelous works with many parts

simply just fragments of what they were when first

created. The stories are almost wholly devoted to

Jātakas – tales of the Buddha’s previouslives.

These 547 poems were painstakingly and lovingly

painted on to the walls by devotees.

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They were created using an ancient method.  The surface was chiseled

so it was rough and could hold plaster which was then spread across the surface.

Then the master painter would, while the plaster was still wet, commence his work.

The colors soaked in to the plaster and so became a part of the surface.

Although this meant that it would not peel off as easily, perhaps not

even the painters foresaw the temples persevering for over two thousand years.

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No one knows for sure when and why the caves were abandoned – whether

it was a gradual desertion of some event of political and social magnitude

took place which precipitated the neglect and final vacation of the site.

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Yet for hundreds of years the place remained

forsaken, to be rediscovered that fateful day in

1819 by John Smith.

adjanta caves 19

They even had running water handy, nearby!

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In all that time, no one knew anything about its existence; now isn’t that amazing?

They were carved from solid rock, which meant artisans approached a solid rock

wall and began to chisel.  But they had to have had copious drawings, which planned

this all out. For example, how did they make rows of columns in 3-D from 2-D drawings?

There cannot be any ‘oops’ moments.

And like the Pyramids and other extraordinary monuments which are thousands of years old,

you’re talking about a very basic people who struggled to stay alive, find food, raise families.

Where would this sort of talent come from, and when would they have had the time?