Thursday, December 11, 2014

Buddhist architecture in Ajanta

- By Aishwarya Pramod

Viharas (monasteries) and chaitya-grihas (prayer halls) are the two important structures in early Buddhist architecture in India.

Viharas began as temporary shelters for wandering monks, but were later developed to accommodate the growing and increasingly formalised Buddhist monasticism. Chaitya-grihas (or chaityas) were prayer halls with a stupa at the end. The stupa was the focus of the monks' meditation and prayer.
General structure of a Vihara and Chaitya-Griha

Ajanta caves are prominently Buddhist.

Out of the 30 caves of Ajanta, 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are chaitya grihas (places of worship). In the earlier stages the stupas inside the chaitya grihas were plain, with no bodily representation of the Buddha. They were symbolic in nature; with the stupas usually containing a sacred relic. In the later phases, the Buddha began to be featured prominently in the stupas.
Chaitya-griha in Ajanta's cave 26 from the Mahayana period
There are also many Buddhist viharas found in India, such as the one in cave 16 of Ajanta.
Entrance to Ajanta's cave 16 - A vihara

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