Ajanta caves are located 99-km away from Aurangabad district in the state of Maharashtra. Ajanta caves were carved out from the 2nd century BC to 6th century AD, and are ranked high as a world heritage site.
They were hidden in the midst of a lonely glen with a streamlet flowing down below. They were scooped out into the heart of the rock so that the pious Buddhist monk could dwell and pray. During this time, images of Buddha interpreting his different life stories and several types of human and animal figures were carved out of rock in-situ.
All sections of people of the contemporary society from kings to slaves, women, men and children are seen in the Ajanta murals interwoven with flowers, plants, fruits, birds and beasts. There are also the figures of 'Yakshas', 'Kinneras' (half human and half bird) 'Gandharvas' (divine musicians), 'Apsaras' (heavenly dancers), which were of concern to the people of that time. The Ajanta caves are dedicated solely to Buddhism.
The caves, including unfinished are thirty in number of which five (9, 10, 19, 26 and 29) are "Chaitya-Grihas" and the rest are "Sangharamas" or Viharas (monasteries). The caves 1, 2, 16 and 17 can be ranked high among the greatest artistic works of the contemporary world.
The 30 Chaityas and Viharas have paintings, which illustrate the life and incarnations of Buddha. The artist has lent his creativity in each work with an overwhelming sense of vitality. These paintings have survived time and till date the numerous paintings glowing on the walls make the atmosphere very vibrant and alive.
In Cave 1, Prince Buddha is depicted delicately holding the fragile blue lotus, his head bent sideways as if the weight of his ornate jewelled crown is too heavy for his head. His half-closed eyes give an air of meditation, almost of shyness.
Cave number 2, which is one of the better-preserved monasteries with a shrine, shows how sculpture, paintings and architectural elements were used together to enhance the atmosphere of piety and sanctity. The ceiling and wall paintings illustrate events associated with Buddha's birth.
A sculptured frieze of the miracle of "Sravasti", when Buddha multiplied himself a thousand times can be seen in cave 7.
In cave 17 one can find the paintings that depict stories from the Jatakas or tales of the previous incarnations of Buddha and also Buddha with his right hand raised, with the palm facing the viewer, which is a symbol of "Abhaya" - reassurance and protection.
The best surviving examples of a rock cut Chaitya Griha can be seen in cave 19 at Ajanta. The elegant porch is topped by the distinctive 'horseshoe' shaped window - flanked by 'Yakshas' or guardians, standing Buddha figures and elaborate decorative motifs. The interior of the cave is profusely carved with pillars, a monolithic carved symbolic Stupa and images of Buddha, which heralded the introduction of Mahayana phase.
In cave 26, Buddha is seen seated under a Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, meditating, when Mara and her voluptuous daughters attempted to tempt him. Buddha touched the earth with his left hand to witness his enlightenment. The "Parinivana" (ultimate enlightenment or liberation) came when Buddha left the world- as depicted in the 7m (23ft) image of the reclining Buddha in cave number 26.