state of Maharashtra is blessed with a rich heritage of ancient
monuments and exquisite architectural marvels representing different
phases of development in the art and architectural style. The prime
rock-cut architectural examples of the cave temples that are spread all
over the state are the caves of Ajanta and Ellora.
Ajanta caves including the unfinished ones are thirty in number; of
which five - 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are 'Chaitya-Grihas' and the rest are
'Sangharamas' or 'Viharas' (monasteries). After centuries of oblivion,
these caves of Ajanta were discovered in AD 1819. They fall into two
distinct phases with a break of nearly four centuries between them. All
the caves of the earlier phase date between 2nd century BC - AD.
Ajanta caves of the second phase were excavated during the supremacy of
the Vakatakas and Guptas. According to inscriptions, Varahadeva, the
minister of the Vakataka king, Harishena (c. 475-500 AD), dedicated Cave
16 to the Buddhist Sangha while Cave 17 was the gift of the prince, a
feudatory. An inscription records that - Buddha image in Cave 4 was the
gift of some Abhayanandi who hailed from Mathura.
A few paintings, which survive on the walls of Caves 9, and 10 go back
to the 2nd century BC-AD. The second group of the Ajanta cave paintings
started in about the 5th century AD and continued for the next two
centuries as, noticeable in later caves. The themes are intensely
religious in tone and centre round Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from
the life of Buddha and the 'Jatakas'. Ajanta cave paintings are executed
on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique.