Ajanta cave-temples

Maharashtra, India

The Buddhist cave temples of Ajanta were excavated from a horseshoe-shaped cliff, overlooking a bend of the Waghora river in northern Maharashtra, between the 2d century BC and the 5th century AD. The caves are numbered (1-28) according to their sequential location along the cliff face, which does not correspond to the order in which they were constructed.

The caves were used as a refuge by monks in the monsoon season, when the dry riverbed seen here would be filled with running water fed by a pool and waterfall, and the surrounding valley would be blanketed in lush, green vegetation. This photograph was taken during the dry season, in February.

Ajanta is well known for its stunning 5th century murals and sculptures (following pages.) Their beauty and antiquity distinguish them as one of the treasures of Indian, and indeed world, art.