The Aurangabad caves are twelve rock-cut Buddhist shrines located on a hill running roughly east to west, close to the city of Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The first reference to the Aurangabad Caves is in the great chaitya of Kanheri Caves. The Aurangabad Caves were dug out of comparatively soft basalt rock during the 6th and 7th century.
The caves are divided into three separate groups depending on their location: these are usually called the “Western Group”, with Caves I to V (1 to 5), the “Eastern Group”, with Caves VI to IX (6 to 9), and a “Northern Cluster”, with the unfinished Caves X to XII (9 to 12).
The carvings at the Aurangabad Caves are notable for including Hinayana style stupa, Mahayana art work and Vajrayana goddesses. These caves are among those in India that show 1st millennium CE Buddhist artwork with goddesses such as Durga, and gods such as Ganesha, although Buddhist caves in other parts of India with these arts are older. Numerous Buddhist deities of the Tantra tradition are also carved in these caves.
The cave temples of Aurangabad cut between the 6th and the 8th century are nine kilometers from Aurangabad city center, a few kilometers from the campus of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University and the Bibi-ka-Maqbara.
Carved in the Sihaychal ranges, the Aurangabad caves somewhat have been overshadowed by the UNESCO World Heritage monuments of Ellora and Ajanta cave temples. Though its sculptures are comparable to Ajanta and Ellora, the caves are much smaller, more decrepit and less visited. Though in the 20th century, a few scholars started looking at these cave temples as a missing link between Ajanta and Ellora and also after an exhaustive study, were compelled to describe it as a ” Sensitive remaking of life situated in time and space span”. It is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.
The twelve caves are usually divided into three groups (Caves 1-5, Caves 6-9 and Caves 10-12), each about 500 meters apart. In terms of time, there is a great deal of confusion – the oldest parts are certainly the caves 4 and 5 (with neighboring caves), which can still be attributed to the aniconic phase of the Hinayana -Buddhismus (3rd / 4th century). Cave 1 also seems to be old (4th century), because there are figurative jewelery, but only two small-figure Buddha images. In the aftermath of several unusually rich provided with figurative representations combined cult and residential caves, which may refer to a kind of cult education within the monastic community. Caves 10 to 16 are less interesting and partly unfinished.
Cave 1 is a cult cave – but of a completely different kind than the Chaitya Hall in Cave 4. The entire entrance area of the cave, together with an outer porch (mandapa) resting on mighty pillars, was demolished centuries ago. The remaining pillars all have a square ground plan, which leads over differently designed canals with seated pitchers (kalashas) or ring stones (amalakas) in stone beam crosses, which act as a fighter . Several single tree nymphs (salabhanjikas), dwarfs (ganas) and ‘heavenly love-couples’ (mithunas) form the figurative decoration of the pillars. On both sides of the inner vestibule are two Buddha reliefs – the left shows him in meditation posture with his hands in his lap (dhyana mudra), the right shows him in the teaching gesture with hands touching his breast (dharmachakramudra); He is assisted by two Bodhisattvas (Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani).
Cave 2 is a scaled-down image of Caves 6 and 7. To the left and right of the entrance to the Cella are the Bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya, accompanied by servants. In the interior, the Buddha is found in a teaching gesture and with a circular nimbus framing his head.
The cave 3 is a very elaborately designed living cave with a porch and six side chambers, of which the two middle are wide open by set columns. The center of the room is formed by a representative pillared hall with a large variety of decor. The background of the cave is formed by a shrine area with a separate porch (mandapa) and guarded by doorkeepers (dvarapalas) and decorated by lovers (mithunas) door frame and a seated Buddha figure inside, which is in turn accompanied by two standing bodhisattvas. Very unusual are two groups of six or seven life-size kneeling persons in worship, whose heads are each crowned by tiaras .
Cave 4 is a Chaitya hall and thus the religious center of the entire complex. Due to the lack of Buddha portraits in 3./4. Century dated. The entire front as well as all supports of the cave are broken off; the interior was stabilized in the 20th century by masonry pillars. Within the rectangular ground plan, an apse-shaped access area with two aisles is visible, which encloses a partially destroyed stupa . Few remnants of the original pillars suggest an octagonal cross section; Above the pillars is a niche frieze about one meter high, which is alternately stepped or stepped at its upper end. Above it is a small fence motif and above it a circulating row of small crescent-shaped pseudo-windows (chandrasalas). The dome of the stupa is slightly overgrown; it ends up with a cube-shaped and often outwardly stepped harmika essay, on which originally a rod (yasti) with an honorary screen (chhatra) rested (see Karli and Bhaja). The central nave of the cave is spanned by stone beams that imitate a wooden vault; the whole thing is – apparently – stabilized by cross bracing.
Between caves 4 and 5 is the figure carved out of the rock of a Buddha , about two meters high and sitting on a lion ‘s throne, accompanied by standing bodhisattvas and smaller servants. The feet of Buddha rest on a lotus pedestal ; the hands are brought together in front of the chest in the teaching gesture (dharmachakramudra). The cave 5 and the two smaller neighboring caves seem to have been former – though extremely simple and not very deep – living caves (viharas). Cave 5 was probably recessed in later times with a sculpted façade and a rectangular interweaving enclosing a sacred garbhagriha , the center of which is a Buddha-figure in meditation posture, which is in turn accompanied by bodhisattvas.
The cave 6 corresponds in its construction in approximately the cave 7; However, she has no outer lobby. Behind four mighty pillars hides a deal with eight residential and two cult rooms. The figure jewelry is similar to that in Cave 7 – only significantly reduced. Immediately adjacent to the cave 6 is the so-called ‘Brahmanical Cave’ – a small cave with porch (mandapa) and sanctum, within which a relief of the “Seven Mothers” (sapta matrikas) and the Hindu deities Ganesh and Durga appears. The last in the series – but not in the middle – is the Buddha. The cave can be interpreted as a concession to Hindu pilgrims and as a sign of the peaceful coexistence of Buddhism and Hinduism.
Cave 7 is an exceptionally richly equipped combined residential and cultic cave. It has a transverse porch (mandapa) with two side chambers. The figure-adorned façade surrounds three portals, which let light into the slightly raised main room with its eight chambers, of which the two back served as cult rooms, and a further increased middle Cella (garbhagriha). The decoration of the façade and the interior is one of the most extraordinary things that Buddhist sculpture has produced in India: two nimbated and lotus – capped larger – life bodhisattvas (Padmapani and Vajrapani) with hands raised in salute form the main characters, surrounded by small – figure narrative scenes or scenes of guardian figures. Beneath the ceiling, on the left, there are two Buddha figures in the lotus position and with teaching gestures or – on the right side – celestial beings (apsaras) kneeling, carrying garlands. On both sides of the entrance to the Cella (garbhagriha) there are two extraordinary sculptures that represent the life – size ‘goddess’ Tara – an emanation (sometimes also the wife) of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara; it is accompanied by servants and apsaras coming from the clouds in the knee-flight and flower-garlands. The hairstyles of the ladies are designed with flowers and tiaras exceptionally gorgeous. Both scenes take place under a gate (torana) with a double architrave bar, decorated with small windowsill (chandrasalas). Inside the cella are the obligatory Buddha image and again two scenes depicting the goddess Tara: one shows her by her husband’s side, the other an elegant and extremely attractive dancer surrounded by four female musicians and the two personifications of ‘Music’ and ‘Dance’ in the background.
The cave 9 has been heavily restored because large parts of the facade were broken off. Two reliefs again show the goddess Tara with her companions; more important, however, is the unfinished lying figure of the dormant, d. H. into the final and complete nirvana (parinirvana) received Buddha.
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