Aurangabad Cave Temples, Group 2, Maharasthra

high-definition creative commons photographs from the first group of rock-cut cave temples at Aurangabad, Maharasthra, together with a description.

The Aurangabad Caves
Description from Burgess and Fergusson, The Cave Temples of India (1885), Chapter IV

(slightly re-edited)

The second group of caves is about three-quarters of a mile farther east in the same range of hills [as the first group].

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General Views


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Cave 6

The most westerly of this second series, is consideribly higher up in the rock than the next two. It also combines the characteristics of a vihāra and a temple, consisting of a shrine with its antechamber in the centre, surrounded by a passage or pradakṣiṇā, with four cells in each side and two in the back – the latter containing images of Buddha. The front has been supported by four spare pillars, of which little more than the bases are left. In front of the antechamber are two square pillars and their corresponding pilasters, with bracket capitals, standing on a step about 15 in high... There are traces of painting left on the roof of the front aisle of this cave in the same style as is need in the roofs of the verandahs at Ajaṇṭā, and probably of about the same age.

Cave 7

Cave 7 is the most interesting of this series [in this group]. The front hall is about 14 ft. deep by 34 ft. in length, with four square pillars and their pilasters in front, and a chapel raised a few steps and cut off by two smaller pillars at each end. It will be observed the arrangements of this cave make a still further step in advance towards those afterwards found in Brahmanical temples. The cells containing the image of Buddha is boldly advanced into the centre of the cave, and with a pradakṣiṇā, or procession path, round it, so that it can be circumambulated by worshippers, as the Dagobā was in the earlier caves.

The two cells at the ends of the verandah, and the two at the back of the cave, are filled with sculpture, but there are still six remaining, which are suitable for the abode of monks. Notwithstanding this, from the arrangement of its plan and the character of its sculptures, it may be considered one of the very latest caves here, and probably contemporary with the Do Tal or Tin Tal caves at Elura, and consequently as excavated after the middle of the seventh century.

In this cave we have the Mahāyāna mythology full-blown, with a Pantheon rivalling the ordinary Brahmanical one, but differing from it in a remarkable way. The hideous and terrible Rudra, Bhairava, and Kali have not found their counterparts: its divinities are kindly and compassionate, and may be appealed to for protection. Buddha has passed nirvāṇa, and is unaffected by aught that takes place in the sphere of suffering humanity, but a legend has sprung up of Bodhisattva of such compassion and self-denial that he has pledged himself never to seek, through nirvāṇa, to enter "the city of peace" until he has redeemed the whole race from ignorance and suffering. Such is Padmapāni or Avalokiteśvara Boddhisattva – "the manifested lord" or "the lord who looks down" – the lover and saviour of men, – evidently borrowed from some western and Christian source.

To the left of the entrance into the inner cave is a large tableau in which he is represented with the jaṭā headdress of the ascetic holding the padma or lotus which is his cognizance in his left hand and a mālā or rosary in his right. At each side of the nimbus which surrounds his head is a vidyādhara with a garland, and behind each an image of Buddha squatted on a lotus. At each side are four smaller sculptures, which form a pictorial litany cut in stone, executed with such simplicity and clearness, that it is read at a glance. In each scene two figures are represented as threatened by some sudden danger, and praying to the merciful lord Avalokiteśvara, are met by him flying to their deliverance.

In the uppermost, on his right hand, the danger is fire; in the next, the sword of an enemy; in the next, chains; and in the lowest, shipwreck; on his left, again, the uppermost represents the attack or a lion, the second of snakes, the third of an enraged elephant, and the last of death represented by the female demon Kāḷī about to carry off the child from the mother's lap. This scene, as we have already remarked, is represented also at Ajaṇṭā, and in painting in Cave 17 there, as also at Elura and at Kanheri.

On the other side of the door another tall figure is represented with both human and celestial worshippers. The right hand, which probably held a cognizance, is broken; but from the high and very rich headdress we may infer that it is intended for Mañjuśrī patron of the Mahāyāna sect, and who is charged with the spread of the religion.

The inner hall is mostly occupied by the shrine, round which them is a pradakṣiṇā with three cells in each side aisle, and two small shrines in the back wall, each containing a seated figure of Buddha. The front of the principal shrine is covered with sculpture, chiefly of female figures, three on each side the door, nearly life-size. The centre figure in each case stands on a lotus, has the nimbus behind the head, holds a lotus or other flower-bud in one hand, and, like her companions, wears a headdress of extraordinary dimensions and elaboration.

They probably represent Tārā – a favourite with the Nepalese, – but whether Bhrikuta-tārā and Ugra-tārā, or only one of the forms, is not clear. The two attendants on the right side of the door carry chauris, and one of them is attended by a dwarf; those on the left bear flowers, and one is attended by a bandy-legged male dwarf, the other by a female one. The two larger figures in these cases may be Māmukhī and Lochanā. Above are vidyādharas with garlands, and over each side passage are two figures of squatting Buddhas.

Inside is the usual colossal Buddha, with gandharvas and apsaras on clouds over his shoulders. On the right wall are standing male and female figures with attendant dwarfs; and on the opposite side, apparently, the representation of a nach or dance, with six female musicians. On the walls are many small figures of Buddha.

In the chapel, in the left end of the front hall, are represented eight figures : on the right Buddha standing, then six females, each distinguished from the other by the style of her coiffure, standing on lotuses and with nimbi, and, lastly, a Bodhisattva – perhaps Padmapāni.

In the corresponding chapel, at the east or right end, is a sculpture of a fat pair of squatting royal personages, the female with a child on her knee, a female attendant at each side, and vidyādharas in the clouds above with garlands. [This is Kubera, the lord of wealth, along with Hāritī, the goddess of fertility].

Cave 8 and 9

Close to the last is a large recess under the rock, probably the remains of a large ruined cave; over it is the commencement of another, the hall measuring 27 feet by 20, with some sculpture, but quite unfinished.

Cave 9 is at a somewhat higher level, but is very much ruined, and filled up with mud. Its front hall has been 85 feet long by nearly 19 feet deep, with three smaller ones at the back, each leading into a shrine, but much of the cave has been left unfinished. On the walls are several female figures larger than life, and on the west wall Buddha is represented, 16 feet in length, lying on his right side, dying or entering nirvāṇa, while on the back wall, at his feet, is a four-armed image of Padmapāni – the only one of the kind here.


Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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