Buddhist rock-cut caves – Chaityas
What is Rock-cut architecture ?
Rock-cut architecture is the practice of creating a structure by carving it out of solid natural rock.
Rock-cut architecture in India
Rock cut architecture is nothing but the most spectacular way of carving a cave structure in an innovatory way.
In India, more than 1500 temples are made this way for a religious reasons displaying the most creative craft work and every year millions of visitors paying an attention to the impressive and painted rock cut architecture.Rock cut architecture and caves are existed since Buddhist monks and ancestries.
The oldest Buddhist rock-cut architecture example is Barabar caves in Bihar which was built in the 3rd century BCE during the Mauryan period carved with granite only.
Other example of rock-cut Buddhist temples is Ajanta caves in Maharashtra which was built in 1st century BCE having total 30 temples.
Having said that, The Ajanta caves are masterpieces of Buddhist rock cut architecture and made with such diligently.
- The residence of Monks which were made of brick or carved from stone known as Viharas . In similar way, shrines were used to pray known as Chaitya Grihas.
The most decorative Ajanta caves were similarly placed near to main trade routes like Barabar caves. Ajanta caves are well-preserved, Well painted having smooth surfaces which are themes of Buddha’s life illustrated. Which is very well notable rock cut architecture till date.
The second most important cave which represents the Buddhist cultural life is Ellora caves which were built in 5th to 10th It is made up of 5 Jain rock-cut temples, 12 Buddhist and 17 Hindu temples and lastly excavated out of the Charanandri hills.
All these temples demonstrating the religious harmony.
As time passes, Many of the Buddhist Rock cut temples have been destroyed and damaged but at the same time many of them very well maintained and well preserved with durable materials used.
Buddhist rock-cut cave – Chaityas :
A chaitya is a Buddhist shrine or prayer hall with a stupa at one end. The Chaityas is known as Assembly or prayer hall which houses a stupa In the modern Indian architecture form.
History of Chaityas
It has been said that the Chaityas were made to give a shelter to the number of devotees. In earlier days, The Chaityas like Bijak ki Pahadi of Viratnagar were built as vertical structure or standing structures surrounded by Stupa with the hall. These Buddhist Ancient and stupendous chaityas can be found in fewer remote parts of Maharashtra in Ashokan caves particularly.
Another Chaitya at Bhaja caves was consisted of an apsidal hall with stupa which was built in 1st century BCE. The structure of this Chaitya’s columns sloped inwards in the wooden columns. Moreover, The walls were polished in the Mauryan style and ceiling was barrel vaulted with wooden ribs set into them. The Multi- storeyed building with Balconies and a large horseshoe-shaped windows (chaitya-window) appeared as an ancient Indian spectacular mansion.
In Bhaja- Chaitya, The entry is the demarcation between the sacred and the profane. And most importantly, The stupa inside the hall was completely removed from the sight of anyone outside. Hence this changed the image of Gautam Buddha.
Chaityas in Nepal were constructed and worshiped by the ancient people Magars, Gurungs, Tamangs and Newars, among others. And it is built in memory of a dead person by his or her family having the height 4th to 8th
Architecture of Chaityas
- Chaityas Architecture is similar to the ancient roman architectural concept. Many structures which were built by monks were carved out of a single massive rock, done with hammer and chisel, bare hands known as Cave temples. The number of such cave temples in India are around 1200.
- The most important caves are Karla Caves, Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Aurangabad Caves and the Pandavleni Caves. They were having the rectangular halls, with finely polished interior walls, Number of well proportioned pillars, generally around 35, and a semi-circular roof, Opposite one entrance stood a stupa with carvings of a kneeling elephant mounted on bell-shaped bases.
- The pillar structure contains the three parts (1) Props- The base which is buried into ground (2) Shaft- The main body of the pillar which is polished and chiseled and (3) Capital, the head of the pillar where figures of animals are carved.
- The umbrella at the top of Chaitya hall suggests an association with Buddhism. And looks like as if the entire structure was resting on the back of an elephant with ivory tusks and metal ornaments.
Note : The chaityas were almost 40 meters long, 15 meters wide and 15 meters high.