Ajanta Cave 1 is the celebrated and one of the most beautiful of the Ajanta caves. This is the cave which visitors will first come across. There are 30 caves in Ajanta around a horse-shoe shaped bend in the rocks.
Construction of Ajanta Cave 1
This is a Buddhist monastery (vihara), dating back to fifth century. It has a verandah leading to a big hall which has ornate pillars, big sculptures and the acclaimed wall paintings. At one end of the hall is the sanctum sanctorum that holds a sculpture of seated Buddha in preaching position.
Paintings cover the entire cave, including the pillars and sculptures. The ceiling is full of coloured paintings.
This is perhaps the best known of the paintings in Ajanta Caves. Padmapani in Sanskrit literally translates into one who holds the lotus. Bodhisattva is one who aspires to be a Buddha. Here he is holding a blue lotus in his right hand. A string of pearls, with a blue sapphire in the middle, adorns the neck. He wears a magnificent crown.
The eyes are half-closed and looks downward. You see a chiselled nose, broad chest and a narrow waist.
Painting of Persians
The picture above shows a painting of a Persian nobleman. Of fair skin, he holds a cup in his hand, probably of Persian origin. His clothes, headgear and curtains are all in Persian style.
Prince Mahajanaka was heir to the throne of Mithila. He grew up in exile. Mahajanaka’s kingdom was seized by his uncle. After many years, his uncle died. Mahajanaka married his daughter Sivali and regained his kingdom.
Later he renounced worldly life and set out in search of self-realisation.
Inside the shrine there is a big sculpture of Buddha who is sitting in Padmasana pose in teaching mode. At the centre of the base you will see a wheel abutting two deer. The deer symbolise the deer park at Sarnath where he delivered his first sermon.
The wheel represents dharma-chakra. It is one of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism
Look up at the ceiling and you will observe geometric designs and patterns. There are also peacocks which are adorned in intense blue paint made using powdered lapis lazuli. A decorative vegetable motif resembles the green bell pepper. Furthermore there is an animal with bull’s head whose body alters into whirling flowing lines.
One of the ceiling panels illustrates a running elephant surrounded by flowers.The elephant gallops playfully. India Post issued definitive stamps featuring the Ajanta Panel on 15 August 1949. Stamp colour is slate violet and the face value is 3 paise.
Read my post on Kailasa Temple in Ellora Caves.
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