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The Incredible Rock-Cut Temples of Ancient India

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The Ajanta Cave temples of the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra consists of 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from the second century BC to about 480 AD. (C .SHELARE /CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Incredible Rock-Cut Temples of Ancient India

The ancient landscapes of India, from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, consist of some astounding rock-cut cave temples that are not only rich with clues about ancient and medieval cultures, but each one of these darkened chambers celebrates the amazing achievements of structural engineering and architectural planning by societies whose identities are lost in time. Their craftsmanship leaves one in awe about the many civilizations that existed on this subcontinent before the rise of modern India.

Sketch of the interior of Ajanta cave 19 (the big chaitya) by James Fergusson (1808-1886). (Public Domain)

Sketch of the interior of Ajanta cave 19 (the big chaitya) by James Fergusson (1808-1886). (Public Domain)

Historians and archaeologists formally refer to cave architecture and their sculptures as ‘rock-cut architecture’ which implies the act of carving habitable chambers out of natural gaps in rock formations. The earliest cave dwellers used natural fissures for a variety of purposes such as shelters and hunting camps, but over the last 2,000 years rock-cut architecture has been mostly of a religious nature with more than 1,500 rock-cut structures existing in India alone.


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