Celebrated for its cave-paintings, Ajantā is actually a range of hills in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra State. It was originally known as Ājīntha.

Caves at Ajantā
Caves at Ajantā

The caves are situated at a distance of 6.5 kms. (4 miles) from the village Fardapur, which itself is 101 kms. (63 miles) from Aurangabad, the district head-quarters.

They are excavated in the semicircular scarp of a steep rock, about 76 metres (250 ft.) high overlooking a narrow sinuous gorge, through which flows a stream called Waghora, descending at the head of a ravine as a waterfall.

Waterfalls at Ajantā
Waterfalls at Ajantā

There are 30 caves in all including the unfinished ones. They must have been carved out during the period, 2nd century B. C. to the 7th century A. D.

Some of them contain inscriptions which are also dated.

The caves were probably excavated for the use of the Buddhist (Hīnayāna) monks for their retreat in the rainy season.

Some of them are caityas (See CAITYA.) whereas the others are vihāras (monasteries).

A remarkable feature of these caves is the paintings on their frescoes. They depict the various episodes of Buddha’s life as also a few aspects of the contempo-rary social life. The 16th, 17th and the 19th caves contain some remarkable paintings.

The caves contain charming sculptural decorations also.