Ajanta: Cave 17, Façade, 475-500 A.D. Gupta Period

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Photographer: Arthur Llewellyn Basham

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We now leave the progression of chaitya halls momentarily to look at the second type of structure carved into the living rock, the Viharas, or monks' quarters, which consist of a group of apartments for a community of monks each with his own cell, Viharas are the monasteries of the Buddhist religion, and only those carved in rock, such as these at Ajanta, have survived to this day, If other free-standing complexes were built, they have long since perished, The facade of the Ajanta Vihara in Cave 17 is of the Gupta Period and was, like most Viharas built in the west of India, designed to accompany a chaitya hall, Viharas dating to the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. were simple structures with cells opening onto a central hall, which served as an assembly room for the monks, Those monasteries built after the 2nd century A.D., during the Mahayana phase of Buddhism, were built as much more important structures: some may have been built like storied apartment buildings with as many as five levels, A few examples were built in connection with a chaitya hall, most were set apart from the halls but in close proximity to them, As we can see by our detail, the facade of the Vihara at cave 17 was quite plain externally, Inside, however, are some of the most beautiful of the Ajanta murals which we will take up in slide 17,

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Cave 17 475-500 A.D. [Ajanta], architecture, mounted transparency set

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This image is provided for research purposes only and must not be reproduced without the prior permission of the Archives Program, Australian National University.

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