6 October 2022

Ajanta Cave 16

Ajanta Cave 16 is most noted for its epigraphic value. It has a long incised inscription on the left wall of the facade.

The damaged front wall has a single door and there is an inscription in shell characters on its Cave 16 is a Mahayana Vihara of late fifth century A.D. It has a veranda, a hall and a shrine without antechamber. There are sixteen cells symmetrically arranged.

The approach to Cave 16 was special like in many caves most of which now perished. Her, there are two elephants to welcome the devotee. They face the entrance situated on a lower level, between ave 15 and 16, through which the devotee is led to face the Naga King first, seated on his coils with consort and female attendant. After this, there is a left turn and the ancient staircase leads to the court in front of Cave 16. These elephants are mentioned in Fa-hian’s account of seventh century A.D., though he never came to the site.

The pillars of Cave 16 have vertical and spiral flutings, sometimes with horizontal ribs, and rounded capitals. In the veranda, there are six octagonal pillars and two pilasters, and three entrances are there to the hall. Inside the hall are twenty-nine columns. The shrine is highly developed with aisles on its two sides which are lighted by a door and a window on the back wall of the hall. The shrine pillars and pilasters are unfinished. There is enshrined here a colossal Buddha image seated in the pralambapadaasana and hands  in dharmachakra mudra. There is also a ambulatory round it.

Cave 16 has the paintings in a very bad state of preservation. The extant paintings depict the scenes from life of the Buddha, and other narratives, such as Sutasoma, Hastin, Mukapangu, Ruru, Visvantara, Bisa, Mahakapi and Mahisha.

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