List of Ajanta Caves

Revisiting the Numbering of Ajanta’s Caves


Situated in the Sahyadri hills of Maharashtra, the Ajanta Caves are a pinnacle of ancient Buddhist art and architecture. Maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), these caves follow a well-known numbering system. However, this blog seeks to explore an alternative perspective, as proposed earlier by this author,1 which offers a nuanced understanding of the caves’ distinct structures and their architectural uniqueness.

The ASI Numbering System

The numbering scheme employed at the Ajanta Caves site is independent of the chronological development of the cave temples. It is based on the current visitor’s path, starting from the ticket office. The sequence begins with Cave 1, closest to the ticket office, and ends with Cave 28, the farthest. Cave 29, situated in the center of the scarp, was added later to the sequence (Burgess 1883),2 following its discovery after the initial numbering (Fergusson and Burgess 1880).3 Cave 30, sometimes referred to as 15A, emerged in the 1950s near the Elephant Gate of Cave 16.

The chronological growth of the site radiated from its nucleus, the center of the horseshoe-shaped scarp. Here, the oldest cave temples, Caves 10 and 9, are located. These were accompanied by monastic residences: Caves 12, 13, and 30. The existence of Cave 31, potentially the first architectural endeavour at the site, was revealed in 2011 and awaits further research.

The Alternative Perspective

This proposed alternative numbering system aims not to outline the chronological development of the caves but to recognize and distinguish the unique architectural and historical features of each structure. Key highlights include:

  • Cave 6 Upper and Lower: Identified as separate structures, each with distinct architectural elements, rather than a singular double-storied building.
  • Cave 15 and Cave 30: Cave 30, previously called Cave 15A by Spink4 and the present author,5 is distinct from Cave 15 and merits individual recognition.
  • Cave 26 Extensions: The lower left and right wings of Cave 26 are acknowledged as unique annexes with their own layouts and features.6
  • Discovery of Cave 31: This cave, a recent discovery not yet accessible or documented by the ASI, is recognized as a separate entity.7

This system retains the ASI’s numbering while introducing new numbers where necessary, reflecting a detailed architectural understanding.

Significance of the Alternative Numbering

This alternative numbering system offers a deeper appreciation of the Ajanta Caves as a complex of unique and individual architectural marvels. It underscores the diversity within the site, highlighting the distinct characteristics and historical contexts of each cave, thereby enhancing our understanding of their individual importance.


The Ajanta Caves are not just a collective heritage site; they are a mosaic of individual masterpieces. The alternative numbering system proposed here, derived from in-depth architectural analysis, provides a fresh perspective for appreciating each cave’s uniqueness. It is a step toward a more nuanced understanding of these ancient wonders, recognizing each cave as an individual example of the artistic and architectural ingenuity of the past, and inviting further research and discussion in this fascinating field.

New list

  1. Cave 1
  2. Cave 2
  3. Cave 3
  4. Cave 4
  5. Cave 5
  6. Cave 6 Lower
  7. Cave 6 Upper
  8. Cave 7
  9. Cave 8
  10. Cave 9 & 9A
  11. Cave 10 & 10A
  12. Cave 11
  13. Cave 12
  14. Cave 13
  15. Cave 14
  16. Cave 15
  17. Cave 16
  18. Cave 17
  19. Cave 18
  20. Cave 19
  21. Cave 20
  22. Cave 21
  23. Cave 22
  24. Cave 23
  25. Cave 24
  26. Cave 25
  27. Cave 26
  28. Cave 26 Lower Right Wing
  29. Cave 26 Lower Left Wing
  30. Cave 27
  31. Cave 28
  32. Cave 29
  33. Cave 30 (called at times 15A in some recent publications)
  34. Cave 31

Notes & References

  1. Singh, Rajesh Kumar. 2009. ‘Enumerating the Number of Śailagṛhas at Ajanta,’ Journal of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, vol. 82 (for 2008), 122-126. ↩︎
  2. Burgess, James. 1883. Archaeological Survey of Western India. Vol. 5. Report on the Buddhist Cave Temples and Their Inscriptions…. London: Trubner & Co. ↩︎
  3. Fergusson, James, and James Burgess. 1880. The Cave Temples of India (London: W. H. Allen & Waterloo. ↩︎
  4. Cf. various publications by Walter M. Spink. ↩︎
  5. Cf. various publications by the present author. ↩︎
  6. To understand how the Ajanta Caves 25, 26 (vaulted temple), 26 Lower Left Wing, 26 Lower Right Wing, and Cave 27 are all connected under a single architectural complex, vide, e.g. the following publications: Spink, Walter M. 2006. Ajanta: History and Development. Vol. Two. Arguments About Ajanta (Leiden and Boston: Brill), pp. 22-96. Singh, Rajesh Kumar. ‘The Early Development of the Cave 26-Complex at Ajanta,’ South Asian Studies, 28:1, 37-68, DOI: 10.1080/02666030.2012.659906. ↩︎
  7. Reported by Singh, Rajesh Kumar. 2014. ‘Ajanta’s Antiquity: Sources and Problems,’ PhD thesis (Baroda: M. S. University), vol II: figs. 212-213. ↩︎

Related Images: