Buddhist caves, Adjunta
Artist: Simpson, William (1823-1899)
This chromolithograph is taken from Plate 29 of William Simpson's 'India: Ancient and Modern'. The ancient Buddhist site of Ajanta had been discovered by chance by a group of tiger-hunting British soldiers in 1819. Remote from cities but close to old trade routes, there are about 30 caves cut into the volcanic rock of this dramatic, crescent-shaped gorge that overlooks the Waghora river in Maharashtra state of western India. The caves were excavated sometime between the second century BC and fifth century AD, and comprised a complex of Buddhist monasteries (viharas) and temple-halls (chaityas). They contain some of the finest wall paintings in Indian art (important both for their technical mastery and wide-ranging subject matter), as well as magnificent sculpture: a unique surviving testimony to the achievements of Buddhist art in India.