Ajanta-era Buddhist Caves

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    • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has reported 26 Buddhist caves in Madhya Pradesh’s Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve following an exploration exercise this year.

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    • History: 
      • The caves date back to the time between 2nd century BC and 5th century BC, and pertain to the Mahayana sect of Buddhism
      • The exploration was held in the region for the first time since 1938.
      • These findings would approximately date back to the same time as the Ajanta caves in Maharashtra, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    • Other findings: 
      • Besides the caves, other remains of Mahayana sect, such as chaitya-shaped doors and cells containing stone beds, have also been reported. 
      • A Buddhist pillar fragment containing miniature stupa carvings, dating back to the 2nd-3rd century AD. 
    • Brahmi Inscriptions: 
      • In all, 24 Brahmi inscriptions, dating from 2nd-5th century AD, were found.
      • Places named as Kaushami, Mathura, Pavata (Parvata), Vejabharada and Sapatanaairikaa are mentioned in the inscriptions found.
      • Important kings of the era mentioned in the inscriptions include Shri Bhimsena, Maharaja Pothasiri and Bhattadeva.
    • Gupta period remains also found: 
      • The exploration exercise also reported door jambs, besides 26 ancient temples/remains of Kalachuri period (9th-11th century AD). 
      • Forty-six sculptures and 19 waterbodies have also been excavated, all built between the 2nd and 15th century.

    Ajanta Caves

    • Ajanta is among the finest examples of some of the earliest Buddhist architecture, cave paintings and sculptures.
    • It is located near Ajanta village, north-central Maharashtra state.
    • Ajanta contains twenty-nine caves, the majority of which were Viharas (Buddhist monastery halls of residence) with some Chaitya-grihas (stupa halls)
    • The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.).
    • It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983

    Ellora Caves

    • Ellora also spelled Elura are the series of 34 magnificent rock-cut temples in the Charanandri hills of western India’s Maharashtra State 
    • Showcase a spirit of co-existence and religious tolerance through the outstanding architectural activities carried out by the followers of three prominent religions: Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Jainism.
    • Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna I built the magnificent rock-cut monolithic Kailasa temple also called Kailash Leni at Ellora.
    • The Ellora complex was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

    Elephanta Caves

    • Located in Western India on Elephanta Island (otherwise known as the Island of Gharapuri)
    • The small island is dotted with numerous ancient archaeological remains that are the sole testimonies to its rich cultural past.
    • It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the main cave is spread out on Gun Hill, and contains incredible sculptures of Lord Shiva in various postures and in different forms.
    • The most imposing figure of Elephanta temple is Trimurti or Maheshmurti. It is said to represent the three aspects of Shiva as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer.

    Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

    • History: 
      • In 1968 – notified as a national park 
      • In 1993 – declared a tiger reserve
    • Location: 
      • In the eastern Satpura hill range (Madhya Pradesh)
    • Known for:  
      • the healthy population of tigers and variety of herbivores. 
      • Unique biodiversity as it comprises hills, valleys, rivers, marshes and meadows to give rise to diverse vegetation. 
    • Flora:
      • Bandhavgarh is best known for Evergreen Sal forest and Mixed forest 
      • About 515 species of Plant are found there 
    • Fauna:
      • Home to 242 species of Birds and many species of Reptile and Insect
      • Major Mammals: Tiger, Leopard, Wild dog, Wild cat, Hyena, Wolf, Chital, Sambar, Black Buck, Rojda etc.
    • Mythology:
      • Bandhav = Brother and garh = Fort
      • This fort was built and given to brother Lakshman by Lord Rama
      • The reference to this fort is also found in the Narad Panchratna and Shiva Sanhita Puran

    Source: IE