Cave temples

The caves now excavated are the chief architectural remains other than stupas of a period earlier than the Gupta period. Ashoka dedicated two caves at Barabar Hill near Gaya to the Ajivika monks. They were in the form of a plain rectangular outer hall at one end of which is an inner chamber with curved wall and overhanging eaves. The caves developed in size and splendour as time passed. One of the finest examples is the great Chaitya hall at Karli which is cut 124 feet deep in the rock. The most famous of the cave complexes is that of Ajanta in Maharashtra. The superb sculpture and fine paintings which adorn them make them wonderful monuments of India's past. Even more impressive are the Ellora about 30 km from Ajanta. There are no less than 34 caves in this complex constructed from the 5th to the 8th century AD. The most conspicuous achievement of Ellora is the great Kailashnath temple.

It was not just a hollow scooped out of the rock but a great temple complete with shrine room, hall, gateway, lesser shrines and cloisters. At Mahabalipuram on the sea coast are found 17 temples carved from hillocks of granite by the Pallava kings. The newest cave temples discovered are those at Elephanta, a beautiful little island on the coast off Arabian sea. The style is similar to those of Ellora. There is a beautiful trimurti figure of Siva.