What is rock-cut architecture? Which is the oldest rock-cut cave? How they evolved? Learn more about this topic.
Various architectural styles and aesthetics exist in the world, but rock-cut architecture may be the oldest.
The majority of the rock-cut structures were linked to various religions and religious activities.
What is Rock Cut Architecture?
Excavating solid rock where it naturally exists to create structures, buildings, and sculptures are known as “rock-cut architecture.”
Cave habitations, temple tombs, and rock-cut architecture were the three main applications.
Which is the oldest Rock Cut Cave?
The Barabar caves in Bihar, which is constructed around the third century BC.
Due to the abundance of rocky mountains in India, rock-cut architecture was ideal because the strongest buildings were those made of stone.
Evolution in India
The earliest rock-cut architecture is attributed to Ashoka and his grandson Dasaratha.
The second century BC to the second century AD are included in the early Buddhist architectural era. The chaitya and viharas make up the majority of the excavations from this era. They were primarily made of wood.
There are still surviving examples of early Buddhist architecture in Karla, Kanheri, Nasik, Bhaja, and Bedsa, as well as in Ajanta.
Beginning in the fifth century AD, rock-cut architecture underwent its second phase.
This stage was distinguished by the removal of wood and the addition of the Buddha image as the main focus of the architectural scheme.
During this time, viharas underwent a small change; the inner cells, which had previously only housed the monks, now also contained the Buddha’s image.
The Dravidian rock-cut style is the following and possibly most influential stage in the rock-cut architecture tradition.
Mandapa and ratha are this style’s defining characteristics. An open pavilion made of rock is called a mandapa.
It resembles a straightforward columned hall with two or more cells built into the back wall. A monolithic shrine made out of a single rock is called the ratha.
Important Rock Caves
A few Rock cut architecture (caves) and features have been given below. These are important from the exam point of view.
- They are located near Mumbai
- They span the years from the second to the ninth centuries AD.
- They are from the Hinayana period of Buddhist building design.
- However, additions were made when Mahayana Buddhism was gaining ground. Ex: the 5th-century image of Buddha
- It has around 100 caves.
- These caves are located on the island of Salsette
- They are the culmination of Mahayana Buddhism.
- There are also Brahmanical shrines here.
- They belong to the second half of the 8th century
- It is also called Mandapeswar caves. It is situated near Mumbai
- The caves are located in Mumbai’s suburb of Borivali, Mount Poinsur. The caves were once located along the banks of the Dahisar River, but later the river’s course changed.
- The only Brahmanical caves that have been turned into Christian shrines are these.
- It has three caves which are dated to the 8th century
- Karla caves are located on Banaghta hills near Mumbai
- It belongs to the Hinayana period of the Buddhist architecture
- The chaitya in this location is one of the biggest and best-preserved in the nation.
- Grants for the construction of these caves came from numerous traders and Satavahana kings.
- The main cave, also known as Cave No. 8, has a sizable, ornately carved chaitya, or prayer hall, that dates to 120 CE.
- It is located near Pune
- They are thought to have been discovered in the second century BC.
- It belongs to the Hinayana Buddhism sect in Maharashtra
- These caves are notable for their evidence of wooden architecture awareness.
- The carvings demonstrate that India has used the tabla, a percussion instrument, for at least 2300 years.
- It is located near Pune
- The Chaitya is smaller but still resembles Karle’s great hall.
- It has four pillars with carvings of horses, bulls, and elephants.
- It is located in the state of Maharashtra and is one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complexes in the world, housing several Buddhist and Jain monuments as well as Hinduism-related structures, with artwork from the 600–1000 CE era.
- The Kailash temple, a chariot-shaped shrine to Lord Shiva, is located in Cave 16 and is the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the entire world.
- Over a hundred caves have been discovered there, all of which were dug out of the Charanandri Hills’ basalt cliffs.
- All of the Ellora monuments were built during the Rashtrakuta and Yadava dynasties, which also contributed to the creation of some of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain caves. Cave 15 of Ellora is known as Dashavatara cave.
- It dates from the reign of Dantidurga, a Rashtrakuta king. Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are primarily represented in this cave in various forms. This two-story building has a sizable courtyard where a monolithic Nandi mandapa is located.
- The “Vishvakarma cave,” a chaitya worship centre constructed around 650 CE, is Cave 10, which stands out among the Buddhist caves. Because the rock has been given a finish that resembles wooden beams, it is also known as the “Carpenter’s Cave.”
- The five Jain caves of the Digambara sect, which were discovered at Ellora’s northernmost tip and discovered during the ninth and early tenth centuries, are located there.
- A monolithic shrine can be found in the court of the two-story Indra Sabha (Cave 32), which was unearthed in the ninth century.
- The Jain Yakshas were mistaken for different representations of Indra that could be found in Buddhist and Hindu artworks in the 19th century, leading to the erroneous name “Indra Sabha” for the temple.
- The caves, which are a part of the Deccan Traps formed by numerous volcanic eruptions at the end of the Cretaceous geological period, are carved out of flood basalt rock of a cliff.
- They are a collection of rock-cut caves along the Waghora River in Maharashtra’s Sahyadri Mountains, not far from Aurangabad.
- There are 29 caves altogether. These caves are all owned by the Buddhist faith.
- The caves were developed in the period between 200 BCE to 650 CE. Vakatakas kings provided funding for the construction of the caves.
- The Chinese travellers’ Fa Hien and Hieun Tsang made observations that made mention of these caves.
- The earliest group consists of caves 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15A. The murals in these caves depict stories from the Jataka
- In the fifth century, work on the Ajanta Caves site’s second phase of construction started. The theistic Mahayana is credited with initiating the second phase.
- It is located in Mumbai. They belong to the 8th century AD
- One of the earliest examples of a Brahmanical temple, the Ganesh Gumpha was excavated on a rock terrace. Its exterior features a columned verandah and steps flanked by carved elephants.
- One of the masterpieces of this cave is the three faced-image of Shiva
- Other noteworthy sculptures in this location include those of Ravana shaking Kailasa, Shiva and Parvati getting married, Shiva performing the Tandava dance, and Ardhanariswara.
- These caves are located in MP
- They include some of India’s oldest still-standing Hindu temples and iconography.
- They are the only location whose inscriptions can be used to confirm a monarch from the Gupta era.
- The iconography of Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaktism (Durga and Matrikas), and Shaivism can be found in the Udayagiri caves (Shiva)
- They are famous for the ancient monumental relief sculpture of Vishnu, who is depicted as the man-boar Varaha in Hindu mythology, saving the earth while Bhudevi is holding on to the boar’s tusk.
- The site contains significant Gupta dynasty inscriptions from Kumaragupta I and Chandragupta II, who both ruled between 375 and 415.
- Twenty caves make up the Udayagiri Caves complex, of which one is devoted to Jainism and the others to Hinduism.
The contribution of Pallavas
No other empire has possibly received as much praise for its contribution to rock-cut architecture as the Pallavas.
Because of their beauty and the artists’ talent, some of the monuments built by the Pallavas during their rule have won praise from people all over the world.
Between the 6th and 9th centuries AD, the powerful ancient dynasty known as the Pallavas, which had Kanchipuram as its capital, ruled over a sizable portion of Southern India, including what is now Tamil Nadu.
They are recognized for having popularised the Dravidian style of temple construction. Rock-cut architecture (cave) temples were the original Pallava shrines.
These gradually developed into monolithic shrines hewn from enormous rocks, and ultimately culminated in “structural temples” constructed from the ground up.
Their contribution to the realm of rock-cut architecture could be seen in Mahabalipuram. Some of these are highlighted below:
- There are numerous rock-cut shrines, which are made up of verandahs or mandapas that resemble caves and have rows of pillars.
- As is typical of almost all Pallava architecture, the bases of the majority of the pillars are decorated with carved lions.
- Hindu mythology is depicted in great detail on the panels, and sculpted gods are frequently housed in niches inside the caves. Beautiful carvings depicting Varaha, Lord Vishnu’s boar-like avatar, are found on the Varaha Mandapa in Mahabalipuram.
- The Trimurti Mandapa honours the trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva, while the Mahishamardini Mandapa honours Mahishamardini, a manifestation of Goddess Durga.
- The Govardhanadhari panel, which depicts Lord Krishna supporting the fabled Govardhana hill to shield the inhabitants of his village from torrential rains, is a masterpiece found in the Krishna Mandapa.
To learn more about Pallava architecture click here
Article Written by Remya