When and by Whom Ajanta Caves was Discovered

Declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1983, Ajanta caves is a walk back in history speaking much about the rich culture and artistic talent of ancient India. It is a treasure chest of stories of Lord Buddha and the lifestyle during his era coupled with coffers of information. A total of 30 caves make up the entire area forming a horse shoe shaped structure nestled amongst the green cliffs of Eastern part of Maharashtra. An artificial path runs all along the caves to access the caves.

The caves date back to the 5th and 6th century AD and were well hidden and undiscovered for almost a thousand years. Thick vegetation grew around it blocking its entrance along with the abode of several wild animals. The local tribes and people known as the Bhil never had the opportunity or the chance to visit its vicinity due to its phenomenal foliage growth as well as the fear of wild animals harming them in this deep jungle and thus were never discovered till the year 1819.

During the British Raj, the British were much keen of adventure and the wild and spent their leisurely time on hunting expeditions accompanied by several common men. On such a similar tiger expedition, a young British officer by the name John Smith happened to accidentally spot a portion of the caves from a distance which looked roughly like a horse shoe shaped structure. Intrigued by its unique formation he summoned his people to venture into the place.

The entire party scrambled up to the cave entrance via ropes and other aids lying above the Waghora River and finally reached the spot. On reaching Smith realised that the caves were man- made structure and took up the courage to venture further inside with his group. On flaming a torch he realised what riches he had stumbled upon. Surrounding him were faded wall and ceiling paintings with a blend of marvellous architecture and the famous sleeping Buddha structure along with others. He etched his name on the Bodhisattva figure for remembrance.

The discovery of the caves spread like wild fire and by 1844, the Royal Asiatic Society assigned Major Robert Gill to duplicate the cave paintings in order to preserve the site. He worked under tough conditions, many a times with the fear of tigers lurking in the darkness and was able to reproduce about 27 paintings preserved in Crystal Palace, London. 23 were destroyed in a fire.

Several restoration work was assigned at different period of time in order to preserve this rich cultural as well as artistic marvel. Currently there are fake caves for visitors and entry into all the caves is restricted. The caves ooze with architectural dexterity and mirroring the very essence of patience, perseverance, endurance as well as immaculate skill reflected through the paintings and sculptures.