The court of this fine cave has been thoroughly cleaned of the silt that filled it, and thus (thanks to the Nizam's Government) its ample area and great depth is now shown off to advantage. The labour in originally excavating such a court alone out of the solid rock must have been enormous. (See plan, Plate LXIV.)
Like the last, it is of three storeys, the first entered by a few steps ascending from the court. It has eight square columns with bases, and plain brackets in the front, the upper portion of the central pair being covered with very pretty florid ornamentation. Behind the front row are other two lines of eight pillars each, and in the area that recedes back in the centre are six more columns, making thirty in all.
In a large compartment on the back wall, to the left of the approach to the shrine, is a sculpture in nine squares: in the centre Buddha with chauri-bearers; to his right and left Padmapâni and Vajrapâni; and above and below, the six figures found in the shrines of the Do Thâl, with book, sword, flag, buds and flowers. This sculpture is repeated over and over again in different parts of this cave. In the corresponding position on the south side has been a seated Buddha, now quite destroyed. In three cells in the north side are stone couches for the monks. In central recesses right and left of the vestibule to the shrine are Buddhas squatting on siñhâsanas the left attendants having different flowers in each case.
On each side the shrine door is a fat, seated guardian, with flower-stalks, that on the south side having the book laid over a bud.
The shrine contains an enormous squat Buddha, over 11 feet from the seat to the crown of the head. High up on each side wall are five squat Buddhas, and below are larger sitting figures: to the left, 1st, Padmapâni with his lotus; 2nd, a figure with something very like a crozier; 3rd, one with a sword over a flower; and, 4th, with fruit and a flag. On the right, 1st, Vajrâpâni, defaced; 2nd, a figure with a flower; 3rd, one with flower-stalk and book; 4th, with lotus bud. On the inside of the front wall are—on the north a squatting female with a belt over her breasts; and on the south, one with four arms, a bottle, and a flower.
From the south end of the front aisle the stair ascends, and from the first landing a room is entered on the south side of the court, with two pillars in front. On the back wall is a Buddha on a high throne with his usual attendants; and on the west side is Padmapâni seated between a male and female—the latter, perhaps, his wife. There are many smaller figures, four-armed Devîs, &c., in this room.
From this the stair leads up to the first floor. It has a long open verandah in front, and a large central entrance divided by two square pillars leads into the hall. There are also entrances from near each end of the verandah. These lead into a long hall, 11 feet 5 inches high, divided into three aisles by two rows of eight pillars each. On the ends of the central vestibule are many sculptures,—among them Padmapâni seated between two females (one of them with a bottle), a dâgoba, figures of Buddha, females, &c.
The shrine door has two fine dwârpâlas. Padmapâni on the north side holds a fully blown lotus and a rosary or mâlâ, and the other his vajra; both have jewelled belts, &c. Inside is an enormous squatting Buddha, and in front of the low throne is a female holding up a loṭâ, and opposite her a smaller one standing over a prostrate figure. At the ends of the throne are large figures of Padmapâni and Vajrapâni with their emblems, and on each side wall four figures—while on the front wall are the usual male and female, which I have supposed to represent the patron of the cave and his wife. Above are seven squatting Buddhas on shelves.
In the north end of the verandah is Buddha sitting with the wheel between his heels, and two deer on the ground in front. On each side are his usual attendants and a standing Buddha—coarsely executed. From this point the stair ascends, and in the jamb of the window at the first landing is a figure on horseback with two attendants; above is a female with a flower.
The upper floor is the most striking among the Buddhist caves. It is divided into five cross aisles by rows of eight pillars, which with two in front of the shrine, are forty-two in all, perfectly plain square columns (see Plate LXV). In recesses at the ends of the aisles are large figures of Buddhas seated on thrones, with their usual attendants. At the south end of the back aisle the Buddha is on a sinhâsana with the wheel in the middle, and lying in front two finely-cut deer, unfortunately broken by some barbarian. Possibly this may be intended as an allusion to Buddha's teaching in the Mṛigadava or deer-park at Banâras—which seems to have been a favourite resort of his. In the north end of the same aisle Buddha is represented in a squatting attitude, his feet drawn up in front of him, and his hands in the teaching mùdrā. He sits on a throne with a lion in the centre, but, instead of his usual attendants, on either side of him are (1) a squatting Buddha with hands in his lap, in the act of ascetic meditation, by which he attained Buddhahood; (2) above this is Buddha soaring to the heavens to preach his law to the gods; and (3) Buddha dying or entering nirvâṅa—everlasting, undisturbed, unconscious repose. These are the great scenes in his life as a Teacher.
To the right of this figure, on a raised basement, along the back wall, extending from the corner to the vestibule of the shrine are seven large squat meditative Buddhas, all perfectly alike, except that each has the foliage of a different Bodhi-tree represented over his head springing from behind the nimbus or aureole. These are the seven human or earth-born Buddhas, painted also in Cave XXII. at Ajaṇṭâ with the name below each, as Vipasya, Sikhi, Viśwabhu, Krakuchchhanda, Kanaka Muni, Kaśyapa, and Śâkya Siñha.
On the south side of the vestibule is a similar row of seven meditating Buddhas1, being perhaps the representations of the same personages, only with umbrellas over their heads, as symbols of dominion, instead of the Bodhi-trees.
The vestibule of the shrine contains two tall dwârpâlas with crossed arms and lofty headdresses; on each end wall are three female figures seated on a high basement, with the right foot down and resting on a lotus, and the left turned under her. The one next the corner on each side has four arms, and holds a mâlâ or rosary and a crooked rod; she is, doubtless, the counterpart of some Hindu Dêvî, like Lakshmî or Saraswatî, introduced into the Buddhist mythology. On the back wall on each side are three similar figures, but all with two arms, and each holding some symbol, as a flower, vajra, &c. They sit on padmâsanas, or lotus-thrones, supported by nâga-canopied figures, standing among lotos leaves, fish, birds, &c. They are perhaps Lochanâ, Târâ, and Mâmukhî, female counterparts of the Bôdhisattwas we have already met with in the shrines. Above all are four Buddhas on each division of the back wall, and five on each end wall.
In the shrine is the usual very large squat Buddha, which the natives persist in worshipping as Râma. His nose and lips have long been wanting, but these as well as mustachios are supplied in plaster, and whenever they fall or are knocked off, their place is speedily restored by fresh ones. On his left is Padmapâni or Avalôkiteśwara, with a chauri, and, as usual, a small figure of Amitâbha Buddha on the front of his cap; next to him is a figure with a bud; then one with a long sword on his right, with a flower in his left hand; a fourth with a fruit and flower or small chauri, and the fifth with some unrecognisable object and a branch or flower. On Buddha's left are Vajrapâni and four other similar figures. On the inside of the front wall are a male and female—the male with a purse and money. Above, on each side, are squatting figures of Buddha.
In the north side of the court of this cave is a small one with two pillars in the east face, and containing a water-cistern.
This is the last of the Buddhist caves here; it bears decided evidences of belonging to the latest form of the Mahâyâna sect in India, and was perhaps one of the latest executed—probably not before 700 A.D.
- 1. The Jñâni or divine Buddhas are only five :—(1) Vairochana, (2) Akshobhya, (3) Ratna Sambhava, (4) Amitâbha, and (5) Amogha Siddha—the mental creations of Adi Buddha, and each of whom respectively produced a Bôdhisattwa, viz. (1). Sâmanta Bhadra, (2) Vajrâpâni, (3) Ratnapani, (4) Padmapâni, and (6) Viśwapâni. Had there been seven Jñâni Buddhas we might have supposed that this second group represented them.