Rock-cut structures present the most spectacular piece of ancient
Indian art specimen. Most of the rock-cut structures were related
to various religious communities. In the beginning, remarkable
Buddhist and Jain monuments were produced in areas such as Bihar
in the east and Maharashtra in the west. Numerous caves were
excavated by the Buddhist monks for prayer and residence purposes.
The best examples of this are Chaityas and monasteries. Inside
these rock-cut structures monks carved windows and balconies and
gates in the shape of huge arch shaped openings.
Rock-cut architecture occupies a very important place in the
history of Indian Architecture. The rock-cut architecture differs
from traditional buildings in many ways. The rock-cut art is more
similar to sculpture than architecture as structures were produced
by cutting out solid rocks. Let's have a look at various specimen
of rock-cut architecture in ancient India. Some prominent rock-cut
structures of ancient India are Chaityas, Viharas, temples etc.
Chaityas And Viharas
Chaityas and Viharas are those rock-cut structures that were hewn
out for Buddhist and Jain monks. Chaityas were places of worship
whereas Viharas were residence of monks. The Buddhist and Jain
monks usually stayed away from the towns therefore they developed
Chaityas and Viharas in the hillside. Most of the Chaityas and
Viharas were constructed in western India. Some of the prominent
places having Chaityas and Viharas are Karle, Nashik, Bhaja and
Kanheri. The rugged hills of the Western Ghats were naturally
suited to the creation of living space in the hillside.
The most remarkable aspect of the rock cut architecture at Karle
and other such sites is its close similarity to wood construction.
Here, you will find great imitation of every detail of wood in
rocks. This throws light on the great skill of Indian craftsmen.
The Rathas of Mahabalipuram
The Rathas at Mahabalipuram are yet another great specimen of
rock-cut architecture in ancient India. These Ratha temples at
Mahabalipuram were constructed during the reign of Pallava rulers.
The Pallavas were founders of the Dravidian Style of temple
architecture. At Mahabalipuram, scaled-down replicas of actual
temples (known as the Rathas of Mahabalipuram or the 'Seven
Pagodas') were created. These rathas were sculpted out of
monolithic rocks. The Rathas are not very large, the biggest
measuring 42 feet by 35 feet, and the tallest is 40 feet high.
Most of the Rathas at Mahabalipuram are modeled on the Buddhist
Viharas and Chaityas.
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