Cave Two has some of the best craftsmanship and best preserved painting at Ajanta. The ceilings within the side shrines in Cave Two are especially beautiful. The original program of the wall paintings was apparently the life of the Buddha; this was taken over by a Thousand Buddhas motif, seen on the left wall and shrine antechamber walls.

Cave 2, nidhi shrine ceiling (left shrine).

Cave two has the unique feature of smaller shrines to lesser deities flanking the main Buddha shrine. To the left is the Nidhis, yaksas controlling wealth. To the right is the shrine to Hariti and Panchika. These shrines were completely and finely finished.

The Nidhis, yaksas controlling wealth. Some of the paint can still be seen in their background and the better preserved ceiling.

The image of Hariti and Panchika appears at other caves at Ajanta, but usually over a porch cell.




The Hariti of the Cave Two Shrine, Ajanta. Behind her head is the scene of her submission to the Buddha.

The story of Hariti's conversion is show behind the couple. Hariti was an ogress with 500 children who ate mortal children. When the villagers complained to the Buddha, he took her youngest child and hid him under his alms bowl. She tried to take her child back by force. The Buddha pointed out how upset she was to be missing one child of five hundred; how terrible it must be for mortal parents to lose their children, especially when they had only one or two. Hariti saw the error of her ways and submitted to the Buddha. She became a protectress of monasteries.



Panchika figure from the Cave Two Hariti Shrine. Behind his head is the scene of the emaciated, horrible ogress Hariti threatening the Buddha.

Hariti and Pancika were a common tutelary pair in Gandhara. The motif possibly was brought to Ajanta from that region.


An interesting note about the Hariti shrine: it is perfectly reversed from Gandharan images, including the narrative scenes of Hariti's conversion. The threatening ogress is shown on the right, behind a Pancika seated on the right; both of these figures normally appear on the left.

For more images of Hariti at Ajanta, see caves 21, 23, and 26.



Unfortunately, taking photographs inside Cave 2 is very difficult. Tripods are not permitted at Ajanta, and flash photography is forbidden because it would damage the delicate fresco-seccos. If you have photographs you would like to share of Cave Two, please contact me!

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