CAVE 6 AJANTA
Cave 6 was planned as a two-level vihara. The lower level
is a pillar hall, to support the upper level; the stairs to the upper level
are inside the lower level. Both levels have shrines. However, the remains
of the cave show cave six's history to be strange. The lower shrine started
as a circumambulatable stupa, which was then converted to a Buddha image.
The entire lower cave appears to have been painted, but most of the paint
The upper level is even more interesting. It can be easily
blocked off from the lower level. There are three shrines in Upper 6- the
main shrine in the back cell, one in the cell to the right (like Hariti
in Cave 2) and one in the front right cell, which
has heavy smoke damage and several images clustered just outside which were
painted. Upper 6 also has a large number of small images placed helter-skelter,
and even recarved!
Small Buddha triad carved in one
of the window niches of Upper 6.
The main shrine in Cave 6 appears to have been unfinished.
The ceiling in the antechamber is plastered but not painted, as are the
side walls in the main shrine. The images in the antechamber seem to be
unplanned, and crammed into odd spaces; they are probably intrusive. However,
some of the images appeared to be individually
painted and protected by curtains, and have their own garland hooks. The
main shrine was therefore not completely abandoned for the heavily used
shrine in the front right cell. The original patron for Cave 6 must have
had his shrine and Buddha dedicated before abandoning the project to the
second patron, who beuilt the front right shrine.
Painting ceiling corner inside the front right
shrine, Upper Cave 6.
The front right shrine has no less than 16 holes for garland
hooks, was completely finished and painted, and is heavily smoke damaged.
These are all signs of a well-trafficked shrine. Adding to the high visibility
of the shrine, several large intrusive panels were carved and painted next
to the cell, and the ceiling and walls in a six by four block outside the
cell were painted- the rest of the ceiling and walls of Upper 6 were never
The third shrine is incomplete. This third patron was forced
to abandon the project prematurely.
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The porch of Upper Six is crumbling away, but two cells
remain, half fallen. The flag pole holder, in the form of a yaksa, also
remains. Although incomplete, Cave 6 was heavily used, home to monks and
important Ajanta shrines. This shows that monks lived in caved even though
incomplete. The cave also provides information about the importance of shrines
and the nature of intrusive imagery- just because an image was not in the
original plan of the original patron does not mean that it was less important
or less revered. The curtained images in the Upper six shrine antechamber,
the intrusive front right shrine, and the painted images around the shrines
demonstrates their importance.
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