[Solved]The rock-cut architecture represents one of the most important sources of our knowledge of early Indian art and history. Discuss (UPSC 2020)



Indian rock-cut architecture is more varied and found in greater abundance
in that country than any other form of rock-cut architecture around the world.
Rock-cut architecture is the practice of creating a structure by carving it out
of solid natural rock.

·       Rock that is not part of the structure is removed until the only rock left makes up the architectural elements of the excavated interior.

·        Indian rock-cut architecture is mostly religious
in nature art and cultural significance: A period of intense building
activities at Ajanta site occurred under the Vakataka King Harisena between
460-478 CE (Caves other than 9, 10, 12, and 13).

·        A profuse variety of decorative sculptures, intricately carved columns, and carved reliefs are found, including exquisitely carved cornices and pilasters. Skilled artisans constructed living rock, imitating timber texture, grain, and structure.

·        In India, caves have long been regarded as
sacred places. Caves that were enlarged or entirely man-made were believed to be as sacred as natural caves. The sanctuary in all Indian religious structures, even free-standing ones, was designed to have the same cave-like feeling, as it is generally small and dark, without natural light.

·        The oldest rock-cut architecture is found in the Barbar caves, Bihar, was built around the 3rd century BC. Other early cave temples are found in the western Deccan; these are mostly Buddhist shrines and monasteries, dating between 100 BC and 170 AD. Originally, there were probably wooden structures associated with them, which would have deteriorated


·        A rock-cut temple is carved from a large rock, and excavated and cut to imitate a wooden or masonry temple, with wall decorations, and works of art. The finest example of this type is the Kailashanāth Temple at Ellora. The Kailashanāth Temple, or Cave 16 as it is known at Ellora Caves, is located at Maharashtra on the Deccan Plateau, is a huge monolithic temple dedicated to Lord Siva

It is famous for the fact that it was excavated from the top-down, rather than by the usual practice of carving into the scarp of a hillside. The Temple was created through a single, huge top-down excavation 100 feet down into volcanic basaltic cliff rock.

The rock-cut architecture of Indian art

Lomas Rishi caves

They were constructed during the Mauryan empire for Ajivika monks for their
dwelling during the rainy season. They consist of chaityas and viharas that mainly followed the Hinayana style of architecture.

Ajanta caves

They were constructed as a shelter for Hinayana monks. They are famous for
their mural paintings that have developed into a separate painting school. They
illustrate Jataka tales and put light on the way of life during the period.

Ellora caves

Ellora rock-cut caves were developed by Rashtrakutas rulers and dedicated to
Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. They have a major contribution to sculpture art in Hindu temples.

Badami caves

Badami caves were constructed during the Chalukya rulers and represent
Hinduism and Jainism faith. The mural paintings are an extension of Ajanta’s school of paintings.

Pallava rock-cut architecture

Early Pallava architecture includes prayer halls and resting places for
monks. They later evolved into monolithic temples such as Pancharathas and rock illustrations such as Arjuna’s penance. There is also the presence of Murals onSittanavasal caves.


·     The earliest caves employed by humans were natural caves used by the local inhabitants for a variety of purposes, such as shrines and shelters.

·        The early caves included overhanging rock decorated with rock-cut art and the use of natural caves during the Mesolithic period (6,000 BCE). The rock-shelters of Bhimbetka, a World Heritage Site, are on the Deccan Plateau, where deep erosion has left huge sandstone outcrops.

·        The many caves found there contain primitive tools and decorative rock paintings that reflect the ancient tradition of human interaction with their environment, an interaction that continues to this day.

·        Mandapeshwar, it is a small cave because of the rock structure and its entrance shows equality of gender in the form of sculptures of donor couples.

Economic:Bhaja and Karle were at famous trade routes in
western Ghats which used to connect seaport to interiors.

Political: Caves were patronized by kings across country
Barbara caves by Ashoka, Ellora caves by Rashtrakutas, Badami by Chalukyas

Education center: Kanheri caves were the biggest education
center in Western India. Environment Conservation: Water resources are
prevalent at Kanheri which shows water harvesting was practiced at caves

Thus rock-cut architecture across India providing information about life and
times of ancient Indian people and help us understand their society through
their lens. It helps us to trace the life in India and its Evolution through
socio-political perspective & how it changed the Indian way of life.

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