(Last Updated on : 06-09-2012)
Ajanta Cave 26 is larger than Ajanta Cave 19
but follows it in general arrangement and decoration. However, the ornamentation, executed in meticulous details, gives the feeling of an excess and a lack of the graceful proportions and rhythmic correlation of that cave, it has a pillared verandah
extending across the entire front and three entrances. The pillars, the triforium, the facade and even the interior wall are carved with decorations in which the figure of Buddha predominates. The proper stupa has been relegated to the background and has become almost an ornamental member, the emphasis being more on the elongated and decorated plinth, the front of which is carved with a figure of Buddha seated in the pralamba-sada attitude under a pavilion. The crowning members above the harmika have crumbled down. The usual clich‚ of figures of Buddha on the walls of the aisles is, however, relieved by two scenes, one representing the mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha and the other, the Assault and Temptation of Mara. The former, carved on the left wall near the side-door, contains a colossal figure of Buddha reclining on his right side on a couch between two sala trees; below are the figures of his disciples and followers mourning his decease, and above are celestial beings. The second scene also occurs on the same wall. Here Lord Buddha
is seated, with his right palm in the bhumisparsas mudra
under the Bodhi tree
at the centre; on the left is Mara on an elephant accompanied by his host of demon-forces attacking Buddha; on the right is the retreat of Mara; in the foreground are the daughters of Mara trying to tempt Buddha by dance and music; and in the bottom right corner is the figure of the dejected Mara. The right wall near the side-door has an unfinished figure, of which only the outline is drawn. Much of the painting, which had little scope for originality due to the lack of plain un-carved surface, has perished. The un-carved sides of the brackets have paintings of four-armed dwarfs with the upper two hands in the attitude of supporting the superstructure.
The beauty of the facade is marred by the collapse of the pillared verandah. At each end of the verandah is a pillared chamber, the right one leading to two cells, and the left one to one cell. An inscription engraved on the back wall of the verandah over the right side-door records the gift of the temple of Sugata (Buddha) by the monk Buddhabhadra, a friend of Bhavviraja, who was a minister of the king of Asmaka. The palaeography suggests a date between AD 450 and 525 for the inscription.
In front of the verandah is a courtyard having a complex of a subsidiary chapel with cells on either side. The one on the right, having a cell, a pillared verandah and a landing approached by a few steps, is mostly destroyed. The left wall of this landing contains two carved panels representing the litany to Avalokitesvara. The continuation of the same wall on the verandah has a standing figure of Buddha in the abhaya-mudra. The chapel has on its left wall an image of Buddha in teaching attitude. To the left of the image is a stone bed with a raised pillow on one side. There is a cistern attached to this chaitya-griha beyond the courtyard. The latter had originally a front screen with an opening for the door approached by a flight of steps.
The shrine has an image of Buddha in teaching attitude on its back wall. Of the cells around the hall, only four on the right half, one of them having a porch, have survived. The major part of the left half of the hall along with the roofs of the shrine and the antechamber has collapsed. The cave cannot properly be called an independent monastery, as it forms an adjunct to Ajanta Cave 26. The unfinished upper storey has suffered greatly by landslide.
The landing and the verandah on the left side of the court of Ajanta Cave 26 leads to a small hall, which has a shrine and an antechamber facing the entrance-door. The antechamber advances into the hall. Its narrow front wall to the right of the pilaster is divided vertically into three compartments containing a naga-raja,
Of the two remaining caves, the one beyond Ajanta Cave 27 is an unfinished monastery, of which only the pillared verandah was excavated. The other, a chaitya-griha in its first stage of excavation has been scooped out at the highest level, above the area between Ajanta Caves 20
and Ajanta cave 21
. Both the caves are now almost inaccessible.