Notes on the Geography of Peninsular India: Ajanta: Photo 24
We'll look now at the four chaityas, beginning with Cave 9. There's a "Wow!" factor that I don't want to disturb. (Spoiler ahead, of course.) But notice the huge window built to light the stupa within. Now it's fitted with some modern material, but in the past it had wooden shutters. Here's a more important factoid: this temple dates from about the time of Christ, when Buddhism was aniconic. You'll see this once we're inside. So what are the Buddhas--large, medium, and small--doing on the facade? Answer: they're intrusions, added centuries later when Buddhism had become iconic. The men who dug the cave would have been shocked.
This transition from aniconic to iconic correlates with the transition from Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism to Mahayana. Isn't the lingo great?
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