Chaitya Construction
In its usual form the chaitya shrine was a long rectangular hall, apsidal at the
rear end and divided into three sections by two rows of pillars along the
length of the hall meeting at the back end. The few surviving chaitya halls are
largely in ruins, and in most cases only the foundations are left. Western
India has several rock-cut monuments of this class, and from these it is
possible to ascertain other typical features of such shrines. The nave is
covered by a barrel-shaped vault and the two aisles by two vaults, each being
half the section of that of the nave. Over the entrance doorway is located a
huge arched window, shaped like a horse-shoe, dominating the entire scheme
of the facade. In rock-cut architecture no new form was evolved; instead, the
form of structural buildings of this class was adapted and adjusted. A circular
chamber suits best the circular design of the votive chaitya and the above
typical form seems to have evolved out of a circular shrine chamber, as we
have in the fragmentary remains of a shrine at Bairat (Jaipur) belonging to the
time of Ashoka. Rock-cut counterparts of such circular shrines are also found
at Junnar and in a cave at Guntupalli. Though much later in date, they recall
this as the archetypal design of the circular chaitya shrine.
    The next stage in evolution is seen in the two Ashokan caves at Barabar
Hills (Bihar), the Sudama and the Lomasa Rishi. Each comprises two
apartments, a rectangular one at the outer end with the entrance doorway and,
separated from it by a solid wall with a narrow connecting passage, a circular
(oval in case of Lomasa Rishi) one at the back. The apartments are cut along
the face of the rocks and the doorway of the latter has at the top a framework
of arched shape after the pattern of the curved roof in wood. Rock-cut chaitya
shrines of the typical form in Western India may be seen in two groups, each
representing a separate phase of development. The shrine at Bhaja near
Poona, representing the early group, appears to be the oldest (2nd century BC).
Several shrines of this class were excavated at Bedsa, Nasik, Kanheri, Ajanta
(Cave number IX and X), Karle and other places in Western India. The later
group of cave-shrines, particularly Ajanta (XIX and XXVI) and Ellora (Cave
No. X, also known as Visvakarma), register significant change in the
psychology and attitude of the Buddhist votaries.
    Cave number XIX at Ajanta        (5th-6th century AD) is the earliest in this