interior. In the earlier group the ornamentation of the facade consists of
repetitive architectural motifs; the enormous horse-shoe opening over the
doorway in the centre dominates the entire scheme in which figure sculptures
are strikingly absent. The ornamental scheme in the later group, with
predominant importance of figure sculptures, stands in marked contrast to the
above. In these later shrines they are made to cover every possible space,
eliminating or reducing the earlier architectural motifs. In Ellora Cave
number X even the horse-shoe opening over the doorway has substantially
diminished in size. In each of these caves, appear figures of the Buddha,
standing or seated, all carved in bold relief. This new style reflects the shift
from the earlier aniconic attitude to an extremely iconic one. With this shift
the chaitya as the votive object slowly diminishes in sanctity and importance
in relation to the image which becomes the supreme object of veneration.
Vihara Construction
A monastery (vihara, sangharama) was constructed like any private
residence, with four ranges of cells or sleeping cubicles on four sides of an
open quadrangular courtyard. In due course the monasteries developed into
large establishments and functioned as important educational centres as well.
Many of their ruins have been found in both the North and the South. The
remains of Nalanda (5th century AD) and Somapura (8th century AD)
monasteries in Bihar are the most noteworthy. Hiuen Tsang has provided a
detailed description of the monastery at Nalanda. He refers to its multi-
storeyed and imposing buildings, and tall and stately temples. This literary
evidence is amply corroborated by the excavated remains. The Somapura
monastery at Paharpur was built more or less in the same fashion. However,
it comprised a single extensive structure with as many as 177 cells. Built of
bricks and storeyed in elevation, these two viharas stand as witness to the
technical skill of the builders and an orderly sense of grouping the various
accessories into an organic whole.
    Rock-cut monasteries reveal a slight deviation from the above plan. The
typical one has three ranges of cells on three sides of a central hall opening
out into a pillared gallery in front. This characteristic plan, however, took
sometime to evolve. The oldest among them, the Barabar caves (3rd century
BC) consisted of a single cell each. Now and then such cells have a pillared