The hilly region of Mahrashtra on the western coast of India is famous for a long and rich tradition of rock-cut architecture with some of the famous and world heritage Buddhist and Brahmanical cave-sites such as Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta. Compared to these, the Jaina caves of the region, except those at Ellora, are little known.
This book attempts to bring to light these less-known Jaina caves, about seventy caves scattered over western, hilly areas and excavated over a span of 1500 years, from 1st century BCE to 14th -15th century CE, with largest number excavated during 9th to 14th -15th century CE. It documents each Jaina cave of the region that has come to light so far, in minute details recording architectural, iconographic and stylistic features, provides an analytical chronological framework and places the caves in historical context by analyzing the cultural milieu of contemporary society and discussing the issues of patronage and continuance with cave architecture by the Jainas till as late as 14th-15th century CE. The placement of each cave-site within contemporary physical as well as cultural landscape is discussed. These Digambara caves, following regional architectural trends, are quite plain and rough excavations, with the exception of a few decorative ones, but display a wealth of icons, thus emphasizing very focused interests of the patrons. Excavated against the backdrop of reviving trade activities and varied socio-religious contexts of a changing society, these caves form an important evidence of later phase of rock-act architecture, of which these are the only examples.
About the Author:
Viraj Shah is an archeologist, specialized in ancient Indian Art, architecture, iconography and socio-religious history. She has master's degrees in Ancient Indian Culture and Archaeology from Deccan College, Pune and in History from Mumbai University. She completed her doctoral dissertation in 2002 from Deccan College (Deemed university), Pune. Since then, she has been working on different projects on temple institution in medieval Maharashtra and archeological remains in coastal areas of Konkan. She has published a few research papers in well-known journals and in edited volumes. Her areas of interest are socio-economic-religious history, religious architecture, iconography, and pilgrimage and landscape studies. She is specifically interested in the study of early medieval society, especially in Deccan.