Vihara (monastery)

A Vihara is an Indian Buddhist monastery. In Sanskrit, the word "vihara" means "a secluded place in which to walk". Buddhist monks, dedicated to asceticism and the monastic life, gravitated from the urban environment to the country and lived at first in wooden huts and then in rock-cut caves, caves in which the unwanted rock was excavated, leaving the carved cave structure. [cite web
url=http://www.indoarch.org/arch_glossary.php
title=Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent - Glossary
publisher=
accessdate=2007-03-17
]

History

The earliest Buddhist rock-cut cave abodes and sacred places ("chaiti") are found in the western Deccan dating back to the 3rd century BC.cite book
first= Binda
last= Thapar
year= 2004
title= Introduction to Indian Architecture
edition=
publisher= Periplus Editions
location=Singapore
pages= p 34
id= ISBN 0794600115
] They were probably preceded as well as accompanied by timber structures which have not outlasted time. These earliest rock-cut caves include the Bhaja Caves, the Karla Caves, and some of the Ajanta Caves. Relics found in these caves suggest an important connection between the religious and the commercial, as Buddhist missionaries often accompanied traders on the busy international trading routes through India. Some of the cave viharas and chaityas, commissioned by wealthy traders, included pillars, arches, reliefs and facades while trade boomed between the Roman Empire and south-east Asia.cite book
last =Keay
first =John
title =India: A History
publisher =Grove Press
date =2000
location =New York
pages = pp 124-127
id = ISBN 0802137970
] [cite web
url=http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/india/ajanta/aja02.html
title=Entrance at Ajanta
publisher=
accessdate=2007-03-21
]

As the Buddhist ideology encouraged identification with trade, monastic complexes became stopovers for inland traders and provided lodging houses that were usually located near trade routes. As their mercantile and royal endowments grew, cave interiors became more elaborate with interior walls decorated with beautiful paintings exquisite reliefs and intricate carvings. Elaborate facades were added to the exteriors as the interiors became designated for specific uses as monasteries (viharas) and worship halls (chaityas). Over the centuries simple caves began to resemble three-dimensional buildings, formally designed and requiring highly skilled artisans and craftsmen to complete as in the Ellora Caves. The highly skilled artisans never forgot their timber roots and imitated the nuances of a wooden structure and the wood grain.cite web
url=http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/india/ajanta/aja02.html
title= Entrance Cave 9, Ajanta
publisher=art-and-archaeology.com
accessdate = 2007-03-17
]

ee also

*Bhaja Caves
*Kanheri Caves
*Ellora Caves

Notes

References

*cite book |last= Rajan|first= K.V. Soundara|title= Rock-cut Temple Styles: Earyl Pandyan Art and The Ellora Shrines|origyear=1998|publisher= Somaiya Publications|location= Mumbai|isbn= 81-7039-218-7


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