Comparison between Jaina Caves and Buddhist Caves

During the Mauryan period, rock-cut caves were generally used as viharas, i.e. living quarters, by the Jain and Buddhist monks. While the early caves were used by the ajivika sect, later, they became popular as Buddhist monasteries. The caves during Mauryan period were marked by a highly polished finish of the interior walls and decorative gateways.

The construction of rock caves continued in Post-Mauryan period as in the Mauryan period. However, this period saw the development of two types of rock caves – Chaitya and Vihar. While the Vihars were residential halls for the Buddhist and Jain monks and were developed during the time of the Mauryan Empire, the Chaitya halls were developed during this time. They were mainly quadrangular chambers with flat roofs and used as prayer halls. The caves also had open courtyards and stone screen walls to shield from rain. They were also decorated with human and animal figures.

Now Lets compare significant features of Jaina and Buddhist rock-cut cave architecture…

  • Jaina caves were cut in sandstone which is easy to cut but not good for sculpting. But Buddhist caves were cut into hard rocks and were better for sculpting.
  • The Jaina caves had no congregation halls or rock cut shrines. Later, however, some cells were enlarged into shrines. The Buddhist caves on the other hand had clear halls and the shrine area.
  • The Jaina cave cells were cut wherever the rock permitted. There was no planning. The Buddhist cave structure on the other hand was well laid out.
  • The Jaina caves were simple and reflected the asceticism of jina monks. The cells were tiny (not tall enough to stand, not long enough to stretch while sleeping, small entrances so as to bend very low).
    The only luxury was occasional shelves cut into rocks and sloping floor acting as a pillow but actually designed to keep of water from accumulating. Only the outer portions were carved sometimes. The Buddhist caves on the other hand were an elaborate and spacious affair.
  • The Jaina caves are of two types – those without pillars in verandah or those with pillars. Without pillars had cells cut along three sides of the verandah. Pillars were square at top and bottom and octagonal at middle.
  • In terms of similarities, the sculptures use similar motifs like animals, plants. The honeysuckle style is similar too. Examples of such caves are Khandgiri and Udaigiri in Puri

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