*   Ajanta  and Ellora Caves

    The Ajanta Caves situated in Maharashtra are among the most famous Buddhist caves in India. They are a World Heritage Site4. They date back to the 2nd century BCE. There are 29 caves in all of which only a few are chaitya grihas  (stupa monument         halls). The others are viharas (monasteries) where Buddhist monk lived. All these rock-cut caves exhibit excellent architectural skills and are exquisitely carved. The caves also have paintings and sculptures which are masterpieces of art made by skilled         craftsmen. They depict scenes from the Buddha's life, his previous births and the Jataka tales. 

    Beautiful paintings called murals adorn the walls ceilings and pillars of the Ajanta Caves. The technique of painting is known as frescoes. A thick layer of mud mixed with vegetable material was applied on the rock surface. This was covered by a thick layer     of plaster. This formed the base surface of the painting. The painting was done with the help of pigments mixed with a gum. Brushes were made of animal hair. These frescoes also depict many scenes from the everyday life in cities and villages.

   Of the Buddhist caves, the Carpenter's hut or Vishwakarma Cave is the most famous. It has a 15 ft statue of the Buddha sitting in a preaching posture.

   Rock-cut caves are also found in Odisha near Bhubaneswar. These are the Khandagiri Caves built in the 1st century BC. There are 33 caves of which 18 are in Udayagiri and 15 are in Khandagiri. These  awesome caves were built during the reign of King     Charvela. 

  Of the Udayagiri Caves, Rani Gumpha is the most famous. The wall carvings depict scenes from the royal courts. The Hathi Gumpha Cave is important because it has a 17 line inscription in Brahmi script which is a valuable source of information about king    Kharvela.

  Apart from these rock-cut temples many stone temples were also built in India. An outstanding example is the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram. It was constructed in the 7th century BE during the rule of King Narasirnhavam II. It is a five-storeyed structure   made of blocks of granite. It is not carved out of rock unlike the temples we have read about earlier. It is an excellent example of Pallava architecture. The spire of the temple is not rounded. It has pyramidical tiered spires. It is dedicated to both  Lord Shiva   and Lord Vishnu.

 The ratha (chariot) temples at Mahabalipuram are monolithic temples carved out of granite rocks. These five temples have multi-pillared halls and sculptured walls.

 The Vishnu temple at Deogarh was built during 'the Gupta period in the 5th century BC. It is one of the earliest examples of stone temples in India. There are many sculptured panels showing the myths and tales related to Lord Vishnu.

 The Iron Pillar at Mehrauli
 This iron pillar is about 22 ft high and weighs 6 tons. It is said to have been built at the time of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. It has not rusted even after 1,600 years. The pillar has a Sanskrit inscription in  Brahmi script and gives information about a King  Chandra who has been identified as Chandragupta Vikramaditya.

*    Literary Works
    The great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana were both written in Sanskrit by Ved Vyasa and Valmiki respectively. They have timeless moral teachings. 
    The Ramayana was passed down by oral tradition before it was written down. The exact time of its writing is not known. It is the story of King Rama and his queen Sita.

    The Mahabharata is a collection of more than 74,000 verses divided into 18 books. It tells us the story of the Pandavas and their victory over their evil cousins, the Kauravas. It also contains  the Bhagavad Gita which is a conversation between Lord                Krishna and Arjuna on the battle field. This epic unfold some great moral truths.