There are thirty numbers of caves including the unfinished ones; of which five (9, 10, 19, 26 and 29) are chaitya-grihas and the rest are sangharamas or viharas (monasteries). After centuries of oblivion, these caves were discovered in AD 1819.They fall into two distinct phases with a break of nearly four centuries between them. All the caves of the earlier phase date between 2nd centuries BC-AD.
The caves of the second phase were excavated during the supremacy of the Vakatakas and Guptas. According to inscriptions, Varahadeva, the minister of the Vakataka king, Harishena (c. 475-500 AD), dedicated Cave 16 to the Buddhist sangha while Cave 17 was the gift of the prince, a feudatory.
An inscription records that- Buddha image in Cave 4 was the gift of some Abhayanandi who hailed from Mathura .
Ajanta provides a unique combination of architecture, sculpture and paintings. Two basic types of monastic Buddhist architecture are preserved at Ajanta , the Chaitya or prayer hall and Vihara or monastery. These caves suggest a well-defined form of architecture, broadly resolving into two phases with a time gap of about 4 Centuries from each other. In the Hinayana Phase are included two Chaitya Halls and 4 Viharas. In the Mahayana Phase are included 3 Chaityas and 11 exquisite Viharas.
A few paintings, which survive on the walls of Caves 9, and 10 go back to the 2nd century BC-AD. The themes are intensely religious in tone and center round Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Buddha and the Jatakas. The paintings are executed on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique.
A few paintings, which survive on the walls of Caves 9, and 10 go back to the 2nd century BC-AD. The second group of the paintings started in about the fifth century AD and continued for the next two centuries as, noticeable in later caves. The themes are intensely religious in tone and center round Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Buddha and the Jatakas. The paintings are executed on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique.