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Barabar Caves: The oldest surviving rock-cut caves speak stories of ancient art

Do you know the oldest surviving Indian rock-cut caves are the Barabar Caves situated in the Makhdumpur Block of Jehanabad district in the Indian state of Bihar?

A few of these caves, many of which have roots going back to the 3rd century BC during the rule of the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), carry Ashokan inscriptions on them.

Since the time of the emperor Ashoka and his grandson, Dasharatha rule, these caves bespeak stories of the policy of religious tolerance undertaken by the two emperors who were otherwise Buddhists. 

Different Jain sects thrived under their rule. Ascetics from Ajivika sect which is known as a movement that remained a major contemporary of early Buddhism and Jainism, and was founded in the 5th century BCE by Makkhali Gosala, used these caves. 

Many rock-cut Hindu and Buddhist sculptures are found in these caves.

It needs to be mentioned here that the Rock-cut structures present the most spectacular piece of ancient Indian art specimen as many of them are closely associated with various religions and religious activities. 

Initially, remarkable Buddhist and Jain rock-cut structures were erected in areas such as Bihar in the east and Maharashtra in the west. Many caves were excavated by the Buddhist monks for the purpose of prayer and residence. The best example of this is Chaityas (called as prayer halls) and viharas (known as monasteries). Inside these rock-cut structures, windows and balconies and gates were carved as huge arch shaped openings.

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