Architecture of Maharashtra
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Maharashtra, India is famous for its caves and rock cut architecture. It is said that the varieties found in Maharashtra are wider than the caves and rock-cut architecture found in the rock cut areas of Egypt, Assyria, Persia and Greece. The Buddhist monks first started these caves in the 2nd century BC, in search of serene and peaceful environment for meditation, and they found these caves on the hillsides.
Hindu cave temples at Ellora and Ajanta contain fine artistic design elements and India's oldest wall paintings can be seen here. Maharashtra's famous rock-cut caves have several distinct artistic elements though sculptures of the time are regarded to modern viewers as stiff and not dynamic. The Buddhist caves, particularly the older ones, are either temples (Chaityas) or monasteries (Viharas).
The oldest building in the state is Vakataka ruins in Mansar.
Rock cut caves
Rock-cut architecture took turn with the Buddhist reign and remarkable Buddhist monuments were produced in areas such as Bihar in the east and Maharashtra in the west. Natural grottos and caves in the hillside were excavated by the Buddhist monks and turned into glorious prayer halls and monasteries.
Ranging from tiny monastic cells to colossal, elaborately carved temples, they are remarkable for having been hewn by hand from solid rock. Their 3rd century BC origins seem to have been as temporary shelters for Buddhist monks when heavy monsoon rains made their normal itinerant lifestyle impossible.
Modeled on earlier wooden structures, most were sponsored by merchants, for whom the casteless new faith offered an attractive alternative to the old, discriminatory social order. Gradually, encouraged by the example of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, the local ruling dynasties also began to embrace Buddhism. Under their patronage, during the 2nd century BC, the first large-scale monastery-caves were created at Karla, Bhaja and Ajanta.
Standing as silent sentinels to history are the 350-odd forts of Maharashtra. Beaten by the sea waves, lashed at by the torrential Deccan rains, or scorched in the blazing sun, stand imposing ramparts and crumbling walls the last lingering memories of Maharashtra's martial times. Nowhere in the country would you encounter such a profusion and variety of forts. Sited on an island, as at Murud-Janjira or guarding the seas as at Bassein, or among the Sahyadri hills, as at Raigad, whose zig-zag walls and rounded bastions sit like a sceptre and crown amidst hills turned mauve.
Most of the forts in Maharashtra whether up in the hills or near the seas are associated with Shivaji—the great Maratha warrior and an equally great fort builder. Moreover, these forts were treated as mini-cities, such as Panhala, which is now a hill station. The concept of the fort-city was, however, not peculiar to Shivaji alone. The Portuguese who came to India as traders and missionaries, built within a century of their coming, Bassein, a garden city to rival many a European capital.
Today, these forts numbed by sun, sleet and British have not only been witness to changing times, but have also shaped them and within their walls throb the heart-beat of history."
Below are some aerials of Maratha forts, taken helicopter-borne by Uddhav Thackeray, showcased across the country. Pictures courtesy Amit Save.
Mumbai saw many Victorian and Art Deco monuments during British Raj