The Info List - Chaitya

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A CHAITYA is a Buddhist
shrine or prayer hall with a stupa at one end. In modern texts on Indian architecture, the term CHAITYA-GRIHA is often used to denote an assembly or prayer hall that houses a stupa.


* 1 History * 2 Architecture * 3 See also * 4 Notes * 5 References * 6 External links


Excavated remains of Chaityagriha at Lalitgiri , Odisha

Chaityas were probably constructed to hold large numbers of devotees and to provide shelter for them. Early chaityas, such as the Bijak ki Pahadi of Viratnagar ascribed to the emperor Ashoka
, were built as standing structures with the stupa being surrounded by a colonnaded processional path enclosed by an outer wall with a congregation hall adjoining it, The more spectacular and more numerous chaityas, however, were cut into living rock as caves. An ancient practice, rock-cut architecture has had a long tradition in Buddhism
. Ancient Buddhist
chaityas can be found in remote parts of Maharashtra , especially Ashokan caves.

The earliest rock-cut chaityas, similar to free-standing ones, consisted of an inner circular chamber with pillars to create a circular path around the stupa and an outer rectangular hall for the congregation of the devotees. Over the course of time, the wall separating the stupa from the hall was removed to create an apsidal hall with a colonnade around the nave and the stupa. Stupa in chaitya at Bhaja Caves.

The chaitya at Bhaja Caves was constructed in the first century BCE. It consisted of an apsidal hall with stupa. The columns sloped inwards in the imitation of wooden columns that would have been structurally necessary to keep a roof up. The ceiling was barrel vaulted with wooden ribs set into them. The walls were polished in the Mauryan style. It was faced by a substantial wooden facade . A large horseshoe-shaped window, the chaitya-window, was set above the arched doorway and the whole portico-area was carved to imitate a multi-storeyed building with balconies and windows and sculptured men and women who observed the scene below. This created the appearance of an ancient Indian mansion.

In Bhaja, as in other chaitya