Impact of early wooden construction on rock cut cave architecture

Impact of early wooden construction on rock cut cave architecture

Question - How has early wooden construction influenced rock cut cave architecture?

– Rock-cut architecture is an elaborate process of excavating structures out of a single, solid rock which served as shelter for monks during monsoons.

– Through evidences, it is learned that early Indian architecture largely used wood.

– Since wood is a perishable material, it slowly gave way to stone constructions.

– A significant aspect of rock cut architecture is that it has maintained the structure and design of the earlier wooden construction and, thus, have shaped Indian architecture.

– Foundations of temples with brick and timber having domical roof, which were built on elliptical, circular, apsidal plans, have suggested imitations of wooden originals found at Sudama and Lomas Rishi caves in Nagarjuni and Barabar Hills respectively.

– The railings of stupas are have imitated wooden construction and are intricately carved at Sanchi, Bahrut and Amravati.

– Another classic example of wooden construction is seen at Bhaja wherein the original front screen is now gone with time but its imitations in stone are very much visible. The wooden beam at Bhaja and the umbrella in Karla caves are the only examples of the earliest surviving wooden architecture.

– Prior to the Gupta period the chief architectural remains, other than stupas, their gateways and railings, are the artificial caves which were excavated for religious purposes. The excavations during the first phase of rock cut architecture took the shape of chaitya and vihara. Both of these are seen to be practiced in wood before being excavated from rocks.

– Ajanta, Karla, Kanheri, Nasik, Bhaja and Bedsa are the best examples of early Buddhist architecture which were greatly influenced by wooden designs.

– During the next phase of rock-cut architecture, that began in the 5th CE, saw the virtual elimination of timber and the emphasis was only on the use of stones.


• Sudama and Lomas Rishi caves were built during Ashoka for the Ajvika sect

• A wooden platform was excavated at Kumrahar, Patna, on which one stone pillar has been recovered which could have had a mounted capital.

• One wooden beam in Bhaja caves has an inscription dated to 2nd BCE.
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