Caves of the later period
The second phase began in the 5th century. For a long time it was thought that the later caves were made over a long period from the 4th to the 7th centuries CE,but in recent decades a series of studies by the leading expert on the caves, Walter M. Spink, have argued that most of the work took place over the very brief period from 460 to 480 CE during the reign of Emperor Harishena of the Vakataka dynasty. This view has been criticized by some scholars, but is now broadly accepted by most authors of general books on Indian art, for example Huntington and Harle.The second phase is still often called the Mahayana or Greater Vehicle phase, but scholars now tend to avoid this nomenclature because of the problems that have surfaced regarding our understanding of Mahayana.Some 20 cave temples were simultaneously created, for the most part viharas with a sanctuary at the back. The most elaborate caves were produced in this period, which included some modernization of earlier caves. Spink claims that it is possible to establish dating for this period with a very high level of precision; a fuller account of his chronology is given below. Although debate continues, Spinks ideas are increasingly widely accepted, at least in their broad conclusions. The Archaeological Survey of India website still presents the traditional dating The second phase of paintings started around 5th 6th centuries A.D. and continued for the next two centuries. Caves of the second period are 1 8, 11, 14 29, some possibly extensions of earlier caves. Caves 19, 26, and 29 are chaitya grihas, the rest viharas.According to Spink, the Ajanta Caves appear to have been abandoned by wealthy patrons shortly after the fall of Harishena, in about 480 CE. They were then gradually abandoned and forgotten.During the intervening centuries, the jungle grew back and the caves were hidden, unvisited and undisturbed, although the local population were aware of at least some of them.