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The term evolved into an architectural concept wherein it refers to living quarters for monks with an open shared space or courtyard, particularly in Buddhism.The term is also found in Ajivika, Hindu and Jain monastic literature, usually referring to temporary refuge for wandering monks or nuns during the annual Indian monsoons.In Thailand and China (called During the 3rd-century BCE era of Ashoka, vihara yatras were travels aimed at enjoyments, pleasures and hobbies such as hunting.These contrasted with dharma yatras which related to religious pursuits and pilgrimage. Monasteries in the form of caves are dated to centuries before the start of the common era, for Ajivikas, Buddhists and Jainas.These shelters were normally accompanied by donation of revenue from villages nearby, who would work and support these cave residences with food and services.The Karle inscription dated to the 1st century CE donates a cave and nearby village, states Bronkhorst, "for the support of the ascetics living in the caves at Valuraka [Karle] without any distinction of sect or origin".
This may have led to the development of viharas as shelters for monks, and evolution in the Ashrama concept to agraharas or Hindu monasteries.
Later the back wall facing the entrance had a fairly small shrine-room, often reached through an ante-chamber.