Ajanta & Ellora Caves
Ajanta and Ellora Caves are the ancient repository of Indian architectural heritage. Located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra Ajanta and Ellora caves are the world famous for the cave shrines that cut out of rock, all by hand. There are 34 caves at Ellora and 29 caves at Ajanta. And all are sheer outstanding specimens of Indian architectural excellence.
Ajanta and Ellora caves were shrouded in ignominy for over a millennium, till John Smith, a British Army Officer stumbled upon them while on a hunting expedition in 1819. Today Ajanta and Ellora caves have been honored the world heritage site status to be preserved as an artistic legacy for generations to witness.
Ajanta caves lie deep in the semi-arid Sahayadri hills, above the Waghora River. Discovered only in the 19th century and since then brought to the world's light, Ajanta caves have panels depicting tales from the Jatakas, a rich collection of stories dealing with several reincarnations of the Budhha. Numbering as many as 29 caves, Ajanta caves were built as secluded retreats of the Buddhist monks. These monks taught and performed rituals in the Chaityas and Viharas.
Built using simple tools such as hammer and chisel, these caves houses some of the most well preserved wall paintings including that of two great Boddhisattvas, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvara. These caves have some of the most divine sculptures and images of Budhha preaching. One can have a first hand info on the overall development of Buddhism, observing these caves.
With 34 caves devoted to Buddhist, Jain and Hindu faiths, Ellora Caves have an amazing wealth of sculpture. About 30 kms northwest of Aurangabad, Ellora caves are caved into the sides of a basaltic hill. As the finest specimens of cave temples, Ellora caves have elaborate facades and intricately aesthetic interiors to hypnotize your sensibilities. Carved during the 350AD to 700AD period, Ellora caves have 12 caves to the south that are Buddhist, the 17 in the centre dedicated to Hinduism, and the 5 caves to the north are Jain.
The sculptures in the Buddhist caves depict the nobility, grace and serenity that are inherent in the Buddha. The sculpture in the Buddhist caves accurately convey the nobility, grace and serenity inherent in the Buddha.Most of the caves are Viharas or Monastery halls used by the monks for study, solitary meditation and worship.
The Kailasha temple in Cave 16 is an architectural wonder carved out of a monolith, has the gateway, pavilion, assembly hall, sanctum and tower, all chiseled out of a single rock. The Dumar Lena cave resembles the famous cave - temple at Elephanta, and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Jain caves about a mile away from the Kailasa temple have grand statues of Parasvanath and other Jain Tirthankaras and a seated figure of meditating Mahavira.
How to Reach Ajanta & Ellora
Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves are about 99 Kms and 30 kms away from Aurangabad respectively. Aurangabad is directly linked to Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur and Mumbai.
Aurangabad is directly connected to Mumbai and Pune. Jalgaon, a railhead on the Central Railways line, is 59 km from Ajanta. You can board train to reach Aurangabad and accordingly get in taxis and tourist coaches to reach Ajanta and Ellora Caves.
There are regular state buses that run from Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore and Bijapur to Aurangabad, and from Jalgaon to Ajanta. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (M T D C) operates conducted tours from Mumbai to Aurangabad.