Located close to the city of Aurnagabad in the central part of
Maharashtra are the world renowned sites - The Caves of Ajanta and Ellora.
Cut out of rock, by hand, these cave shrines are ranked amongst some of the
most distinguished specimens of ancient Indian architectural heritage. The
34 caves at Ellora and the 29 caves at Ajanta, remained hidden in obscurity
for over a millennium, till John Smith, a British Army Officer, accidentally
stumbled upon them while on a hunting expedition in the early 19 century.
The place from where John Smith first saw the caves, provides an enchanting
sight of the horse-shoe shaped gorge and its amazing surroundings.
It was in the early part of 19th century, when the Ajanta group of caves
were discovered. The caves were hidden deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut
into the curved mountain side, above the Waghora river, before being
discovered. They display the story of Buddhism, expanding a period from 200
BC to 650 AD.
The 29 caves of Ajanta were a reserved and quiet retreat for Buddhist
monastic orders and yet offered easy access to the trade routes that swung
past here to the coast. Using simple tools like hammer and chisel, the monks
carved out the impressive figures adorning the walls of these structures.
Exquisite wall - paintings and sculptures are elaborate enough to speak
volumes of the glorious past of India. Many of the caves house panels
present stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of tales of the several
incarnations of the Buddha. Images of nymphs and princesses amongst others,
are also portrayed in detail.
The Boddhisatvas who figure prominently in the Ajanta paintings are
celestial beings, often personifications of the virtues of Buddha, who visit
the world of men. In their range of time and treatment the paintings at
Ajanta are a panorama of life in ancient India and could well be studied for
a description of the culture of those times.
Ajanta has been selected as a World Heritage Site, to be preserved as an
artistic legacy that will come to enrich and inspire the lives of the future
Situated about 30 km from Aurangabad, the Ellora caves, 34 in number, are
carved into the sides of a basaltic hill. The finest specimens of cave -
temple architecture, they display elaborate facades and distinctly
beautified interiors. These structures representing the three faiths of
Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, were carved during the 350 AD to 700 AD
period. The 12 caves to the south are Buddhist, the 17 in the centre
dedicated to Hinduism, and the 5 caves to the north represents Jainism.
The sculpture in the Buddhist caves appropriately describe the nobility,
grace and calmness inherent in Lord Buddha. Caves 6 and 10 exhibits images
from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated
to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen. The Vishvakarma cave
is both a Chaitya and a Vihara, with a seated Buddha placed in the stupa.
Its two - storied structure wears a colourful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and
The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 is an architectural marvel, the complete
formation having been carved out of a monolith, the process taking over a
century to finish. This mountain - abode of Lord Shiva, is in all
possibilities, the world's largest monolith, the gateway, pavilion, assembly
hall, sanctum and tower, all hewn out of a single rock, just amazing. What
is most impressive, is the fact that as compared to other temple structures
which are built base onwards, the sculptor or architect involved here,
started carving from the very top and the sides. Though its colossal, it
remains one of the most delicate and intricate ancient works of art.
The Jain caves are about a mile away from the Kailasa temple, amongst which
Cave 32, displays a wonderful shrine with fine carvings of a lotus flower on
the roof, and a yakshi on a lion under a mango - tree, while Caves 32 and 34
exhibits grand statues of Parasnath. The other Jain caves presents the
images of Tirthankaras, and one of them, also, has a seated figure of
The cave shrines at both Ajanta & Ellora are memorable for their
priceless contribution to the mountainous wealth of the past Indian
» By Air :
Aurangabad (99 km from Ajanta and 30 km
from Ellora) is the ideal base to visit Ajanta and Ellora, is directly
linked to Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Mumbai.
» By Rail :
Aurangabad is directly linked to Mumbai
and Pune. Jalgaon, a railhead on the Central Railways line, is 59 km from
» By Road :
The excellent road network in
Maharashtra links the caves of Ajanta and Ellora with Mumbai, Pune,
Ahmednagra, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore,
Bijapur, and Aurangabad.